Paul Fiddian's 2010 blogGAR Entries

NOV 22 2010
Seeking THE Shot

I work from home and Iíll admit Ė and I know Iím not alone in this Ė that I keep my camera next to my desk in a state of Quick Reaction Alert, ready to shoot through the window if the requirementís there. The skies over North Devon are a bit aviation-starved so, that way, if anything interesting does appear in the overhead Ė Iím ready for it! This kind of operational readiness does present a couple of problems, though. For one, I have to hope that the window cleaners have done a good job, (they generally do!) and given me a nice clear slab of glass to view through. If not, I have to invest time, patience and faith in the power of Photoshop to deal with any smears that make it onto the screen. There are other options of course...opening the window Ė fine, but that gives me a very limited panning sweep Ė and running madly outside Ė well, thatíll partly work-off the last chocolate biscuit I had but, typically, the subjectíll be long gone before Canon and I are ready to rumble.

Why am I telling you all this?!

In a nutshell, I donít really have a passable airborne shot of the local Sea King! Iíve lived in North Devon since early 2005, and No.22 Squadron are up and about almost daily, or so it seems, anyway. A typical flightpath takes the Sea King either down, low-ish, over the other side of town, or above me, but too high up to shoot. However, there are times when it does comply, and sometimes theyíre guaranteed. Christmas is one, when it traditionally orbits over Barnstaple with a suitably festive passenger waving out of the door. Sadly, other duties can also place it low and well within capture range, and thatís exactly what happened at the start of last week.

I didnít make the connection at the time, but Iíd heard earlier of a serious gas explosion in the early hours that had resulted in two men ultimately being treated in a special burns unit. Much later on, the Sea King pitched up and flew several low circuits over my side of town, and the reason for that became evident when the early evening news streamed aerial coverage of the domestic devastation Ė the helicopter, therefore, having been used as an airborne photo platform. While it had been working away, I had gone for the rush-outside option and - youíve got it Ė seen an opportunity to bag some decent shots of it in gorgeous winter light. Did I get them? Nope! Does it matter? Not this time. ďAhhĒ, I hear you say...ĒI know where heís going with this one...!Ē

Quite right!

Aviation is my passion and the satisfaction of a decent aircraft capture is one of lifeís great pleasures, but I felt a bit strange when I thought about my need for photos, compared to the struggle that at least two people Ė that I donít even know Ė faced in a hospital elsewhere in the country. Thoughts for others were also a core feature of my big aircraft trip earlier this month, when I visited the Royal Navy Historic Flight at RNAS Yeovilton. Iíd deliberately arranged to go on 11 November, as Fairey Swordfish LS326 was due to fly in connection with the Battle of Taranto event being held there. In the end, it didnít, and I donít blame it at all! Low cloud, on/off rain and gusting winds are not exactly ideal conditions for an almost-70 year old and unique bit of biplane to parade around in. Of course, I was disappointed, but I still had a great time there. I got the chance to walk around and photograph the whole fleet, to see the progress on the Ďotherí Swordfish Ė W5856 - and see the Sea Hawk with its engine removed. At 11.00am, I joined RNHF personnel in the traditional two-minute silence, and hereís where the other thoughts-for-others part comes in.

Theoretically, I must have been present for 30 previous two-minute silences at 11 oíclock on the 11th day of the 11th month, but this one seemed MUCH more poignant. I think it was mainly down to the fact that I was stood alongside a group of people with a direct connection to the past...it just made the experience much more vivid, and much more emotionally-engaging. I should add that Iím very grateful to the RNHF for everything they did for me that morning Ė what a great bunch they are!

Back to LS326...I couldnít make it to RNAS Yeovilton any other day of that week, but if Iíd gone on the Tuesday, Iíd have seen it fly with three Lynx, and if Iíd gone on the Sunday, Iíd have seen it start up and depart successfully for Lee-on-Solent, before returning back to terra firma. Those kinds of things can initially be annoying, but certainly not enduringly so.

Iíve just read this article through. Am I over-moralising? Probably. Have I made the points I wanted to make? Definitely. Can I bring it to a conclusion? Hopefully!

At the end of the day, the best-made plans donít always work out. You can get aircraft photo opportunities you donít expect and theyíre there for the taking. On the flipside, you can be proactive, and then it all twists and turns beyond your control. Take the opportunities when they come your way, but try to think of the bigger picture, too. Or donít think about it at all...perhaps itíll plunge its way into your mind anyway. Thatís exactly whatís happened to me Ė twice, now. What should have been two good aircraft photo-shoots have ultimately delivered more than just a set of images to look through, late at night, when my tired eyes seem more accepting of most of them! Theyíve made me consider the wider aspects, and thatís no bad thing at all.

That said, Iíll continue to keep my camera desk-side. As I type, a USAF C-17 has passed overhead, contrailing through the crystal clear skies. I didnít know it was a C-17 until I zoomed and zoomed the resultant image to the point where it was little more than a blurred lump, but still just about recognisable. That moment Ė finding out what the overhead visitor was Ė completely thrilled me.

Meantime, the window cleaners are due to stop by in the next few days. Iím sure theyíll do a good job!!

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