Everything was lot better in my day – this is a comment frequently used by older people (like me) when discussing the past. In relation to air shows, this saying certainly rings true today or then again maybe it doesn’t? After giving some serious though if this really is the case, I came to an interesting conclusion (well at least for myself).
As far as air shows are concerned, especially when taking into account the variety and number of aircraft displayed, and the quality of the demonstrations themselves, the result is pretty clear: everything did used to be a better, a lot better!!! That's not to say there are no good air shows today, but there are things that cannot be seen by anyone anymore. Many of the types of aircraft that were on display, until just a few years ago, can still be admired today but only in museums. I can still hear the thunder of a Swedish Saab JA-37 Viggen or the special howl of a Royal Air Force BAe Harrier. I could expand this list by countless types, all of which have one thing in common: they have all but disappeared! So in this sense, the statement that everything was better in the past is quite accurate and really needs no further explanation.
What makes me pensive is the term "everything". If I look at photos from that past time, especially in terms of image quality, then the term “everything” is not entirely correct. My first SLR with which I used to photograph airplanes at air shows was a Nikon F-801S and at the time it was certainly a very good camera. The longest lens I owned was a 70-300mm zoom from a third party manufacturer and this combination got me many great shots, well that was my opinion at the time. And how was it shooting with film? For our younger photographers the use of film can be quite hard to comprehend. With a roll of film (either slide or negative) you could shoot 36, at most 38 pics, then you had to awkwardly change rolls in order to keep shooting. I have no idea how many great photos I missed simply because I forgot to count my shots and the roll was full. These rolls of film were also disproportionately expensive - you had to pay not only for the film itself but also for developing and mounting. On an air show weekend some 1000 DM (about 500 €) would be spent on this. Immediately seeing the photo just taken then correcting the exposure and shooting again and again? No way in the old days.! At best you would see the results a few days later when the photo prints/slides came back from the photo lab. These inadequacies do not exist today thanks to the wonders of modern digital technology.
Verdict: There were many things that were a lot better in the past, but definitely not everything! From a technical point of view, we live today in a land of milk and honey. When I visited an air show for the first time, it was in 1994. The flying displays were awesome (and the runway was just 50 meters away!) What would I have given to photograph this event (and many others) with my current camera and high-quality lens! Thinking about it, I almost forgot how I came to this nostalgic review and analysis. Wanting to create reviews of shows conducted long ago (which I call it: re(tro)view), it struck me to my horror that some of the CD's, where my scanned photos from this time were stored, were no longer legible. When I started to scan the slides again, I noticed that some of them also had traces of storage. For these reasons I’ve begun rescanning all of my slides and save them to multiple hard drives. This is a lot of work, but it will allow you to take part in some wonderful reminiscing – from a time when it was nice, and (almost) everything was better!
Rob Kysela / CHK6
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