An opportunity for some rotary goodness.

Any photographer that is semi-conscious and not under duress will tell you that light is everything. I was a little bit disappointed when the weather didn’t cooperate with me for Yokota Air Base’s annual Friendship Festival. But then, at the end of the day, I caught a break. That late afternoon, angular sunshine they call golden hour broke through the clouds, and it broke through good. The typhoon and rain had knocked all the pollution out of the sky, and the sun was hitting like a laser.

When something like that happens, you do that mental calculation… what is around me that is set up to take advantage of this light? In this case… it happened to be helicopters. The rotary-winged wonders were all lined up next to each other, and a few of them were lined up, ready to catch the light. Which suited me just fine. I love anything you can fly with the windows rolled down.. or the doors open. 

You gotta love a Jolly Green Giant. Or maybe that’s just because I was programmed in my childhood. Either way, a big, unglamorous helicopter that can lift all the things is pretty cool. Even cooler when they stick a probe on the front so it can refuel in flight.

The S-70 is an insanely successful helicopter. Really. Just go on wikipedia and check out how many different kinds of S-70 there are. It’s nuts. I don’t really even know what to call this one. I think it is a UH-60J. Do they call them Blackhawks? Seahawks? Do the Japanese name their helicopters after Ainu? License-built by Mitsubishi, and all tacticooled out… except one thing. I noticed the Japanese helicopters had awesome windows. The US helicopters had sad, tiny windows. The Japanese helicopters all had beautiful giant windows. I guess that might be an indication of the priority that the Japanese put on ocean SAR, maybe? Using the crew’s eyeballs as another way to make sure people get found. The sides had plexi domes for taking photos… so, you know, JASDF, I’m ready when you are. Let’s go do a loop around the Sky Tree.

Here’s another one I don’t know what to call. Or, rather, I feel weird calling it the Viper. I see a helicopter like that, and my gut wants me to call it a Cobra. It was a Cobra, back when they had the HU-1, and started loading it down with so many guns that they stopped carrying people. Then they said, well, we can change the design and put more guns on it. Then that wasn’t enough guns, so they made it the Super Cobra. I’m pretty sure the latest iteration is less about more guns, and more about cooler guns. Since it’s the USMC’s baby, I’m fairly certain that that’s not wrong.

I kinda hesitated putting all three of these photos out there, because they’re all so similar. But I thought that maybe that was a thing worth pointing out. The reason why they’re so similar is because I was working within a set of restrictions. Roped off areas, the sun from one angle, and clouds making the sky boring and flat in one direction.  I think I made the most of the short window I had, but it meant shooting three very similar photos. Of 3 very cool helicopters. So there is that.