Long Lens Restriction is Cancelled after Airshow Community Reacted to Rule.
“After consulting our award-winning security forces team, we have revised [the camera restriction] to allow for your cameras at the Dyess Big Country Air Fest.” This is the good news from the public affairs office of the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB in Texas today just a week before the Dyess Big Country Air Fest 2023 on April 22, 2023.
The news came today, Thursday, April 13, 2023, after airshow fans on social media were mulling over a restriction that originally appeared on the website for the show. The show’s official website, hosted on a “.mil” domain, included the customary list of prohibited items at an airshow including fireworks, drones and laser pointers. But one item on the banned list had generated social media buzz: “Long-lensed Cameras”.
The unspecific ban of “Long-lensed Cameras” at the Dyess Air Show was a concern for aviation photographers since the base is home to the 7th Bomb Wing, one of only two Air Force units operating the B-1B Lancer heavy bomber. The only other unit to operate a large contingent of B-1B heavy bombers is the 28th Bomb Wing located in South Dakota at Ellsworth AFB. This means the show is a rare opportunity to photograph the B-1B Lancer at one of its only two operational home bases.
“It’s such an ambiguous statement too!!” one photographer commented on Instagram in a response to a post that showed a screenshot of the restriction from the show’s website. “Some lenses are a few inches, others could be as long as a foot! Where do they draw the line??”
The restriction, which is now removed, would have prevented photographers from bringing large lenses such as the popular Sigma 150-600mm zoom lens into the show. This lens has become a favorite for both Canon and Nikon aviation photographers. The lens is approximately 17” (43 centimeters) long at full zoom extension with the lens hood attached, and is heavy at well over 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms). Any camera equipped with this lens would likely fall outside of the limitations of the proposed Dyess “Log lensed camera” ban.
Restrictions on large camera bags or long lenses at airshows are not new though, and some concerns about large professional cameras with big lenses have merit. Many airshows, both commercial and military, publish restrictions on bag size and lens length for a number of practical reasons. Large camera bags often cause delays at security checkpoints where bag screenings may take longer.
Security concerns posed by long lenses include the possibility that internal optical elements could be removed to conceal prohibited items such as illegal drugs, alcohol or weapons. And, unless photographers with long lenses are segregated into specially designated “photo pits” or press areas, they could be a nuisance to casual airshow viewers since photographers generally remain standing during flight demonstrations to get better photos over fencing. Standing photographers with large cameras may obscure the view of spectators behind them, especially children.
Even with safety, efficiency and courtesy concerns of airshow organizers being real, some airshow venues are more accommodating of aviation photographers than others. Show venues like Nellis AFB, Davis-Monthan AFB, MCAS Miramar and NAS Oceana along with civilian airshows like Thunder Over Michigan have made special efforts to accommodate photographers with raised platforms, special photo areas in ideal viewing areas and even paid amenities such as meal catering and drinks for airshow photographers.
One Air Force public affairs employee not associated with Dyess AFB, who asked not to be identified, told TheAviationist that, “Today we need to view amateur airshow photographers as a force multiplier for Air Force recruiting, public affairs and promotional messaging. Hobbyist photographers and aircraft spotters have media reach that no official government outlet can match. Amateur aviation photographers reach millions of screens every hour across social media through their own personal YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. That is something we can’t achieve in the structured public affairs space. We simply don’t have that collective media reach. Smart airshow promoters view the amateur, enthusiast photographer as an asset that adds promotional value to an airshow and the recruiting message. Amateur aviation photographers are not a liability.”
The news of the reversal of the “Long-lensed Camera” ban at Dyess Big Country Air Fest 2023 is certainly good news for aviation photographers hoping to get great images of the base’s B-1B Lancer bombers and all of the other acts flying at the show next weekend. In an email with TheAviationist on Thursday, April 13, 2023, the 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office at Dyess asked all photographers attending the show, “don’t forget to tag us on social media! @Dyess_afb