Jet owned by the State of Iowa on display at the air show.

I don’t know how to fly a plane and don’t really have any intention of learning. But I’ve ridden on planes off and on since I was little, and the subject of aviation creeps into my work from time to time.


So when the air show popped up at the local airport last weekend, I decided to take a peek for nostalgia reasons. And because we had free tickets. Mostly because we had free tickets.


While the kids (did I mention ages 12 and under were free)  were drawn to the bouncy rides on the edge of the field and the half-hour long lines for lemonade, I decided to try out tail spotting.


Stay with me here. It’s not what one might think.


Airplanes have a license plate-like number, usually starting with the letter “N,”  on the back fin. You can jot down the tail numbers and later go online — to sites like — to trade tips and post photos of the planes your spotted to share with other enthusiasts.


I snapped off about a half a dozen photos of aircraft that were on display on the tarmac with my daily carry camera. I didn’t bring by work camera with the more powerful lens to get the in-air shots, but I was happy with what I got. The trick is to be creative with what you have.


The good thing about shooting air shows: You can get up close to the aircraft. The biggest challenge: Lining up a good shot while dodging and cropping out the yahoos standing around.