Most people who shoot at NAF El Centro concentrate on the jets that fly around, but I’m not most people.
The helicopters that gas-and-go, or are temporarily based, require you to be away from the jet traffic pattern, missing all those side-on shots of the same aircraft you shot the day before.
The RAF’s 78 Squadron was here with Merlin HC.3 and HC.3A helicopters as part of Exercise MERLIN VORTEX , and not having many opportunities to shoot these in the past, they were my main goal.
Luckily for me I had observed that they had a pattern of returning to base just at sunset, so some low-light flying shots were a real possibility.
The first evening a lone Merlin arrived quite a bit earlier, which gave me an idea of the flight path for latter airframes.
A pair of CH-46Es from HMMT-164 based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, came in as the sun started to set, giving me a good idea of the flight path being used to land the helicopters.
An MH-60S from HSC-4 arrived, but I only caught the sun in the cockpit windows due to the angle.
Then another helicopter I was after arrived behind me, which a Lynx AH.9A, but he was too far away to shoot, and I had to be content with a longer landscape shot. I never did catch this Lynx as his routes were always different.
At last the final Merlin pair arrived while the sky was pink for a pleasing shot, although my shutter speed was a little high.
The following evening I had better luck with the light and with an even slower shutter speeds.
The same types arrived in a different order, providing more opportunities for some arty type shots.
El Centro isn’t all about the jets, although I’ll blog about those later.