F-18 jet exiting "Star Wars Canon" into Death Valley at Father C

Father Crowley Overlook in Death Valley NP

You may have seen the tragic news last week about a US Navy F18 crash in Death Valley.  The jet was flying through Rainbow Canyon next to Father Crawley Point when it hit, killing the pilot and injuring seven bystanders.

I feel a connection to this.  One reason is because of my own Navy service.  During NROTC training, I was assigned to an attack squadron aboard an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.  I saw firsthand how professional, dedicated and skilled Navy aircrews are.  My heart goes out to the pilot’s family.

I also feel connected because I’ve visited that exact spot. Back in 2015, Tom M. and I drove up to Father Crowley Point during a trip to Death Valley and made a few photos.  At the time, we weren’t aware of the background of this place and just planned to make landscape photos.  But then we heard the jets overhead.

F-18 jet exiting "Star Wars Canyon" into Death Valley at Father Crowley Point, October 2015US Navy F-18 exiting “Star Wars Canyon” in Death Valley at Father Crowley Overlook, October 2015

Air Force and Navy pilots have trained there since the 1930s and it’s become a hotspot for military aircraft photographers and enthusiasts (see this article in the LA times). Rainbow Canyon has a couple of nicknames:  “Star Wars Canyon” and the “Jedi Transition”.  It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see and photograph military aircraft below you as they fly by (here’s another good article on Arstechnica).

Tom and I were getting ready to move on when we heard another jet approaching and getting much louder.  I managed to switch to continuous mode and follow with my camera as it roared through the canyon right next to us.  The photo above is a 9 frame sequence merged into a single image to show the progression as it leaves the canyon.  I’d only ever processed a single frame of it before (here on Flickr).  Although this set of frames is from a more recent (and capable) camera, I went through processing steps similar to those I described here:  Reprocessing-a-mt-evans-elk-herd-panorama.  I merged it manually this time to make sure all images of the aircraft were preserved in the final version.

I have other Death Valley blog posts here: https://edrosack.com/2015/11/01/death-valley-national-park-california/, here: https://edrosack.com/2015/11/15/death-valley-addendum/, and here: https://edrosack.com/2015/10/25/night-sky-in-death-valley/).  And you can view my other Death Valley photos in this set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157657912609623.

I’m glad bystanders’ injuries weren’t too serious. I feel very sad for the young pilot and his family.  And I’m grateful that we have people that volunteer to serve and protect us, even at such great risk to themselves.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go thank someone in the military for their service.

©2019, Lynn and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

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