"Here come the G's." Words that might not mean anything to you sitting at your computer, but if you're strapped into the back seat of an F-16, it means remember your breathing training and don't pass out. Blair Bunting, recent addition to the Nikon Ambassadors list, took to the skies with the United Air Force Thunderbirds in part to see if he could sustain 9 G's.
Blair describes what 9 G's feels like, to those of you who were curious:
Now let me try my best to explain what 9 G’s feels like… Firstly, in no way is it comfortable, not even close. I began to feel my face melting away as the skin in my cheeks pulled down to my mouth. The color from my vision was the next thing to fade away, first the reds, then the greens. Squeezing like hell, I did everything I could to get air into my lungs as the G-suit wrenched it out. With all the color of a 1950′s television set, the next thing I noticed was that waves were starting to develop in my vision and a vignette appeared. All the while I am listening to the pilot’s breathing and trying my hardest to match it. At any point I could relax and immediately be unconscious, only to wake up and wonder where I am, but I had trained too hard to let this happen. Then, just as G’s set had set in, they began to leave and normalcy appeared. However, if I were to relax at that point, the blood would leave my brain to fast and knock me out as well, so I continually squeeze as the G’s lift and my body slowly returns to what sanity it had left.
With the chaos that maneuvers gave, a balance came as we traded G’s for the world’s craziest site seeing tour. Dropping down to the lowest altitude we were allowed, we decided it would be fun to give someone else a story that no one would believe. We found the highway that runs between Phoenix and Las Vegas and flew along it at a significant speed with the smoke on, topping it off with crossing a bridge low, for all the traffic to see and for none of their friends to believe.
I was standing on the tarmac as Blair flew with the Thunderbirds and let me tell you: keeping the jet in frame with a 200mm lens as it blasted from the end of the runway into the heavens was the single toughest shot I have successfully nailed in my career. Most photogs shooting an F-16 takeoff go in expecting it to mimic what they are used to seeing at commercial airports. I was luckily briefed beforehand or I would have made the same mistake:
"It will go straight up."
And it did. I can only imagine, through what Blair was able to describe, how that felt to be in the cockpit.
Blair also photographed the jet and the pilots, which we will show you a BTS of at a later date.
To get Blair's full rundown on the what and why, head over to his blog.