The Blue Angels and My Rooftop Community

The US Navy Blue Angels have spent the last few weeks flying over hospitals all over the country to honor health care workers, essential workers and people impacted by Covid-19. Indianapolis was on the schedule a few weeks ago but was postponed due to weather. The much anticipated reschedule over Indianapolis was announced the afternoon of May 11 and scheduled to occur at 2pm the following day.

The announcement started a frenzy for where I would be trying to capture the event and would have the best chance of multiple passes. I was hoping to locate an area where I could get an interesting foreground and opportunities to catch the Blue Angels banking and changing direction.

After multiple hours of scouting locations, changing the plan numerous times, and wishing I had ten different remote cameras I could setup around the city, I settled on three locations. The flight plan passed my primary target location multiple times and a shot I really wanted to try to capture was one with the Blue Angels over the city.

One concern was parking and having to haul tons of equipment to any location not near my vehicle. Fortunately, the location I chose on top of a parking garage was open when I arrived a few hours early to scout. I didn’t scout my other two locations as I was convinced this was the place right away. After a few hours of planning, two hours of waiting on the garage to secure my spot, setting up multiple cameras, and meeting many new friends (with proper distancing), it was time to for the Blue Angels to arrive.

The Blue Angels came in to the city directly toward us and veered to our right on their first pass. As they came in, I started camera one setup on a tripod, remote trigger, and a wide angle lens facing the city. I locked the remote to start shooting continuously while they passed, which allowed me to use the other two handheld cameras setup with zoom lenses to capture tighter shots.

The Blue Angels arrive in Indianapolis, framed by the Salesforce and One America buildings from my vantage point

As they veered to our right, I grabbed the camera with the 300mm lens to try to get a tight shot. On this first pass I had to focus on framing the shot as they were closer than I expected and were filling the frame. After successfully getting a few tight images, the Blue Angels headed west of the city closer to where I had originally planned to photograph until adjusting the plan a few hours prior.

The Blue Angels heading west of Indianapolis as part of the May 12, 2020 flyover

When they headed west it was a good time to assess what I had so far and to plan any additional photos I wanted to try on the subsequent passes. As I was checking the handheld cameras, I had to laugh as I realized camera one was still plugging away continuing to take very uneventful photos of the city.

We knew the next pass would bring the Blue Angels back around to our left over Methodist Hospital before they headed up to the north side of the city. I swung camera one, which was now resting, in the direction of Methodist and got it dialed in quickly. With the flight plan taking the Blue Angels north after passing Methodist hospital, I figured this was the opportunity to get the shot I wanted to capture of them banking.

The US Navy Blue Angels headed toward Methodist Hospital
US Navy Blue Angels over Indianapolis May 12, 2020

My vantage point gave me the opportunity to watch most of the flyover as they traversed the city. Once they headed north and back around the east side of the city, it was time for their final pass. I was hoping this pass would have taken them directly overhead and the group of hospitals downtown including the VA, instead it took them back over the city. I adjusted camera one back to its original position to try different shots with the city in the foreground and worked the handheld cameras to try to capture the formation within the city landscape.

US Navy Blue Angels on their final pass of Indianapolis May 12, 2020
The US Navy Blue Angels framed between the Salesforce and One America buildings in downtown Indianapolis May 12, 2020

The pass back over the city was an opportunity to capture different images I had not planned and some that proved to be many of my favorites of the day. Eleven minutes after it started the Blue Angels had accomplished their mission, as they had earlier in the day in Detroit and Chicago, and were off to parts unknown. Most of us in the rooftop community assumed they were off to refuel themselves and their planes before heading back home to Florida.

The Blue Angels gave the city an awesome way to honor the many people who have been working hard throughout the pandemic and those impacted by Covid-19. The flyover returned a sense of community and a needed morale boost to those of us gathered to witness the flyover in person and to those who are living the moment through our images and accounts.

When it was over, I could feel the excitement and energy in our small rooftop community, which had grown to approximately 30 properly spaced vehicles. I am not certain if it is the new normal or due to the fact it was chilly, but most people left and didn’t gather afterward as I believe we normally would have prior to the pandemic.

After breaking down my equipment, I loaded a few images on my laptop. After a few minutes with my head down working, I quickly discovered I had returned back to where I was a few hours earlier, me alone on the rooftop. I know it will take a while for our sense of community to return and for us to build up to interacting more as people once we know the threat of the virus is over, but today was a great first step. Thank you to the US Navy Blue Angels for eleven minutes of excitement, electricity, and the foundation for rebuilding our community!

One Comment on “The Blue Angels and My Rooftop Community

  1. I loved the story of how you captured it all. The images were amazing!

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