Sunday 14 July 2013, Champs Elysee, Paris
This was my first time at this annual festival and, with bright weather, it did not disappoint.
The crowds are enormous and the flypast starts around 10 am with the Alpha Jets of the Patrouille de France running east down the avenue. for photographers I found a good vantage point on the south bank of the Seine near Gare d’Orsay where a pedestrian bridge keeps you clear of traffic. The fixed wing elements are well spaced if a little high flying somewhat into the sun. There is about 40 minute gap before the helicopters come through so I walked west to Invalides as the sun moved around. Once the security teams had decided where the public exclusion zones would be amid general confusion as the hoards moved south from the main drag it was clear that shooting the selection of helicopters due to become static exhibits at Invalides would be difficult due to street furniture and buses blocking the view.
Once the helicopters arrive it was worth all the effort as they turn aggressively from over the river and hover before touching down in the park. By early afternoon they are secured and military vehicles join the display. Many service friends and families join the crews but a patient photographer can secure unusual shots in this cityscape.
This year the French military were joined by some Nato partners. three German Typhoons and a Transall, a Danish C130J and Belgian Alpha Jet adding the the surprising variety on show. The helicopters represented all the service divisions, including the Gendarmarie and Protection Civile. Not many European nations employ such a variety of types in active service. I will certainly try to do this again in the future.