Friday, September 14, 2012

Good Times, Bad Times

As excited as I’ve been anticipating getting out to Stead Field for the 49th Reno National Championship Air Races all week, I’ve also had a little pit of fear camped in my gut, that when I crested the hill on Red Rock Road (where you turn onto Lemmon Drive to get to “The Fenceline”) that I’d be greeted by the Washoe County Sheriffs manning a roadblock and turning all us cheapskate race fans away. Not an unfounded fear given last year’s tragedy and the general state of our litigious society these days…

Well, as luck would have it the coast was clear…Fenceliners would not be denied our week of fun! Granted The Fenceline experience is a far cry from what it was before 9/11, when only some three strand barbed wire fencing kept those too lazy to step over it, off the field of battle.

The 2001 Air Races were cancelled in the wake of 9/11 and the General Aviation grounding while the FAA and the Federal Government sussed out the new lay of the land.

When racing returned in 2002, the dilapidated three strand was replaced by a stout, chainlink fence with three strands of tight, serious barbed wire on top to keep interlopers out.

Still, The Fenceline was our little secret…all 5000 of us Fenceliners! That show is closed now too, but that’s a story for another time. Today was a happy day at the races.

The weatherman didn’t lie, it was just under 90F, and for the mast part the winds were light to moderate.

As I pulled into “my spot” I recognized the neighbors from 2010. New pickup, same old contractor’s trailer, same old wise guys…

I’d timed my trip perfectly, I had just enough time to rig the new camera, deploy my camp chair and chat up the neighbors before Unlimited Heat Medallion 1C came down the Chute.

How nice to hear the old warbirds flying low again! Music to my ears. These are the slowest of the Big Unlimiteds, around 150 MPH slower than the Gold Race Contenders.

I captured it all with the new camera, and eagerly rushed to the car to download and view the HD video…not exactly the wow-factor images I was hoping for. All out of focus except the occasional telephone pole and power lines…

I launched the .pdf of the camera’s  operator’s manual and verified my settings.

Here’s the issue. The sun really. Cameras don’t have the eyepiece that you look through anymore, they’ve been replaced by beautiful LCD screens. Alas in the bright high desert sun, all you see is reflections of the sky, your face, or that blazing yellow fishing shirt you wore for sun protection.

I’ve thought about this since last time I was out in the Valley Of Speed (2010), and every time SturgeUrge and I go fishing. What I need is like one of those antique 3D stereo photo viewers the Grandma used to have…like you see on Antiques Road Show on PBS.

It’s either that or what I call the Ansel Adams Wedding Veil, the black cloth hood that old time photographers with their big sheet film (or glass plate) View Camera.

For now, I’ll cobble something together out of Manila folder stock, some cardboard, duct tape and flat black spray paint. I’ve got the pistol grip with the tripod mount.

I found that if I find a place where the shot misses the fence and powerlines, the auto-focus doesn’t get confused…pity, my favorite four foot ladder is languishing a the Ancestral Digs…

Oh yeah, one last thing…it turns out I’m eligible for the Senior Discount…I’ll be buying a ticket for Friday’s Races…to see the lay of the land, post tragedy, and to get a closeup look at some aviation history.

A discount is a discount, but I’m not sure what I’m feeling about this situation…

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