Chicago Air and Water Show

Photographer Chuck Hunnicut provided the details and images for the Chicago Air and Water Show destination.

Every August, Chicago hosts the Air and Water Show.  It’s a great opportunity to shoot a variety of aircraft, and to a lesser extent,  boats.  The event is free and is centered around North Avenue Beach on the lakefront.

The Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds are the big draws.  They alternate their appearances every other year.  In 2012, it was the Blue Angels, so 2013 will feature the Thunderbirds.  The Army Golden Knights and the Navy Leap Frog parachute teams perform.  Additionally, a number of civilian stunt teams and military jets add to the show.

For relative close ups of the planes in flight, lenses in the range of 200mm to 400mm are optimal.  Wide angle lenses are great for capturing smoke trails and patterns in the sky.  Most photographers shoot handheld rather than with tripods.  For the jets in flight, a fast shutter speed is best, usually 1/2000 or faster.  For prop planes where it’s desirable to blur the propeller motion, a shutter speed of 1/250 to 1/500 works well.  Helicopters require a speed of about 1/125 to blur their rotors.

The show is on Saturday and Sunday and is usually hot and crowded.  The best time to photograph, however, is during the practice session on the Friday preceding the show.   The events are identical, and the crowds are far smaller.  Be sure to bring plenty of water and a folding chair.  Food and drink vendors are available too.

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