I swear that if 100 photographers at 100 different air shows pointed their lenses at the US Navy’s Blue Angels demonstration team, 50 of them would come up with a shot similar to mine, and some would be so much alike you’d have to overlay them to tell the difference. This seems to be the iconic view of the Blue Angels in diamond formation, and the similarity between photos is a tribute to the precision of this team. As a photographer, I am happy when I can stop the action and see details I missed as these jets flew over at hundreds of miles per hour. It pleases me to no end to clearly see the helmets of the pilots in the cockpits.
But that’s photography. When I put on my painter’s apron, I need to interpret images differently. To quote Maverick, “I feel the need… the need for speed!” My photo is static. Those planes could be models hanging from a child’s bedroom ceiling. What I need to paint is what I experienced that day. I want to look at that painting and hear those jets going over me. So I pushed beyond the photo, asking myself what cues indicate movement. I blurred vertical lines a bit. I chose a wide format and jammed the noses of the aircraft right up to the left edge of the painting, like they were flying by so fast they almost flew out of the frame. The sky was painted in bold horizontal strokes. I was relieved when my contrails turned out better than I anticipated, because there had to be something of interest in all that empty space.
As a side note, I knew I’d be painting the Blue Angels this week. Just thought I’d be using fresh photos for reference. The team was due to perform at the Mount Comfort air show this past weekend, but they were rained out. I’ve been considering doing an air show series, and hated missing an opportunity to photograph them again. But I took solace in the fact that they flew right over my house on Thursday, twice! In a way, it’s more cool to have them visit me on my turf than it is to see them on theirs.Purchase on Artfire $135