In the new reality of global viral pandemics it seems as if photography in general has also been affected, in quite a few ways.
Let’s take one example: camera manufacturing. When I (re)started my hobby back in 2009, DSLR (‘digital single-lens reflex’) camera sales were on the rise, levelled around 2012, and gradually declined until today. A lack of product innovation with the main brands (Nikon/Canon) gave a newcomer (Sony) the opportunity to take a piece of the global market by introducing advanced consumer and pro-level MILCs (‘mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera’). In an already declining market for their existing cameras, the main brands suffered even more sales decline accelerated by a reduced demand due to the global pandemic.
It’s Murphy’s Law in full action, also in the photography world. With many amateur and pro photographers facing lockdowns and not able to travel (i.e. in most cases: fly) anymore, photography opportunities are few (unless you live in the Masai Mara for example…) and there is no urgent need to upgrade your equipment, at least until life may return to (the new) normal, whenever & whatever that is.
With flying (to fascinating locations like Alaska or Kenya) pretty much out of the equation, I was focusing on some of the flying more nearby home instead. Living relatively close to an airforce base does provide the opportunity to catch some cool shots of our latest acquired fighter jet here in the Netherlands: the F-35, or in full: the “Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II”. This brand new toy is not without controversy however…
The F-35 is a better fighter jet compared to the F-16, which it is scheduled to replace – in the Dutch Air Force. Next to being better, it also has a few more defects, around a thousand actually, give or take a few. Now these will obviously be resolved, but defects are usually costly to fix. And cost is not on the F-35’s good side – it’s a very expensive aircraft. So yes, the F-35 flies, except when it doesn’t when undergoing maintenance to receive some of those fixes.
The F-35 is also…. L O U D!!! You have to hear it to believe it, although I would recommend bringing ear plugs. This thing is a monster. When you hear the F-35 you can’t help wonder that all that is needed is one F-35 flying over some bad people planning to do bad things, to simply scare them away. No weapons needed, the sheer volume of noise entering your ears should suffice to make you seek cover and hide until the F-35 is far, far away. The closest comparison I can think of is the French Mirage, which I saw first during the Frisian Flag international exercise. I’d say the F-35 is not as loud as the French Mirage but it certainly comes close. It may be stealthy on radar, but certainly not stealthy in terms of noise volume.
“So what?” – one may argue. Well, the F-35 is reported as being 3-5 times louder than the F-16. Interestingly, the number of complaints received from the people living in the villages surrounding the air force base is also around three times more compared to the F-16. So the numbers seem to add up.
“So what?” – one may argue, again. Well, to best mitigate this noise problem, one can look at the cause and the consequence.
The cause – F-35 jet engine noise: unlikely to be resolved any time soon.
The consequence – couple of nearby villages with thousands of residents: spend the full day with ear protection (= unlikely), modify housing to filter out F-35 decibels (= unlikely), or simply remove some of the houses and/or whole villages (= quite unlikely as well, but you never know!).
“F35 show (off)”
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/1600 s., ISO 125, AF-Area Mode: 3D-tracking
So while there may be not much flying in general these days, the F-35 certainly does fly, which provides for some interesting (Life) photography opportunities!
How frequent the F-35 actually takes up to the sky is a somewhat different matter, depending on how challenges are resolved related to outstanding bugs and decibels of noise compared to its predecessor, the F-16. In the meantime, I just can’t help thinking it’s one cool looking aircraft!