USAF Thunderbirds Precision Flying Team

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds recently performed at the 2012 graduation ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The day before, I was able to watch them practice from a hilltop nearby.

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While it had been a partly cloudy morning, the clouds parted just in time as the Thunderbirds flew directly overhead a couple of times and I was able to get these striking photos against a blue sky.  I’m so glad I photographed them on this day because the following day, at the ceremony, skies were completely overcast.

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Production Notes: Shot in RAW format using a Nikon D300 with an 80 x 400mm Nikkor zoom lens.  Using a daylight white balance, the aperture was set at f14, with a shutter speed of 1/640, and ISO 200.  Using the f14 setting gives a fairly deep depth of field  to ensure a good focus. The moderately fast 1/640 shutter speed is good enough to freeze the motion.  Normally, I shoot with an ISO of 400, but on a bright day with the potential of a few clouds, and white subjects, changing the ISO to 200 will help to avoid overexposure.  Slight Vibrance and Saturation bumps were performed using Adobe Camera RAW Converter to add a little punch to the color. Minimal editing was done in Photoshop CS5.5 using an Unsharp Mask with Amount set at 50%, Radius of 1.0 and a Threshold of 0 to give a nice definition to the aircraft.

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