Blue Angels: Here Are Tips On How To Take The Best Photos

July 11, 2024

It’s time for the 2024 Pensacola Beach Air Show featuring our Blue Angels.

Today, we are sharing expert tips for how to capture those perfect photos. Perry Doggrell has been shooting the Blue Angels for decades, and for the past 13 years, he’s shot great Blue Angels photos you’ve seen on NorthEscambia.com.

Here are his best tips for getting the best photos, including how to take the best photos with just your phone:

I started taking aviation photos when my mom took me to my first Blue Angels Airshow when I was in elementary school. The Blue Angels were flying A-4’s back then, and she let me use her Kodak Instamatic camera. Needless to say, the photos were less than stellar, and the planes looked like little dots, but I was hooked on trying to take airshow photos from that moment on. I gradually bought better and better cameras and lenses; and went from film, to digital, to mirrorless.

I’m currently using a Nikon Z8 with a Nikkor 180-600mm lens, and a Nikon Z7ii with a Tamron 100-400 lens as a backup and for wider shots. Today’s cameras are more like computers and really take some of the guesswork out of photography. Plus, since there’s no film to worry about, you can take as many photos as you want, and the law of averages says some are bound to turn out good!

So what are some suggestions for taking photos of the Blue Angels? Most importantly, you need to use a high shutter speed. I normally photograph jets with a shutter speed of at least 1/1250th of a second, and sometimes go as high as 1/2000th of a second. Because you are moving and the jet is moving, you need to use a high shutter speed to freeze the action and not blur the photo. You can make adjustments if your photos are slightly under or over-exposed, but you can’t salvage a blurry, shaky photo.

Also be aware that as the day gets later (typically when the Blue Angels fly their show), the position of the sun can really cause light problems. Try to pay attention to which positions the jets seem to be “lit up”, and which positions they are more in the shadows because the sun is more behind them. And even if you get some darker photos because of the light, you can often edit them to make the subject lighter. There is lots of good editing software out there, and even today’s modern cell phones have powerful editing tools.

One word of caution: if you’ve just purchased a new camera and are not familiar with it, try to practice at home and figure out some basic settings. If you don’t have time, I’d recommend setting it in sports mode and leave it alone. I’ve run into many people with brand new cameras who have tried to change so many settings that they end up not being able to take any photos. I might have done that myself once or twice LOL.

If you don’t have a huge lens to shoot with, don’t worry about it. Concentrate on getting the diamond and delta formations along with different formation maneuvers. And especially at the Beach show, you can get beautiful wide photos with the Blue Angels, the beach, the water, the crowd, and even some of your friends all in the photo. Everyone loves a photo of themselves with the Blue Angels in the background!

And if you don’t have a camera at all, you’re still in luck. Today’s cell phones are great at taking wide photos and especially videos. Make some short videos as the Blue Angels diamond goes by, or try to catch the “sneak pass” which usually generates some really good vapor. In today’s social media world, videos and reels are much more popular than still photos anyway. So who knows – your iPhone video could go viral!

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the show! We are lucky to live at the home of the Blue Angels, so there’s always another opportunity to take more Blue Angels photos at a practice or a beach buzz or at the Homecoming Show in November.

Perry Doggrell photographs the local Blue Angels air shows for NorthEscambia.com. He is a retired air traffic controller and still works in the aviation industry. He is a volunteer photographer at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Perry focuses on outdoors, wildlife, and aviation; he also does classic car photos. Look for his photos the next several days here on NorthEscambia.com. Find him on Instagram @jays.and.jets or on Facebook at Jays and Jets Photography.

Photos by Perry Doggrell for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Comments

2 Responses to “Blue Angels: Here Are Tips On How To Take The Best Photos”

  1. Jones on July 11th, 2024 10:34 am

    Great tips and photos. Thank you!

  2. Jan on July 11th, 2024 7:44 am

    Thank you! Great shots!





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