Ruth and I had a great chance to attend the Wings over North Georgia airshow in Rome Georgia during the weekend October 17th. Part of attending this air show is the photographic package that is available that grants you access to the media day on Friday and early access on the air show performance days. This was a rather large airshow with more than 75,000 people attending over the weekend. Fortunately, the photographers have a special chalet that is reserved for them and special shooting areas around the field that the public does not get access to. This made for a very intimate time and very easy to swing the big glass around.
So if you don’t mind, I am going to take a day by day account through the weekend and, of course, there will be photos!
Thursday, October 16th
The plan for today was to get a mid-day start and drive up to Rome. I was really surprised at the amount of traffic we had to navigate during the middle of the day on a Thursday. But, we arrived in Rome about dinner time so after checking into the hotel we went in search of dinner. Downtown Rome is a very cool place and it reminds me of what small towns should be. A large boulevard runs down the center of town with 3 and 4 story building lining each side of the street. The lower level of these building are shops and restaurants that cater to a diverse crowd of tourists, locals and college students (Berry College is in Rome and is one of the larger universities in North Georgia). We chose a small tavern for dinner and was quite pleased with the meal. On a side note, there was a massive Geo Caching event going on at the same time that drew hundreds of people from around the U.S. and with the air show the same weekend made Rome seem the place to be!
One of the features of Rome is a trail where they have converted an old rail line into a city park that runs along the river in town. On this trail is an old trestle bridge that the city lights up in the evening. This bridge has drawn me for some time as a photographer and, of course, tonight was no different. I took my trusty model (Ruth) and headed out there. Ruth and I were sitting in the truck as it was getting dark and just as I said “Well, I guess they aren’t coming on tonight” and started the truck Ruth said “I think…….” and the lights came on! I suspect Ruth was hiding the switch and waiting for me to give up.
So onto the bridge we went.
This first photograph was taken just as the sun has gone down and the lights came on. On the left hand side of the bridge is a set of lights shaped like the American flag. That is the primary light source in the image. There is a few mercury vapor lights in various parking lots and businesses as well that lends to the over all feel of the image. After taking the shot, I felt as if it was missing something and Ruth volunteered to model for me. Adding her to the second image and getting a little closer made a huge difference as you can see below.
Friday, October 17th
Today is media day and practice day at the air show. The local media is around with their video and still cameras and the performers are talking to everyone. Ruth and I got to the airport before sunrise hoping to take some static display photos as the sun rises. Unfortunately, nature has other plans. The day started with a very heavy fog over the airfield that made photography extremely difficult. Many of the aircraft that were expected had not arrived due to weather conditions and so not many photos were taken this morning.
As you can see, lots and lots of fog.. Ruth and I decided to leave the airport for a while and find a place to grab a quick cup of coffee and breakfast and hopefully return as the fog lifted. Upon returning, tragedy struck as my primary lens used for walking about and taking photos broke. It just decided that having taken over 10,000 images in its life over 8 years it was done. Ruth said it was because of the subject matter of its last image;
(It has been sent to Canon for repair and should be back in service fairly quickly…. I hope!)
One other neat thing was the chance to meet Scott “Scooter” Yoak who pilots the P-51 Quicksilver and gift him with an aluminum print of his aircraft from last years show. Scott was very appreciative and gave Ruth and I each a Quicksilver patch. I was unexpected, but a wonderful meeting.
Another really interesting thing was the landing of the C-17 Globemaster III. This beast landed in under 1,500 feet. How something that big can stop in so short a runway is amazing. Especially when you consider that the Air Force would not let the Thunderbirds base at this field because the runway was 1,000 feet too short! Not only did this thing do a short field landing, it also has a reverse gear! WOW!
Ruth and I stayed at the field until after the Thunderbirds finished their practice at 5 p.m. and then headed back to the hotel for a much needed nights rest.
Saturday, October 18th
Today is another early day to get to the airfield prior to sunrise and hopefully catch some of the shots I had missed from the day before. Unlike yesterday, today is a glorious day. Clear skies and wonderfully cool temperatures. While there is some morning fog, it is mostly near the hills and away from the flying field.
As the sun rose, this aircraft was getting ready for an early morning flight. I loved the colors and the near silhouette caused by the bright sun!
What a great way to start the day!
Again, I am not going to bore you with the dozens of aircraft shots from this day, but I do want to cover a couple of interesting things. The first is this shot from one of the BBQ competitors;
The yellow sign reads “You can smell our butts from outer space”…. Um, yeah.
The second is this food tent. Ruth and I had dinner here, such as it was. For two plates of chicken fingers and two lemonades the bill came to $36!! It was pure and simple robbery disguised as a concession. Talk about captive audience pricing!
Two other cool things happened on Saturday that deserve a mention. One was the group of young men and women who took their military oath from an officer from the Thunderbirds. It was amazing that 35+ years on, I can still remember it word for word.
And also they had a parade of veterans! This was a planned event to have all of the veterans in the crowd march down the flight line in front of the viewing stands and the crowd. It was amazing the hear the crowd whoop and holler for these men and women who have served their country. Although I could of participated, I chose not to as I wanted to capture the moment photographically. In this parade were also a number of wounded veterans as well as elderly veterans who wanted to participate and had to be driven in golf carts. It was a touching sight.
The evening ended up with a night airshow and fireworks display. I have never seen this before and it was quite amazing.
All in all, it was quite an amazing weekend. If you are interested in the 200 or so photos that I took, you can see them all here