I spent much of Saturday in San Francisco with a friend and half of our kids. It was Fleet Week, where military ships sail into San Francisco Bay and there is a major airshow over the water. Let me share with you my top ten photos from this day, in no particular order.
We arrived early and got great parking spaces (7 hours for $23). We walked along the mostly empty streets in the general direction of Pier 39, believing that there was a ship that we could tour. The reflections along the wharf were terrific! My friend took much the same picture as this, but more focused upon the pilings and reflections. He then turned it sideways to create a more abstract photo. He’s gotten quite a lot of attention for his creativity!
Continuing along, taking photos of whatever caught our eye, this picture was just a quick shot, but it turned out to be one of my favorites because of the wonderful bokeh. It was shot at f/5.6 with a 300 mm lens, but the background blur made the bird really stand out in contrast! This is a great example of how to isolate your subject using depth of field. You can see that the colors are very similar in both the bird and the background, and bird could easily have gotten lost in the complexity of the background, but the wide aperture turned this into a very nice shot.
Well, we never did find the ship we thought to tour, but we did come across a WWII submarine. This is a standard attraction at the wharf and we got in on a family pass for $20 for all five of us. I had never been in a real submarine before. This ship held a crew of 80! The corridors were so narrow that I could practically touch both walls with my shoulders. The hatches were only about four feet tall. It was a very interesting tour and I must say that submarines and me don’t mix. They really ought to be manned by small, thin – but athletic – people. The docent aboard the ship regaled us with stories and knowledge of his time serving on board a sub.
The main event of the day was the airshow. There were several military groups – such as the famous Blue Angels – as well as individual aircraft. The group displays put on quite a show, performing precision maneuvers in formation, often trailing smoke streams and frequently very close to the water.
Of all the pictures that I took of these acrobatics, this one best captured the event itself. You can see the streaming smoke indicating their path, whilst the jets are descending from their apex in tight formation, clearly visible. Many of the other antics, while impressive from the ground or appreciating as a pilot (or a computer-based pilot), didn’t translate well in the photos. Either the aircraft were too small to be clearly seen, or else you lost all sense of angle, speed, etc. when the plane was isolated in the sky.
One of the recurring themes of these fantastic pilots was to have two (or more!) jets race towards each other at 400 mph and (apparently) rotate at the last second to miss a disastrous collision. I’m sure the distance wasn’t quite as close as it seemed, but it held the attention of the crowd. I was fortunate to get several photos of various jets crossing, but this was perhaps my most clear picture.
During a respite from the aerial acrobatics, we spied a sea lion wending his way amongst the pilings. It’s interesting – their eyes appear to be all brown, although I suppose there must be a very thin pupil in there somewhere. This was one of the best of these photos and made for a nice break in the show. These airshows are a lot like watching fireworks – they’re great fun, but after awhile you get rather tired of seeing the same sort of thing over an over again. Not to take away from the skill of these pilots, but the show would have been better had it lasted only an hour or so, rather than nearly four hours.
Another of my favorite shots was this one where all the jets started in tight formation and then split off, with smoke trailing the whole way. Again, it was the context of the smoke that made this picture work.
And finally, my favorite shot of the day. There were five jets all coming fairly straight toward the audience, smoke trailing out behind. Then all at once, they just sort of exploded into this chaotic looking mess! It made for great drama and a great shot!