Above: It was pitch dark when we got there, and we were all in position just before sunrise.

Hi Gang: Right before I headed up to Photoshop World in Atlanta earlier this month, I got a chance to shoot the US Navy’s famous Blue Angels parked on the flight line at dawn (I was speaking the following day the annual ISAP Summit (the International Society of Aviation Photographers and they took a group of their members along with Pete Collins and me, out to shoot the jets at dawn).

Above: Once the sun came up, I got down low and hid the sun behind the tail wings.

I shared a couple of these on Facebook and Twitter, etc., but I realized last night I had never shared them here, so here ya go. These were all shot with a Canon 1Dx using either a 24-70mm lens, a 16-35mm or a 70-200mm lens f/2.8 lens. This was a pre-dawn shoot and so I shot on a tripod the whole time. As usual, I forgot my cable release, so I wound up using my camera’s self timer to take the shots. No filters or anything fancy.

Above: Once the sun was pretty high, I got in closer with a 16-35mm at 16mm to get this super wide-angle shot with the sun hidden behind the jet. It was my last shot of the day, because once the sun got above the jet, things looked really harsh, really fast.

We got lucky — it was a beautiful morning, great sky and contrails, plus the weather was just perfect. Had a blast â” special thanks to Larry Grace and the great folks at the ISAP — what a great organization (if you’re into photographing airplanes of any kind, you definitely need to check them out. Their annual summit is a blast and it’s amazingly affordable, too! Plus, they always get great access to stuff like this for their members). Highly recommend.

Above: This is the one-and-only time I’ll be showing this shot. I love the straight on shot of the jet, but the mess of planes and construction fence and tailors, and all made the background so busy I blurred it out using the Lens Blur filter. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done this, and this reminded me why â” I’m not sure which I hate worse â” a really busy background or fake depth of field effects. LOL!

Well, that’s it to kick off this Monday. I’m working from home today as I’m on the home stretch on my new book. We’ll see ya’ll back here tomorrow. Hope yours is a good one. :)


About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.


  1. Scott, Thanks for sharing your behind the scene and post processing of your images from the morning session during 2014 ISAP-XIII symposium and field trip out the Sun n Fun. It was an early morning but the images captured by you and other ISAP members of the USN Blue Angels F-18 and the USAF F-22 Raptor was worth it.

    • Thanks to you and the ISAP for getting us access. Without it, we’d have mid-morning shots that we probably wouldn’t share with anyone. Great seeing you here in my own backyard, and keep up the great working you’re doing. :)

  2. Scott how do you get the clearance to shoot military planes? I’ve always wanted to but the closet I get is air shows

    • This was at an air show (The Sun n’ Fun annual fly-in in Lakeland, Florida). The access came from the ISAP (they arranged to take a bunch of their Symposium attendees in at dawn for the shoot, and since I was one of the speakers, they let me come along).

  3. Those are great shots Scott. Once I looked through them, I went back to read. I was fully expecting to see you mention you being with Moose Peterson while shooting those planes. I feel he is the best at airplane photography, and these shots are right up there with his.

  4. Love these photos, Scott. The Blue Angels will be flying at the Rhode Island Air Show on May 17th and 18th, and I can’t wait to see them. And the F-22 Raptor is scheduled too! Air shows are a lot of fun to go to, as there’s so many things to photograph. Thanks for sharing!


    • Hi John: The F-22’s were there (two of them), but I gotta tell ya — that’s some pretty ugly plane. LOL!!!! I took a lot of shots of it, and so did everybody else, but man that’s a tough shoot. Might be cool air-to-air, but sitting on the ground it’s just butt-ugly. :)

      • At 68K per hour to fly it’s best it sits on the ground :)

      • Thanks for the heads-up, Scott. I’ll only be able to shoot them as they fly over me….I hope they do a wing tilt as they pass, as the underside of planes aren’t too pretty, either! :-) If I get anything decent, I’ll post it to Google+. Enjoy the rest of your day writing. Any refresh of Book 3 coming soon?


  5. Scott, great shots! I came down to Pensacola for a law enforcement photo class and got to visit the museum at their base, awesome! My dad was USAF for 20 years and I got to see the Thunderbirds perform frequently, these guys are amazing.
    As a side note, Joe McNally’s new interview class on KelbyOne is a must see for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, I could listen to Joe all day!

  6. Hey Scott,

    You are one luck son of gun to get the opportunity to shoot the Blue Angle Planes! I haven’t see them fly for a long time. They were at Mirmar in San Diego and flying A-4’s. Your photos are just fantastic! I’m with you on the busy or fake blur … however, your fake blur turned out great!


  7. Scott what were your settings on this? I know you used a tripod, but anything else to watch for when shooting these? Did you need a graduated filter to keep the skies dark enough yet obtain the some light/detail on the planes? Gorgeous photographs!

  8. SCOTT!! If you ever have the chance to go again, try to get a ride along on Fat Albert, the Blue Angels C-130 … it is a GREAT time! I even bet you could pull some strings and either get into the cockpit or up in the bubble window on the top/rear of the plane… You will thank me!

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