Everybody loves the Blue Angels.

The Navy flight demonstration team’s annual show over Annapolis is what drew Baltimore Banner photojournalist Ulysses Muñoz and me to Annapolis on Wednesday, cameras in hand. I got to see it from a boat in the Severn River, a first for me.

Uly shot his photos from the State House dome, where he grabbed excellent images of not only the Navy Super Hornets but also Gov. Wes Moore.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly past the Naval Academy Chapel dome on May 24, 2023, as seen from the top of the State House. The show is part of a series of events during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week, all leading up to the graduation ceremony on Friday morning. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Nice, huh?

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But getting good photos with my Google Pixel 6 proved to be a lot harder than I thought.

The flat angle from the water proved difficult. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t zoom in close enough with the camera in my phone.

As you can see in the photo below, I tried to include subjects in the foreground to provide perspective. Instead, I got a photo that looks like a man is grabbing one of the jets as it passes by.

A spectator waves at the Blue Angels as they fly over the Severn River Wednesday in Annapolis.
A spectator waves at the Blue Angels as they fly over the Severn River Wednesday in Annapolis. (Rick Hutzell)

Lots of people look forward to this show all year long, and there were plenty of onlookers taking pictures on a hazy, warm afternoon.

The Blue Angels fly over Annapolis four times during commissioning week — during a greeting flyover once they arrive at Joint Base Andrews, 25 miles from Annapolis; at a Tuesday rehearsal; at Wednesday’s show; and during a flyover of Friday’s graduation ceremony.

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This year marks the 77th Blue Angels season and the second featuring F/A-18 Super Hornets. The Blue Angels remove the nose cannon for their planes and install a smoke-oil tank and a spring on the control stick that applies pressure for better formation and inverted flying.

The show includes precision formations, close flybys, rolls, loops and other aerobatics adapted from aerial combat training. I found out that capturing this is harder than it looks.

“Most of the photos people take at the show are going to basically look the same — how can you make yours stand out?” Uly advised me before the show. “Think about what you can do with the framing to make it look a little different, and you’ll end up with a photo that means a whole lot more to you than if you just point at the sky and hit click.”

He did lots of that.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly past the Naval Academy Chapel dome on May 24, 2023, as seen from the top of the State House. The show is part of a series of events during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week, all leading up to the graduation ceremony on Friday morning.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly past the Naval Academy Chapel dome on May 24, 2023, as seen from the top of the State House. The show is part of a series of events during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week, all leading up to the graduation ceremony on Friday morning. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

He also offered this advice. If you’re watching with a friend, take a photo of them snapping a photo as the jets scream past. If you’re with a crowd, photos of the reactions might make for pictures that are just as interesting, especially if you find someone who has never seen this kind of show before.

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If you’re near something very recognizable, like the State House dome, for instance, maybe there’s somewhere you can stand that would include it in the background, giving people an immediate sense of place when they look at your photo.

“Experiment, have fun with it!”

Gov. Wes Moore, right, and members of his staff watch a performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels from the top of the State House on May 24, 2023. The show is part of a series of events during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week, all leading up to the graduation ceremony on Friday morning. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
Gov. Wes Moore watches a performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels from the top of the State House on May 24, 2023. The show is part of a series of events during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week, all leading up to the graduation ceremony on Friday morning. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

That’s what I tried to do as well. But I got a lot of photos like this one, showing a close formation from a distance, below and behind the Blue Angels during a pass over the city.

The six Navy Super Hornets fly above the Severn River on Wednesday, a little too high for my cell phone camera even in a high density format.
The six Navy Super Hornets fly above the Severn River on Wednesday, a little too high for my cellphone camera even in a high-density format. (Rick Hutzell)

I was snapping photos from a Nimbus powerboat, a very stable vessel manufactured in Scandinavia, with lots of room. It is relatively new on the Chesapeake, and three of the boats rafted up making the ride very smooth.

But I still found it awkward to spin around looking for the right photo. And after trying for much of the show, I had a crick in my neck from scanning the skies. So, I got quite a few photos like this.

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Trying to spin around and catch photos from the deck of a boat made it hard to capture the Blue Angels in the frame.
Trying to spin around and catch photos from the deck of a boat made it hard to capture the Blue Angels in the frame. (Rick Hutzell)

Uly fared better. It’s partly because of his equipment, and his vantage point.

But the truth is, he’s a professional photojournalist and I just dabble as an add-on to my skills as a Banner columnist.

Take a look at more of what he came up with.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly above Annapolis during a show on May 24, 2023, as seen from the top of the State House. The show is part of a series of events during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week, all leading up to the graduation ceremony on Friday morning. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly above Annapolis during a show on May 24, 2023, as seen from the top of the State House. The show is part of a series of events during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week, all leading up to the graduation ceremony on Friday morning. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly above Annapolis during a show on May 24, 2023, as seen from the top of the State House. The show is part of a series of events during the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week, all leading up to the graduation ceremony on Friday morning. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

rick.hutzell@thebaltimorebanner.com

Rick Hutzell is the Annapolis columnist for The Baltimore Banner. He writes about what's happening today, how we got here and where we're going next. The former editor of Capital Gazette, he led the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2018 mass shooting in its newsroom.

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