Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ghosts Of December Past - Well 2010 At Least

Two years ago this month, 15th December 2010 to be precise, is now firmly etched in the minds of many aviation enthusiasts as one of Britain’s finest aviation achievements made its last flight in British military service.

I suppose we need to thank the previous Government for screwing the economy to such an extent that Defence cuts of such a scale were required, but one of the actions identified from the Strategic Defence and Security Review of May 2010 was that the Harrier fleet was to be scrapped.

It wasn't until October of 2010 that we found out how quickly the axe would fall, with all Harrier operations to cease by the end of the year and a fleet of nearly 80 aircraft to be withdrawn from service.

Like a lot of enthusiasts I intended to get and see the Harriers a few times before they were finally withdrawn, but before I knew it, we were in mid December and I hadn't ventured to Wales, Wittering or Cottesmore.

Despite the many rumours circulating, the planned last day of operations was to be Wednesday the 15th December with a 16 ship of Harriers flying over several locations and RAF Stations before arriving back at Cottesmore and shutting down infront of the gathered press for the final time.

I was fortunate to have an invite for the 15th, but unfortunate that I had a previous non transferable engagement for that day...!!!

At Cottesmore the plan was for a practice of the formation on Monday the 13th with a fall back / reserve day of the 14th. This in theory provided two opportunities to catch the Harriers for one last time, but of course, stupidly I only had one day free, there was no option, I had to gamble on 13th.

For most of my 100 mile journey over to Cottesmore the mist hung low until I got to within about 10 miles of the airfield and then it got even thicker, just my luck. After meeting up with some friends who'd made the journey up from South of London we elected to head off to the 22 threshold end of the airfield. With visibility dropping even further and mist becoming freezing fog, we stayed put in the cars with little prospect of anything taking to the air. Then, just after 11am, five hours after arriving at Cottesmore I received a call off base, probably what I was expecting but not what I wanted to hear, the 16 ship had been cancelled.

That appeared to be it, but as we said our goodbyes the phone rang again, unbelievably the met for late afternoon had changed and there was a slim chance that a short window of reasonable weather would present itself. The plan on base was now to fly the four specially marked jets with a two seat acting as camera ship.


 At just after 2pm the distinct sound of a Harrier winding up could be heard and the rest of that afternoon, well, it provided a little bit of history as we were treated to an hour and half or excellent Harrier action topped off by the most amazing sunset.

Just to complete the story, they did manage to carry out a 16 ship rehearsal the next day but come disbandment day the weather once again closed in and the Harrier crews were restricted to flying fourship formations in the vicinity of Cottesmore only. OK I hadn’t seen 16 Harriers on the Tuesday or Wednesday but my hour and a halves viewing of sunset action with the specially marked jets was simply magical.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bitten By The Bittern

I don't profess to know anything about Steam trains, other than bits I've looked up on the internet. But with the Severn Valley Railway being on the comparative doorstep I do admit to spending the odd Saturday afternoon on the platform at Bridgnorth with a pint in hand, sitting in the sun taking in the whole 'steam thing'.
During one such previous visit some years ago, I remember being fascinated by what turned out to be an A4 class locomotive. I can't remember which one of the A4 survivors it was, but I do remember I didn't have a camera at the time.
Anyway returning from Wales after working on a recent rally I popped into Bridgnorth on my way home only to find that the SVR was in the final two hours of its Spring Gala and there was an A4, Bittern, running. Not only was Bittern running but it was shortly to leave Bridgnorth for its final run of the day to Kidderminster, so a decision was made to try and catch Bittern on route. As I passed the numerous cars littered around the Shropshire countryside along the route of the Severn Valley Railway I decided that trying to park, walk and get set up for a photo was too risky, so I would play safe and head for a station. The station of choice became Hampton Loade as I knew at both Highley and Arley I would have to park away and walk back to the stations risking missing Bittern.
Once I'd got to Hampton Loade, the station was of course bustling with people and after pacing up and down the platform several times I just couldn't get comfortable with the location. Time was now tight so there was only one thing for it, a quick walk back up the lane and shoot Bittern crossing the road as it enters the station. Once in place I made the decision to shoot Bittern a little early, it meant that I lost part of the tender behind a building but I kept the GWR sign out of the picture and kept the engine away from the heavy shadows of the adjacent trees. Anyway after a little bit of work in photoshop I'm quite happy with the result....

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

4464 Bittern is a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 steam locomotive. Built for the LNER in 1937 at Doncaster Works as works number 1866, it was originally numbered 4464. It was renumbered 19 on 16 August 1946 under the LNER 1946 renumbering scheme and after nationalisation in 1948 BR added 60000 to its number so it became 60019 on 10 October 1948. It is a Pacific 4-6-2 locomotive to the same design by Sir Nigel Gresley as the more famous A4 Mallard and one of the 35 strong class. It is one of six to survive into preservation and is one of two currently certified for mainline use.

Tonemapped Stralis

A recent through the night job provided the opportunity to capture this Iveco Stralis of Volker Laser in a setting which I thought would lend itself quite well to a touch of HDR and tonemapping.
As I have said in the past, tonemapping is not to everyones taste, but Im quite pleased with the result.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Cracks In The Blog.......

For the occasional person that may be following this blog, an apology for the lack of recent updates. Historically the start of the year has proven to be a quiet time for myself, due mainly to a combination of adverse weather, projects not coming online until the new financial year and general quite periods in construction.
The start of 2012 has proved to be an exception to the rule with a number of ongoing projects continuing to require monthly progress photos, some old clients looking to build up portfolios of new images and a number of different clients requesting photographic dilapidation surveys.
The latter may not be the most interesting form of photography, but it does take up a lot of time and requires real attention to detail particularly during the photo cross referencing stages.
Due to the number of dilapidations that we have been carrying out, there has been little spare editing time and so the blog has become a little stagnant.
As a result I have a number of items to update but don't be surprised if they appear out of chronological order !!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Clee Hills Trial - 'A Classic'

The 'Captain'
 It had been a number of years since I last attended the Clee Hills Classic Trial, but with a fine day forecast and a friend offering to carry out driving duties in his little Suzuki 4x4, aka Black Beauty, plans were made for an early departure to Craven Arms.
Alas my mate, we shall simply call him 'The Captain' still hasn't got to grips with the concept of an early start, so come Sunday morning, with a departure 45 minutes later than planned, we gave the event HQ a miss and headed straight for one of the tests, Flounders Folly.
As luck (and a bit of good navigation) would have it, we arrived 10 minutes before the first car so we didn't actually miss any of the action. Unfortunately this only convinced 'The Captain' that early mornings aren't required, and it was infact only a conspiracy to get him up earlier than necessary!!


Following a successful morning on Flounders Folly we moved on to Priors Holt, The Slab and Enterprise for the afternoon. These are a series of tests located fairly close together on the top of the Long Mynd in an area of forestry beyond the gliding club. At the end of an enjoyable days motorsport I have to say, classic may only refer to the type of trial, but for me, it was the entries in the classic class that stole the show.

NOTE - Although called the Clee Hills Classic, classic trials are not just for classic cars or bikes, they are for all sorts of cars and bikes, what is "classic" is the format of the events. For more details please take a look at Association of Classic Trials Clubs

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Sherman Formation

Making a brief stop at Halfpenny Green today were a pair of Army Air Corps AH64 Apaches. Unfortunately by the time they came to depart, so had the sun, therefore the following couple of images are more 'record shot' than 'nice photo'.
A big thank you to the crews though for positioning infront of the tower / cafe before their departure.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Low Key Sakina

Despite the crazy subject matter (Sakina), I managed to get some decent results from my first play with a low key lighting set up. Just two images for now....

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Red Sky At Night

This is a bit of a grabbed shot of a fantastic sunset over Shropshire, unfortunately there wasn't much foreground interest in the image. I knew the opportunity would only present itself for a few minutes at best, so I simply had to make do with the location before the colours disappeared all together.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Autosport International 2012

Once again its January, and it can only mean one thing, the annual visit to Autosport International.
On Friday night in the bar, we were trying to work out how many years we had been going to the show. We couldn't agree on a figure but according to the organisers this was its 22nd year and we are pretty sure we haven't missed a show at the NEC!

Catering for both fans and industry alike, Autosport International is a Motorsport trade, engineering and public show that features all levels of motor sport from Karting up to Formula 1. Generally Thursday and Friday are set aside for trade and college visitors whilst on the Saturday and Sunday the doors are opened to the public. The layout of the show also reflects this as the Engineering Exhibition Halls are only open on Thursday / Friday and are replaced by Short Oval / Grass Track racing exhibition at the weekends.

For 2012 I was working on a stand on the Thursday and had a few meetings / catch ups arranged for the Friday. Unfortunately flu got the better of me on Friday, so this year I only managed a small selection of photos from the show.

The all-new Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car livery was revealed on Thursday when the company's official team unveiled the new colours that will adorn the car in the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship.

The team will continue to be sponsored by Castrol Edge. Branding for Castrol's global range of best-in-class motor oils will feature prominently in the Fiesta RS WRC's new livery for the upcoming season, as it did in ‘11.

Whilst Ford unveiled its latest WRC offering, a modified version of a popular car from the past days of Group B Rallying was unveiled on the Forge Motorsport Stand. The Monster Energy sponsored RS200 is the latest creation for an attempt at a British win on the Pikes Peak hillclimb and will be driven by Rallycross star Liam Doran.
The display board alongside the RS200 shows that the 2.4 BDT engine will be giving a power output of 925hp which should help achieve 0-60mph in 1.7secs and has a top speed of 160mph.

Go Motorsport's display stand at this year’s Show was promoting all forms of grass roots motor sport as organised by hundreds of car clubs throughout the UK.
Proving that motor sport is both more affordable and more accessible than many believe, the ‘Join Your Local Motor Club’ showcase at the National Exhibition Centre featured an array of inexpensive competition vehicles, and was manned by members of car clubs (inc me) from the region around Birmingham’s NEC complex.
Cars on show included those regularly used for a wide range of disciplines including asphalt rallying, sporting trials, autotests, sprints and road rallies. Indeed many were unmodified road cars providing potential participants with one of the most cost-effective ways of enjoying the thrills of competitive motor sport without the need to invest in specialist machinery. Several of the vehicles also featured special controls permitting those with disabilities to compete alongside their normally-abled opponents.
Whilst the wide array of vehicles on the stand drew a lot of interest, and proved that you can compete in motorsport in the daily shoping car, it still seemed that the Mini and Escort Mk2 were two of the favourites amongst the visitors with cameras.

Another feature getting plenty of interest at the show was the Senna display.
With Triple Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna still very much in the hearts and minds of motorsport fans, Autosport International's tribute to the F1 legend featured a collection of cars that launched his motorsport career and helped power him to three titles, 41 race victories and 80 podium finishes.
Four of the Brazilian’s most successful F1 cars: the 1988 McLaren MP 4/4 that powered him to his first World Championship, the McLaren MP 4/8 that Senna famously steered to victory in the rain at the 1993 European Grand Prix, the Toleman TG 183B from his debut F1 season and his 1987 Monaco Grand Prix winning Lotus Honda 99T were on display, along with a 1982 Formula Ford 2000 and the D.A.P/Parilla kart from his 1980 Karting World Championship campaign.

Now a well established annual feature of the show, the F1 grid display at Autosport provides a real treat for fans who have never had the chance to get close to an F1 car.
Whilst I've been lucky enough to see F1 cars in the flesh, I'm not an efficiando on F1 but I do love the opportunity for a close look at these cars.
It is reported elsewhere that if you're familiar with F1 machinery and take a closer inspection, you'll notice that the grid is far from current F1 cars. For example the Mercedes GP car has a 2011 livery but resembles a 2006 BAR whilst the Red Bull has the shark-fin, far from the 2011 championship dominating machinery.
Though these mixed up display models often create a bit of a stir with die-hard fans complaining about them not being the actual cars, any team would be silly to put their closely guarded designs on public display infront of thousands of camera totting visitors.Instead of complaining, it can be fun to work out where the cars have come from - the Williams is at least 3 different cars mashed together. (Thanks to Badger GP for the F1 dispay information).

It is impossible to write about everything on display at Autosport International, there is simply too much. But hopefully the following images will provide a little bit of a flavour of the variety on show.
Click on any of the images to see the larger version.