Sunday, March 13, 2016


Da planes, da planes!
This weekend was a "two-fer" here in Tucson - the very popular Book Festival held at the U of AZ campus and also an air show at Davis-Monthan, the local air force base. Not a fan of crowds or long walks to heavily-attended events, we tend to avoid such things, though I did brave traffic early both Saturday and Sunday to do some work at the Mirror Lab. And while Melinda wasn't up for a long trek to the air show, I convinced her we could drive to a spot adjacent to the AFB to watch the Thunderbird show. Since that sort of an exhibit extends well past the edges of the base, you can see parts of it from almost any part of town. We chose to go down near the Stellar-Vision Astronomy Shop, parking at the Dodge dead end near Alvernon, a mere stone's throw from the base fence. Arriving right at the appointed hour of 3pm, we depended on better-placed spectators with a better view (at left) to point out that the planes were taking off.

Seen Against The Catalinas
Fast Approach
But even though we didn't hear them launch, we soon were enveloped in the roar of jet engines. After a high-speed pass they were spotted cruising in formation in front of the Catalina Mountains. While they don't look far, witnessing part of the show from Midtown today, they are likely a good 5 miles away!

Melinda watched from a comfy chair near the van, I wandered about 40 yards away in the shade of a rhus lancea tree to avoid shooting through power lines. Being near the path towards the runways, they made frequent passes over us, some just under the speed of sound. As a result, there wasn't much warning they were approaching. From my vantage point, I could see them from quite a distance and motioned to Melinda they were coming. Trying to shoot them, as low as they were flying, at least their motion allowed some good close-ups.

They repeated some of their maneuvers, so some of my images were very similar, even taken 10 minutes apart! A good example is this one of a big loop, both with smoke generators. The one at left had 5 planes, at right only 4. One I made into a vertical format orientation, the other horizontal. I couldn't decide which I liked better, so include them both.  The horizontal orientation lends itself to better viewing on a computer screen, but the vertical structure is a natural for the loop.

Similarly the various formations of 4 or 5 F-16s were similar, and include them both as well...

All of these images were taken with the 300mm F/4 and XSi on a monopod. That lens worked great at zooming in on the action while comfortably ensconced under a shade tree!

copyright: Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star
And I'll close out my contributions with a closeup of one of the solo F-16s making a high-speed pass at left. I think it was the lowest and closest I got to one of the planes.

But my favorite image from the show was from the Arizona Daily Star, with the 5-plane formation flying past the moon. I had spotted the moon from my vantage point and thought about trying to catch the jets in the same field, but would have been tough. Hopefully Kelley didn't Photoshop the image, but can only assume it is a "real" image!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

really awesome images