BZ's Sneak Pass

Photo Gallery

This are the sequences of the Blue Angels Sneak Pass at San Francisco Fleetweek 2010 airshow, for the Friday practice and the Sunday show (with a couple of Saturday shots thrown in).
Nikon D300 w/ Sigma 150-500mm OS lens - Bernard Zee

Sneak pass from the Sunday+ show

The pictures from one air show venue to another tend to look distressingly familiar. The same planes with varying shades of blue skies, or white clouds behind it...
That's why there's no place else like San Francisco Fleetweek airshow. The backdrops to the planes are so unique and varied, it shines spectacularly as an airshow setting.
No where is this more apparent than my personal favorite - the SNEAK PASS!

It's not too hard to spot the fast moving dot popping over the Golden Gate bridge - but you need to be looking out for it!

The #5 lead solo is rapidly dropping altitude as he approaches the air show safety box.
Notice all those sail boat masts in the shot? They're great for fooling the camera auto-focus and causing the plane to be out of focus. Darn those sailboats!! (shakes fist at them)

This and the next shot were taken on Saturday when I was aboard the USCGC Sockeye - stationed on the western edge of the safety zone.
As the #5 plane drops down lower, he's heading for a line between the center ship/buoy, and our vessel. From my vantage point, it's like he's coming straight for us, with engines on full power!!

I was ecstatic to have captured this moment!! For many years, I've been hoping to be in such close proximity to a high speed pass - and man, it doesn't get any closer than this! Here, I have already zoomed out to 250mm. The next 2 shots were even closer - but I only got bits of his plane even though I was zoomed out all the way. We must have been less than 50 yards away when he rocketed past us going close to 700mph. The sound and pitch of that pass was simply indescribable!! WHAT A THRILL!!

Back to the Sunday pass, he's into the safety zone and working his way lower.

Sunday had some nice humidity in the air, which showed up nicely in the form of ghostly vapors dancing around the speedy plane.

The sneak pass really is that surprising. Most everyone is looking the other direction at the left echelon roll, and not expecting it. The people on these boats aren't paying attention - YET!

There's only one other venue I know of that can possibly match this shot - and that is Seattle SeaFair, from the logboom. Alas, when I was there - I did not get a chance to be on the logboom, so my shots were much much further away. One of these days... :-)

More people blissfully unaware that their hearing would be assaulted by twin GE F404 engines roaring on full military power, passing them just below the speed of sound!

Angel Island really helps provide the contrast to see the engine exhaust and optical distortions.

This is another awesome shot (if I must say so myself)! As he reaches centerpoint, he's bracketed by the Alameda County Sheriff's gunboat, and the SF Police patrol boat. Plus, the humidity is just right to give a bit of a vapor cone, yet get a mixture with the optical distortions from the shockwaves.
Can you feel the speed??!

As a bonus, I get Alcatraz framed right, and I got the whole plane too!

He's actually pretty low at this point. I'm quite impressed really! I 'think' he's generating just a teeny bit of wake in the water as he prepares to pull up.

Pulling up smartly at the end of his run. Another sneak pass in the history books!

Sneak pass from the Friday show

Ignore the 'Left Echelon Roll' - keep your eyes peeled for the tiny moving dot above the southern-most span of the Golden Gate Bridge!

As a dedicated sneak pass junkie, this is the 5 or so seconds of action I wait all year for!

Friday's dress rehearsal is really the best day to watch the Blues. Not only are there less crowds, there are less boats on the bay to block the view as well!

While shot blocking boats can be frustrating at any time - it's simply devastating when it interferes with the sneak pass shots! Besides the office building sized boats that ply the waters (and obliterate the view), the numerous sail boats can be problematic too. Mostly because the camera autofocus really likes to lock on to those high contrasts sail masts, which means losing focus of the plane!

On the other hand, the boats on the water are what adds character to the shot, and make the San Francisco show so unique and beautiful!

If I concentrate real hard and pay attention to my panning technique, I do ok tracking this fast moving bruiser when shooting from the shore.

It brings tears of happiness to my face to get shots like this in focus and framed right! :-)

Traveling at around 700mph, the #5 lead solo is cruising firmly in the Transonic range. A bit of humidity in the air, but not quite enough for a big vapor cone. Optical distortions in the shock waves are always a treat though!

Just so you don't get the wrong idea, I didn't nail the whole thing. Just as he crossed, I over panned him, and messed up a few frames. Sigh. I did do much better Sunday though! :-)

BZ SF Fleetweek 2010 Gallery Index