I recently was in Tucson AZ for a piece I was working on for the magazine. Since that is yet to be public, I will have to hold off on putting anything from the visit on here. However, I did have a morning free before my flight home and decided to check out the F-16 operations that take place at Tucson’s international airport. I hadn’t visited the airport before so I checked in with my friend Jay to find out what the options are for shooting at the field.
Jay gave me some suggestions on locations as well as the times of day that things are likely to happen. This was focused on first thing in the morning since it is a little warm in Tucson at this time of year. 105F is not just uncomfortable to be out and about in but it does cause lots of heat haze issues which makes for tricky shooting conditions. Besides, I did have a plane to catch.
I got the the departure end of things and the timing of the first wave of F-16s was pretty much as predicted. While you have a good view of the aircraft on their takeoff run, most shots before they get close are pointless since the heat haze is very strong. That didn’t stop me trying some of course. However, there are a lot of shots of that type that did not make it through the first cull of bad images!
With the first wave away, I moved to the other end of the field to get the recoveries. Not only was Jay’s suggestion well placed for getting the aircraft as they came in but it also provided a measure of shelter from the sun. This was very welcome. Depending on the pilots, the jets turn in very close to you and provide a nice angle that you don’t often get. Some pilots turned a lot further out although I did notice one jet which was a two seater do that on its first pass and it was a lot tighter on the second pass. i wonder what the conversation was like in that jet.
I got the recoveries of the jets that had launched earlier along with a few civilian arrivals before deciding that it was too warm. Then I did a little exploration around the field but that will be a different post!