It’s been a couple of years since my last visit to the March Field Air Museum (MFAM). The reasons I had for making a return visit were first and foremost to see what was new. Occasionally I pass by the museum which is located right off of the freeway in Riverside, and could see that some changes were being made. My second reason was sort of a challenge. MFAM has some strict rules about photography, such as no tripods, monopods, or camera bags. I intended to follow those rules (although I never bring a tripod to air museums or air shows) and limit myself to minimal camera gear. In this case, I brought my Olympus E-M5 with 45mm f/1.8 lens, Rokinon Fisheye lens, and my little Sony RX100. Finally, the weather was changing and there were some fantastic clouds (not much rain), perfect dramatic backgrounds for airplane photos!
Walking up to the main building there are a couple of planes on display. Just past those, you’ll notice several memorials. They are all contained in what the museum calls the “Heritage Courtyard”. The memorials include:
- War Dog Memorial
- P-38 Lightning Memorial
- Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) Memorial
- 15th Air Force Wall
- Freedom Wall
Be sure to take a little time and look over these memorials!
Once you’re inside the main building, you’ll see the SR-71. You can’t help but see it since it dwarfs everything else inside the space. There are an abundance of other displays along the walls surrounding the SR-71 that are worth spending some time visiting. I spent some of my time walking around the SR-71. There’s something about that plane that has intrigued me since I was a kid. I just wish I was able to see one in the air. I did learn something about the SR-71 from my Dad. He mentioned to me recently that he worked at the Lockheed Skunkworks for several years, and during that time worked on the 1st SR-71. My Dad had a long career in aircraft and retired from McDonnell Douglas with over 30 years. I knew he worked for Lockheed before his time at McDonnell Douglas, but never gave it any thought that he worked in the Skunkworks or on the SR-71. How cool is that!
When you’ve allowed enough time to explore indoors, it’s time to head outside. Just beyond the doors leading out there are dozens of airplanes. There’s a little bit of everything from WWII Warbirds to surprisingly modern age aircraft. I won’t cover everything there is to see, you can do that on your own. I do however, want to share some of the highlights, at least from my perspective.
- The B-29 “Three Feathers III”. I have a strange connection to this particular plane. In fact, I felt compelled to head straight across the yard to see it and spent quite a bit of time with it. In case you missed it, you can read about my connection to the wonderful plane and it’s history here: Three Feathers Part 1, Three Feathers Part 2, and Three Feathers Part 3.
- MIG Alley. MFAM has an excellent collection of MIGs, from the MIG 15 to the MIG 23.
- YF-14A Tomcat. This is another plane that I haven’t seen in the air. While I have seen several in different air museums, I haven’t been able to get a good shot (photo) of one. Air museums tend to be packed pretty tight, and it can be tough to get a clean shot, and mine always leaves me disappointed. But not this time!
- The F-4 Phantom. The Phantom is one of my favorites and luckily I have seen them in the air. MFAM has several models of the F-4 on display!
- The B-17G. I have a lot of admiration for this plane and the brave souls that flew them. I was able to take a tour inside of one and they are a whole lot smaller on the inside then they look on the outside. You really had to be a skinny kid to move around inside one. And although the B-17 looks formidable with guns sticking out all around it, that thin sheet metal didn’t provide much protection for those within. I can’t imagine being inside one with flak bursting all around, slicing holes through that thin skin.
So far I’ve done nothing but talk about the planes. Now I want to talk a little about photography. One of things about the gear that I chose for this trip is that it is very light and easy to move around with. I never felt bogged down by my gear and it didn’t get in the way of making photos. My Sony RX100 is technically considered a point and shoot, and it looks the part. What sets it apart is its 1 inch sensor (I know its not exactly 1″ for anyone wanting to scream at me, but its close enough). Suffice it to say that it’s much larger than the typical point and shoot and the image quality in turn is much better. It also allows me to shoot RAW and many other point and shoot cameras don’t. I like it so much that I ended up using it a majority of the time. In fact, I used it for panoramas, black and white, and HDR. I probably could have left the E-M5 in the car and used the RX100 exclusively. Yes, for some things I think it’s that good!
My E-M5 with 45mm f/1.8 performed perfectly. Nothing at an air museum moves very fast so tracking autofocus wasn’t an issue. The 45mm (90mm equivalent) was perfect for filling the frame and getting what I’d call more intimate shots. And I did end up using the Rokinon Fisheye lens a little. You need to be careful not to over use the fisheye and I was selective with my subject and composition.
If you like Warbirds and other types of Military aircraft, you owe it to yourself to stop by March Field Air Museum. I just hit some of my favorites and highlights, so check it out for yourself!
That’s it for this post, until next time, Happy Shooting!