The Decisive Moment

Patrouille de France, July 4, 1986

Patrouille de France, July 4, 1986

Like many people, I’ve got an old shoe box that’s filled with old photos.  I was going through it recently, and I came upon an old photo that I thought I’d share in this post.
I grew up near Coney Island in Brooklyn.  The building where I lived was down the block from the Cyclone and the aquarium.  Like many people who lived there, I used to go to the beach in the summer.  Independence Day (aka the Fourth of July) has usually been a big day there, being the primary summer holiday.  Nathan’s now holds its hot dog eating contest on that day, for example.
In my days of going to the beach there, July 4 was often the day when military precision flying teams, such as the US Navy’s Blue Angels, would entertain the crowd with displays of aerobatics.  I think I also saw the US Air Force precision flying team and that from the Canadian Air Force.
The photos I’m posting now are from another such display, this time by the French AirForce’s Patrouille de France.y.  According to Wikipedia, in fact, it is the world’s oldest such aerobatic demonstration team.
I found the photos seen here in an envelope that had the date July 4, 1986, written on it, so that tells me when the photos were made.  As I remember it, I knew that the demonstration would be going on, so I brought my 35 mm camera with a zoom lens to try to photograph it.
Among the maneuvers that the team did was to have two of the jets fly directly toward each other, each one making a sharp 90 degree bank right before they reached each other, then passing each other closely by “belly to belly,” so to speak.

1986-7-4--French Air Force 02

I thought it might be interesting to try to photograph that moment when the two planes passed each other by.  I couldn’t aim my camera at the spot where this would occur, as I had no idea where it would happen.  Instead, I just followed one of the jets with my camera and waited for the “decisive moment,” when the other airplane would enter the frame, to push the shutter.
I really wasn’t sure if I could pull it off, given the high speed that these jets were travelling, but as you can see from the photo here, at the top, somehow I managed to get it right.   Looking through the prints and the negatives (which I still have and from where these images were scanned), this was the only such photo that I attempted.
I’ll return to my black and white photos in my next post.

About Dave Rudin

Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.
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