This once in a life time experience will never be forgotten, and it was all captured with the Pentax K1 II.
It's not every day that you get permission to greet the Blue Angels at a US military installation, so imagine my surprise when a good friend of mine told me we had access to Tinker Air Force Base to meet, greet, chat, and photograph the Blue Angels while they were in Oklahoma City.
This would really be my first time using the Pentax K1 II at an action event. I had no doubts that the camera, and my lenses would be able to perform, and let me tell you, they didn't disappoint. If anyone ever tries to tell you that Pentax cameras are not great for action photography, send them this way and show them the images here.
The first day at Tinker Air Force Base started early at 0900am. The Blue Angels were due to land at 10am, and as you would expect, they hit that mark right on the head. At 955am they planes soared through skies overhead, and by 10am they were lined up on the tarmac.
Shortly after landing, and lining up on the tarmac I was given the opportunity to chat with Lt. James Haley who pilots plane #2 for the Blue Angels.
Lt. James Haley is from a small town called Canadian which is in Texas. It was a pure joy, and an incredible honor to be able to chat with him about his service, his career, and how he got to be a part of the the Blue Angels.
To say that Lt James Haley is inspiring is an understatement. Ever since he was a boy Lt James Haley wanted to fly, and through hard work, dedication, and commitment, he was able to achieve is lifelong goal of being a Blue Angel. This is Lt. Haley's first year with the Blue Angels. His main message to anyone out there is that all of your dreams can come true, even for children who hail from small town America. If you want it bad enough, you can achieve anything. He is a role model for children everywhere.
There's an Oklahoma Native in the Blue Angels too. Lcdr Andre Webb flies the #6 plane for the Blue Angels. It was an honor to meet him as well. He and the rest of the team put on an incredible display for Oklahoma City.
Day two started a little earlier. 0730am. This day was all about rewarding those who serve the community. Two lucky locals were given the opportunity to fly in the back seat of Blue Angels #7 plane. Philip Nguyen, a school teacher from Moore, and local meteorologist, Emily Sutton were given the rides of their lives.
After posing for some quick pics, Philip was strapped into the Boeing F/A 18 Hornet first. The plan: let him experience G forces up to 7G, negative G's and a whole lot more.
Soon after this pic was taken, Philip took off into the sky, and he had the most amazing 45 mins of his life high above Oklahoma. Soon after he landed it was Emily's turn.
Strapped in and ready to go, Emily gives the thumbs up. Talking with her before hand you could tell just how excited (and nervous) she was.
Shortly after both Philip and Emily landed back on solid ground, the US Navy Blue Angels team were to head out to do a practice run of their show, This is where I knew I would be able to really put the K1 II and the D FA 150-450mm through their paces. This combination did not disappoint at all.
As you can see from the above shots, the K1 II and the D FA 150-450mm lens done a fantastic job at tracking these planes. The lens never hunted, the camera didn't even break a sweat, and when the blue skies turned grey, and slight rain fell from the skies, the camera and lens combo just carried on like nothing was happening. A real testament to the capabilities of the K1 II and the D FA 150-450mm lens is the image below.
This low altitude, high speed pass at 752mph was awe inspiring. The vibrations felt in the body, the pulsating noises being made as the plane approached the sound barrier, and the sheer speed as the plane ripped by were incredible. The K1 II tracked the F/A 18 Hornet easily. The picture is tack sharp, and you can even see the tandem pilot waving to the crowd.
To be able to have the opportunity to meet, greet, and see the Blue Angels up close was a true honor and a privilege. Knowing that I can go into situations like this with the K1 II, and the D FA 150-450mm without having to worry about the camera being able to keep up with some of the fastest objects any photographer will ever have to capture is a great feeling. I know that going forward this combination, and any K1 II and lens combo will serve me well. I simply cannot wait to put it through its paces again soon.