Monday, 5 September 2011

Photoflying in Belgium: Part 4. Flying with Yaks and a Nanchang

Yak-18 00-IAK and Nanchang CJ-6A G-CJSA
Parts of this series
Photoflying in Belgium: Part 4.  Flying with Yaks and a Nanchang
Photo flying in Belgium: Part 5. Osa’s Ark

Part 4: Flying with Yaks and a Nanchang

Between the Academy and Warbird flights, I had the great good fortune and pleasure to be offered a flight in Etienne Verhellen's Yak-52 "Alice" G-CBSS. Jean-Michel Legrand and Johan Bogaerts were keen to get a unique set of photographs of them flying in formation in their aircraft Yak-18 00-IAK and Nanchang CJ-6A G-CJSA. Alice would be the photoship for this.

Etienne instructing another photographer on the ins and outs of Alice

Flying in the back of the Yak-52 as a photographer, I had to keep the hood open. This aircraft has sliding hoods for the pilot and rear-seater. But for photography, it seemed essential to me to have a perfectly clear view of the subject aircraft -- hence flying open cockpit. I pretty soon learned to keep my head out of the slipstream!

One central consideration, as with the Skyvan flights, is to have no potential FOD exiting the aircraft in flight: this means no lens hoods, and certainly no changing lenses. We were going to be quite close to the subject aircraft, so I just took the D300 with the 18-70 zoom. Because this was the one and only opportunity to get these pictures, I stuck with "safety" shutter speeds the whole time - 1/200-1/320. With continuously changing formations, it was important to ensure that every picture was sharp - full prop rotations did not seem to me to be the priority.

Catching up
The Yak-18 and Nanchang had taken off ahead of us, but once in the air we quickly found them and formated. It is a bit of a ... shall we say ... challenge trying to photograph aircraft that are behind you when facing forward in the restricted space of a cockpit. My feeling was that the most important thing with this flight was to get pictures of the aircraft clearly showing that they were taken while in the air. Anyone can take pictures of aircraft from the ground at an air show to show the formation, but the point of this flight was to show them in relation to the ground. So, as far as possible, I always kept ground in view to make the distinction from airshow photos.

Yak-18, Nanchang and the fields of Belgium
Etienne is a very considerate pilot and didn't subject me to too many aerobatics! There was just one occasion when he said "Now we go round the other side", and pulled back on the stick. I tried to raise the camera to get pictures while we changed position, and realised that the camera would not move -- the G was too much. Fantastic to feel -- at least once in a while.

Nanchang CJ-6A G-CJSA
Yak-18 00-IAK. Alice's wing is in the foreground.

Anyway, to conclude this piece, I would just like to express my grateful thanks once again to all three pilots for a wonderful experience, and I hope the pictures do their aircraft justice.

The final part of this series features Osa's Ark.

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