Goodyear Blimp with the Nikon P1000
There are lots of things to see in the sky over Los Angeles, CA. There are what seems to be a non-stop flow of airplanes flying in and out of Los Angeles International airport and a lot of helicopters ferrying people around the metropolitan area. But Los Angeles is also one of the few places where blimps can be seen floating in the air on a fairly regular basis. That's because there are so many venues that the blimps can cover, such as the Staples Center, the LA Memorial Coliseum, Banc of California Stadium and SoFi Stadium just to name a few.
When flying over Los Angeles, blimps are often a few thousand feet up in the air. At that distance, you'll need a good pair of binoculars or a camera with a better than average telephoto lens to get a good view. Luckily, I carry a Nikon COOLPIX P1000 ultra-zoom camera when I'm out on a photo shoot, so when I encounter a blimp in the air, I can get some great close-up pictures and video clips. Much more about that later.But what if you're in the LA area and you don't have binoculars or a telephoto lens? Well, in most cases, you won't be able to see much of the blimp. Queue the sad trombone sound. It will likely look like a dark blob in the sky. But if you don't mind driving twenty minutes south of downtown Los Angeles (without traffic) then you can get a great view of a Goodyear blimp without magnification whatsoever.
One of the Goodyear blimp base airports is located in Carson, CA near the intersection of the 405 and 110 freeways. This 27-acre site is located at 19200 S Main St, Carson, CA. Google Maps also shows the address as 19200 S Main St, Gardena, CA. Either should work in your navigation system if you want to drive there.
According to the Goodyear Blimp website, the Wingfoot Three (tail number "N3A") is stationed there when it's not out covering an event. When the blimp is docked at the base airport, you can get a good view of it from Main Street between M.L.K. Jr. Street and Broadway. There aren't many buildings at the blimp base to obstruct the view, so you should get a pretty good view of the blimp as you drive or walk down Main Street.
When a blimp is coming in for a landing from the northeast or when it's departing the airport on a northeasterly heading, you can get a good view of it from Victoria Community Regional Park. The blimps are pretty low when they fly in and out of Goodyear blimp base, so you won't need binoculars or a telephoto camera to get a good view. You just need to be there when the blimp is arriving or departing. And how do you know when that is? Goodyear thought you might like to know, so they made it easy for you to figure that out. Well, kind of easy. There's a page on the Goodyear Blimp website that shows the blimp's flight schedule.
I say that Goodyear makes spotting the Goodyear blimp "kind of easy" for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the schedule shows the day of the flight but it doesn't show the time, so you'll have to estimate the blimp's departure and return time by looking at the schedule of the event that the blimp is covering that day. The second reason is that the schedule on the website doesn't appear to be up to date all of the time. For example, in late December, the blimp's schedule showed activity from October 10th through November 4th.
The first time that I took pictures and video of the Goodyear Blimp was while I was at the Griffith Observatory photographing downtown Los Angeles. By the way, you can read my article about photographing LA from the Griffith Observatory with the Nikon P1000 by clicking this link. The observatory is located about six miles north of downtown on the southern side of Mount Hollywood. On that day, it looked like the blimp was over the STAPLES Center Arena near downtown. If that was the case, then the blimp was about five and a half miles away.
Here are some pictures from the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 zooming in on the Goodyear Blimp. The first picture was taken at 24mm, which is the P1000's most wide-angle focal length. At that distance, the blimp indeed looks like a little dark blob in the sky.
At 50mm, which is a common focal length for a regular camera, the blimp is still pretty much a little blob, which is sadly all we would be able to see if we were shooting with a regular camera.
At 100mm, we can see that the blob might be a blimp. It's still just a blob in the sky, although it is a bigger blob.
As we zoom in to 200mm, we can see that it's definitely a blimp and there's some sort of writing on the side of it. But at this zoom level, it's kind of hard to read. What could it say? Is it a secret message that mere mortals without a super-zoom camera will never see?
Luckily, we have an ultra-zoom camera so we can get a much closer look at the blimp. And at a focal length of 500mm, we can see that this is a Goodyear Blimp!
By the way, in describing the pictures, I'm assuming that you're reading this article on a computer or tablet with a relatively large screen and that you are clicking or tapping on the pictures to see the larger view. If you're reading this article on your phone then the pictures will appear smaller so you might not see the detail until the higher focal lengths.
At 1000mm, details of the blimp are starting to come into view, like the landing gear and the rear propeller. We can see "N3A" on the tail fin which tells us that this is the Wingfoot Three. N3A is one of three Wingfoot blimps. The Wingfoot models are the latest version of Goodyear blimps that began flying in 2014.
Finally, at both 2000mm and 3000mm, we can see through the gondola at the bottom of the airship. If you look at the second window from the rear, you can even see that one of the rear seats is empty. That's pretty amazing considering that we're about five miles away from the blimp. I love this camera!
Zooming back out a little, we can see that Los Angeles is a busy airspace! It would be pretty cool to look out the window of a plane that's landing at LAX and see a Goodyear blimp!
Fun Fact: the Goodyear Blimp is filled with helium. How much helium you ask? It's filled with 297,527 cubic feet of helium. How much is 297,527 cubic feet you ask? Well, it's the equivalent of about 14 million large cups of coffees. That's a lot of trips to Starbucks!
Our second shooting location is the Proud Bird restaurant near the Los Angeles International Airport. I was there taking photographs and video of planes landing at LAX when I spotted the Goodyear blimp in the sky to the east. According to the blimp's flight schedule, the blimp was covering the Chargers and Patriots football game at SoFi Stadium. The blimp looks to be south of the stadium so as to stay out of the way of planes landing at LAX. That would put the blimp about three miles away plus or minus depending on where it is on its circular flight path.
Here's the Goodyear blimp at a focal length of 24mm. I normally don't mark-up the zoom-in/zoom-out pictures, but the blimp is so small that it's hard to make out so I added an arrow to point out where it is. Otherwise, it's just a picture of a parking lot!
And here's the blimp at 3000mm. It's kind of bigger than in the 24mm view :)
It looks like there was some haze in the air when I took these pictures, but you can always make some adjustments on the computer in post-production like I did in the picture below to bring out some additional detail:
Another fun fact: The propellers on the blimp are powered by three 200 horsepower engines. Altogether, that's almost as much horsepower as a Chevy Camaro ZLT1 that can accelerate from zero to sixty mph (97 km/h) in 3.5 seconds. I'm pretty sure that the blimp's acceleration is a wee bit slower :)
The blimp was moving in a circular flight path and when it turned, I could see that it was the Wingfoot One (N1A). So there is more than one blimp that can be seen in the skies over Los Angeles.
The picture below shows the full zoom range of the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 from 24mm to 3000mm. At 24mm, I had to put a circle around the blimp to show you where it is because it's so small. At 3000mm, you can see the landing gear, the thin ropes that the landing crew grabs to secure the blimp to the ground and you could probably see the pilot if the gondola wasn't so dark.
Well, there you have it. The P1000 ultra-zoom camera can transform a small blob in the sky into a blimp! Amazing!
Watch the Video
I also made a video of the Goodyear blimp over Los Angeles! The video shows the Nikon P1000 zooming in and out turning the blob in the sky into a blimp before your very eyes! Just click on the picture below to watch the video on YouTube. While you watching the video, I hope that you'll consider "liking" it, sharing it with your friends and family, and perhaps even subscribing to my channel.
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