The Seafair Air Show

If you will recall, I rented a Nikon 600mm f/4.0D AF-S II VR to take pictures of the Blue Angels in 2012…because why not?

Unfortunately, the Blue Angels were canceled last year, but they were back this year!

So I rented the Nikon 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR…mostly because I could:

From www.kenrockwell.com:

Pros don’t buy these lenses. Nikon and Canon’s pro support programs loan them out for free at sporting events hoping TV viewers see more black or white to influence consumers. Therefore, don’t take any of the prices that seriously. Nikon and Canon probably take a loss on the sale of each of these lenses, considering the small quantities sold. They are created mostly for bragging rights, like the unbeaten Nikon 13mm f/5.6.

It was fun to rent, but shooting anything with a lens like this is hard. Ideally I would just move closer to the airplanes, but until the FAA decides to let drones fly with planes (or the Blue Angels invite me to ride along) I’m stuck with have to use the power of optics.

The issue which shooting with such a large lense is mostly the haze and smoke trails. The heat shimmer kicks in eventually if you get enough air between the you and the object you’re trying to shoot:

DSC_0044

You may need to embiggen to get a good look, but the planes basically look like a mosaic because of the heat shimmer — and there’s no amount of Photoshop that can fix that.

From en.wikipedia.org:

Convection causes the temperature of the air to vary, and the variation between the hot air […] and the denser cool air […] creates a gradient in the refractive index of the air. This produces a blurred shimmering effect, which affects the ability to resolve objects, the effect being increased when the image is magnified through a telescope or telephoto lens.

Your best bet is to get a polarizer (which I unfortunately didn’t have) and shoot at 90° to the sun, as shown by the Rayleigh sky model (See also: Polarizing filter). There’s actually a pretty cool tool called SunCalc that will show you where the sun will be at a given date and time — very useful for things like this.

Still, with just over 1500 photos I was bound to get some good ones. Interestingly enough, it’s not that hard to actually track the planes once you get a bead on them. Here are the 4% that made the cut:

Humans Need Not Apply

Just as mechanical muscles made human labor less in demand so are mechanical minds making human brain labor less in demand.

This is an economic revolution. You may think we’ve been here before, but we haven’t.

This time is different.

Automation is here, and it’s been expanding in cognitive ability. We already have self-driving cars, and, by some accounts, nearly all cars will be autonomous by 20501.

The question is not if they’ll replaces cars, but how quickly. They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be better than us. Humans drivers, by the way, kill 40,000 people a year with cars just in the United States. Given that self-driving cars don’t blink, don’t text while driving, don’t get sleepy or stupid, it easy to see them being better than humans because they already are.

It’s not just self-driving cars2 though.

There is this notion that just as mechanical muscles allowed us to move into thinking jobs that mechanical minds will allow us all to move into creative work. But even if we assume the human mind is magically creative — it’s not, but just for the sake of argument — artistic creativity isn’t what the majority of jobs depend on.

This video isn’t about how automation is bad — rather that automation is inevitable. It’s a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable — through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.

via Kottke


  1. Autoblog: Nearly all cars to be autonomous by 2050 

  2. “Now to describe self-driving cars as cars at all is like calling the first cars mechanical horses. Cars in all their forms are so much more than horses that using the name limits your thinking about what they can even do. Lets call self-driving cars what they really are: Autos: the solution to the transport-objects-from-point-A-to-point-B problem.”