I will take luck over skills any day of the week and twice on Sunday. The above image is 99% luck and 1% skill.
This was a 4-day air show in Phoenix and I knew that the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds were performing on Saturday and on Sunday. I went on both days but on Saturday I did not shoot the performance. I scouted locations to make the best images and quickly figured out that there is no real good spots to shoot an air show. The show is in the air and all over the place.
During the performance I walked around and I noticed that when the planes did low level passes in front of the gallery they were traveling at a lower speed than when they they did the other tricks. Slower is very relative mind you. Most of their performance is done at speeds over 300 knots while this was probably a low speed pass at near 150 knots. That is still faster than most Nascar races.
On Sunday I brought a 600mm f/4.0 lens and sat behind the general gallery. Way back. Way, way back. I also figured out that to get an angle where the crowd and the passing jet were both in frame I would have to be low. Way low. Way, way low. So I layed on the ground and set the lens on my camera bag.
As I heard the announcer say that the low level pass was coming I aimed at the spot where I thought the jet would pass. Took my face away from the camera and looked to the right and saw the jet coming down my way. At the speed he was coming I had one shot and one shot only. I pressed the shutter and prayed.
Hours later after the film was processed I got the first look at this single shot. Luck. All luck.
Btw… I couldn’t have been that lucky though. On Saturday the weather was perfect. Sunny skies, no haze. Sunday…low clouds, hazy and no colors.