If you ever attend a Blue Angels Airshow, chances are it won’t be your last. For a group of local photographers who regularly meet to photograph the Blue Angels, an obsession was born from the moment they took their first Blue Angel photo. Each can recount the airshow, the day, and the image that got them “hooked.” You could say that Craig Wood, Dianna Lantz-Power, Kyle Adams, and Katie Howard are Blue Angel groupies. Still, the bond that connects their friend group is exceptional. Unlike many local photographers who seem to compete against each other for business, acclamation, and perhaps keep their location a secret, these photographers intentionally meet up to share what’s on the back of their camera, give each other constructive criticism and even assist each other in getting the next most incredible shot.
If you want to try your hand at getting the next best photo of the Blue Angels, or maybe you have never gotten a chance to see the Blue Angels in action, you might do what this group enjoys doing on Sundays. Head out to the Pensacola Beach Pier with your camera in the late afternoon and wait for that perfect shot.
Dianna Lantz-Power, photographer and editor for Airshow News, has also made photographing the Blue Angels her longtime favorite hobby. She grew up going to Mcconnell Air Force base, watching the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels when they would visit. When she was a Junior in high school, she picked up her first Nikon Camera, and photographing air shows has been something she’s loved ever since. In 2014 she attended her first Blue Angel beach airshow and has been photographing the Blues since then. It wasn’t until she moved to the Gulf Coast in 2007 that she realized, “Oh my, I am where the Blue Angels are…this is going to be so much fun!”
“I have made some of the most amazing connections, met so many people, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that in doing what we do, there’s a “people side” of this – the passion people have for the Blue Angels.” Dianna often travels to follow the Blue Angels and has traveled as far as Bossier City, LA, and Dallas, TX. She treasures the connections and friendships she’s made while photographing the Blue Angels, especially with Craig, Kyle, and Katie. “We have a blast together. When we step out there, we are equal and help each other. Craig stopped whatever he was doing to help me or anyone in the group with their camera, even if it meant he would miss his own shot. We are all like that; we help and encourage each other, and we can even critique each other’s work, making our photography group what it is.” You can see more of Dianna’s work at Eight50photography.com.
CRAIG RJ WOOD
According to insurance defense attorney Craig RJ Wood, (RJ ESQ as he is known on Instagram), the group met admiring each other’s work and interacting on social media. They have formed a unique friendship and bond over their love of photographing the Blue Angels. Craig is a Pensacola local (for most of his life) and has been a diehard fan of the Blue Angels since he was a child, as his father, a photographer, regularly took him to airshows. It wasn’t until the 2021 season, the 75th anniversary of the Blue Angels, that he started shooting the team with a professional camera. “I shot the 2021 Pensacola Beach Airshow and a lot of people saw my photographs and said ‘You know, you should post these online; they’re outstanding!’ So I made an Instagram page where I post my photographs for fun and to share with others.” Within approximately a month of doing so, one of the Blue Angels pilots contacted Craig about one of his photos to request a copy. Craig said he was really honored but also shocked because photographing the team was something he was doing for fun. However, from there, he says, “Things just took off like wildfire.”
Along the way, Craig began interacting with other local Blues photographers on social media, which is how the group met, online critiquing each other’s work. Craig’s Instagram page (@r.j.esq_photography) now has over 86k followers. “I was amazed at how many people love seeing my photos of the Blue Angels; it really caught me off guard. It has allowed me to connect with the community, spread awareness about the Blue Angels, and allow people to see what they do through my work.”
KATIE BETH HOWARD
Katie Beth Howard, a portrait photographer, met Craig at the July 2021 airshow when she realized they had been communicating on Instagram. Katie moved to Pensacola in 2019 from Bowling Green, Kentucky. She was used to Corvettes and hot air balloons; aviation wasn’t on her radar. In 2020 she went out to Ft. Pickens on her birthday, not expecting anything, and ended up watching the Blue Angels fly for the first time and photographing them with just her cell phone. “I fell in love with it,” she says. That day was one of the last times the Blue Angels flew the f-18 Legacy Hornets during practice. By November 3, 2020, for the Blues’ last flight with Legacy Hornets, Katie had secured a professional camera to suit her newfound hobby. In 2021 she started posting photos of the Blue Angels on her Instagram @Katiebethhowardphotos. She’s in the process of making her photos available for purchase.
Kyle Adams, born and raised in the Virginia Beach area right near Oceana, frequented air shows since the age of 8 with his father. He saw the Blue Angels for the first time the first year the Blue Angels started flying Hornets. After moving to Pensacola with his wife during the pandemic, he picked up a camera he had initially bought for her. He thought maybe he’d get into landscape photography but found his niche photographing the Blues in November of 2020 during the Legacy Flight before the Blues switched to Super Hornets. He remembers the photo he took that would inspire him to continue following the Blue Angels with camera in hand. “I expected them to fly over the Navarre Pier, but they turned a half a mile before the pier. I got a cool shot of them turning as they bank off to the side with the sun behind them.” That photo got much attention, and Kyle was ready for more. The following year during the airshow season, all he wanted to do was get a sneak pass shot with the vapor cone. “When the July air show came around, on the 2nd day, the team was doing the sneak pass and popped the cone at the exact time where I was ready to take the photo, and I got it on my first try.” There’s been no turning back since then, and it’s been a contest within himself, according to Kyle, to try and get something better than his previous shot. Kyle is also a skilled real estate photographer. He sells prints of his Blue Angel art at JKAdams.art, and you can follow him @JKAdamsPhoto.