Looking Back at the 2012 Andrews Air Show by Todd Henson

USAF F-22 Raptor taxiing on the runway.

I’ve been in the process of going back through my back catalog of unprocessed images. In some cases there are entire shoots I just never got around to looking at. In other instances I’m taking a new look to see if I overlooked any promising photographs. One of the events I hadn’t processed or shared many images from was the 2012 Joint Service Open House and Air Show held at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

I don’t often get to airshows but I’ve really enjoyed all I’ve been to, including this one. For me the highlight of these shows are most often the aerial performances, and of those at the 2012 show I was most drawn to the F-22 Raptor performance and that of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

USAF F-22 Raptor

The F-22 Raptor is a remarkable aircraft, serving as a fifth generation stealth air superiority fighter for the United State Air Force. This was the first time I’d seen one of these in person. I recall when they first lit up the engines I was surprised at the sound. It was definitely the sound of a jet engine but it had this strange high pitched whine I’d never heard before. My pulse was pounding from that moment until the fighter landed. The things this aircraft can do are just amazing, seeming to defy gravity at times.

Raptor Flyby #1: USAF F-22 Raptor performing a flyby.

Raptor Flyby #2: USAF F-22 Raptor angled upward.

Below is a YouTube video of the 2012 performance of the Raptor. It’s a great video but it can’t do justice to the performance. This is the sort of thing you really do need to see in person. I highly recommend finding an airshow where you can view this incredible aircraft. Keep watching to the end of the video and you’ll also see the USAF Heritage Flight with the F-22 Raptor and the World War II era P-51 Mustang flying in formation.

USN Blue Angels

The Blue Angels are the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, flying six F/A-18 Hornets. Blue Angels pilots are extraordinarily skilled, something anyone who has seen them can attest to. They fly in some amazing formations, at times within 18 inches of one another. As with the Raptor demonstration, my pulse was racing throughout the entire Blue Angels performance.

Blue Angels Flyby #1: USN F/A-18 flyby at an angle.

Blue Angels Flyby #2: USN F/A-18 performing a flyby.

Blue Angels Flyby #3: The underside of a Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet.

Blue Angels Flyby #4: A pair of USN F/A-18 Hornets flying in formation.

I highly recommend seeing the Blue Angels in person if at all possible. But if you can’t below is a YouTube video of the entire 2012 performance.

Most of these photographs are available as wall art in the Shop with titles of Raptor Flyby and Blue Angels Flyby.

Choice of Aperture for a Clematis in the Garden by Todd Henson

One day while visiting my folks I was taken by the sight of this beautiful purple clematis flowering in their garden, hanging from a black metal trellis. Thankfully I had my camera with me that day, though only a single lens, the 16-35mm f/4. I don’t often use this lens for photographing flowers, but it seemed like a good time to start.

The photos in this post show 3 different angles I tried when photographing these lovely flowers. They weren’t all that high off the ground so I used the 35mm end of the zoom to focus in on the flower without too much distracting background. Then I experimented with framing and with aperture.

I most often use the 16-35mm when I’d like a lot of depth of field. Wide angle lenses are usually good at providing this. But when photographing these clematis I was more interested in a shallow depth of field. The widest aperture of this lens is f/4 and that ended up being the aperture I used for my favorite shots of this series. I did, however, create 2 images at f/8 to show you the difference this makes.

I held the lens physically close to the subject, probably very close to the minimum focusing distance of the lens. Even with an aperture of f/8 the background is nicely blurred, but it does still have some detail. Notice the difference when I opened the aperture one more stop to f/4, its widest setting. It throws the background even more out of focus, but it also throws some of the main flower out of focus.

There’s no right or wrong in these situations. It all depends on what look you are going for. For myself, I tend to prefer the images with a shallower depth of field. Which do you prefer?

To Mary's Rock Tunnel by Todd Henson

A car drives past, heading towards Mary’s Rock Tunnel.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy going on day trips with my folks. During some of these trips we end up driving portions of Skyline Drive over top the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. This was one of those trips.

It was mid to late October. We’d hoped to see a little colorful foliage but it was still almost entirely green with only hints of what might be to come. But it was a beautiful day with nice cool temperatures, and though there were lots of visitors to the park it wasn’t anywhere near as crowded as it can get when the foliage begins to change.

As we approached Mary’s Rock Mountain I had an idea for some photographs, so we pulled over into the overlook just before Mary’s Rock Tunnel. From here I kneeled down behind some rocks between the road and the overlook and rested my camera on the rocks. I was using a 6.5mm fisheye lens to capture both the road to my left and as much of the view from the overlook as possible. I would have preferred if there were fewer cars parked at the overlook, but it was unlikely to clear up anytime soon, so I took what I could get.

My plan was to stop the aperture down as far as necessary to allow me to slow the shutter speed enough to blur the cars driving towards the tunnel. I didn’t want to blur them beyond recognition, though, so I had to experiment a little to get just the right amount of motion blur. There were plenty of cars driving by so it didn’t take too long to get it right.

One concern I had was exposure. It was late afternoon and the overlook was in open shade. But the sky beyond the overlook was still brightly lit. So I had to balance getting enough exposure for the cars going by without blowing out the highlights in the sky. Thankfully, today’s cameras have a fair bit of dynamic range and I was able to balance the exposure on each side of the photo in post-processing.

In the end I was very pleased with the photographs. They had started as a spur of the moment idea, one I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull off. And even if they hadn’t worked, it was still a beautiful day out with my family. Can’t get much better than that.

Stopping down the aperture allows me to slow the shutter speed enough to blur the moving car.