Thursday, 19 July 2012

The busy aviation photography week: Part 1 Flying Legends

This is the time of year I try to take some time off work to indulge myself with a week of aviation photography. The two big shows of the year that I like to go to – FlyingLegends at Duxford and the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford - were scheduled this year for successive weekends (3June/1 July; 7/8 July). Arrivals and practise at Fairford are a great opportunity to see visitors arriving: many overseas airforces send representatives, very often in novel and garish paint schemes, that add to the interest, so I like to spend some time before the main show at Fairford watching them. This year, I also popped into Headcorn, a local airfield I’ve blogged about previously, between the two shows for some pre-RIAT practise. I’ve put up sets of pictures from each of these on Flickr[i] as follows:

These won’t be reviews of the shows – others such as UKAR will do that anyway – but rather more of a photographic diary. It has taken me quite some time to get round to writing these up: life just gets in the way.

Flying Legends 2012

Flying Bulls P38
 Flying Legends is always fun: there’s a huge variety of vintage aircraft, with many rare/unique warbirds taking part. They try to keep the flying display high tempo with multiple aircraft in the air at once, with tail-chases, mock dogfights and the rest.

The morning can be spent on the flightline, looking at the aircraft on the ground reasonably close up. Large numbers of re-enactors also turn up, posing as pilots, nurses and anything else that is of more-or-less a period nature. Usually I try to ignore them (they get in the way of the planes!), but this year I had a go at photographing them as well. They’re really cooperative, which makes it a bit easier. Re-enactors are a very interesting phenomenon: it is all about nostalgia and “remembrance of times lost”; I’m sure someone must have written their sociology PhD thesis on it.

Guarding the Lysander
 The conditioned reflex that most of us have is to instantly turn pictures of re-enactors into sepia tones (like this). For fun, I tried to do one a little differently, giving it a faded and discoloured look, as well as adding some scratches and imperfections. (Another sociological oddity: spend a huge amount of taxed income on the best cameras and lenses, and then make the pictures look like crap!)  I’d found On One Software’s PerfectEffects Free  a few weeks ago, and hadn’t really given it a run out.  In this picture, I used several different effects from that package applied selectively via PS layer masks, as well as blending in the original colour image on a soft light layer. Just playing, really, but I quite like the effect.

 There were some wonderful aircraft at Legends this year. Others can do a full review, but among the highlights were three Mk I Spitfires, the Flying Bulls P38 (opening picture; the P38 is one of my all time favourite aircraft), and a newly restored P47G “Snafu”. Snafu is of particular interest to me, because it represents the “razorback” form of the P47, a type that flew from the ALG at High Halden[ii], just up the road from where I live. The P47s that flew from there were P47D types; the P47G is essentially the same, just built by Curtis-Wright, rather than Republic.

Osa's Ark
 One other welcome participant at Flying Legends was Osa’s Ark, the Sikorsky S38 I encountered in Belgium last year. She was over with owner Tom Schrade and his partner, who were attracting a huge amount of interest from people on the flightline walk. 

Spifire sky

 Fortunately, there was some blue sky while the flying programme was on. We’re in a run of cold, wet, grey weather at the moment, and I’d been worried that it would rain all day, but the weather gods relented for that afternoon.

Balbo finale
The show ended, as always with a Balbo of  as many of the aircraft as they can get into a single stream: the picture shows 21 aircraft in the assembly. A wonderful sight, not to mention sound.

An excellent afternoon’s flying in the company of Graham (Flickr:nacl1) and Yvonne.

[i] I’m now running – temporarily at least – two parallel photosharing sites. For years, now, I’ve been using Pbase as my photo-sharing site: Now I'm using Flickr as well: Two things have changed. The major one is Lightroom. Lightroom is central to my imaging workflow: among its features is direct publishing to the web. Flickr has an excellent publish-from-Lightroom facility. Unfortunately, Pbase has no equivalent, and despite long-standing requests on their forum, there’s no sign of any progress. Uploading to Pbase is not hard, but it does take more clicks to do it.  The other point, of course, is that photosharing is social: Phil and Martin are on Flickr, not to mention many other photographers I know, so it makes sense for me to be there too. What to do longer term? Not sure: I’ve built up an extensive archive on Pbase, which many of my friends know about, but now I’m getting contacts via Flickr. Oh well….

[ii] If you are interested in the Advanced Landing Grounds and their history, I recommend strongly “Thunderbolts over High Halden” by Graham J Hukins. This book was self-published in 1996, and I came across it in a bookshop in Tenterden about that time.  I’ve no idea whether it is still available, and a Google search doesn’t reveal much. Well worth trying to find, though.

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