Duxford Air Museum is just a few miles from where I live, but in the 40 years I have lived in this area I have never attended an airshow. Of course I have seen old planes, interesting looking planes and fantastic Spitfires circling above my head while I went about my daily routines over the years, but I had never really thought about getting up close and personal. Dear cousin Graham is an expert and can name every single plane overhead at any time anywhere, but I am afraid the attraction is a bit lost on me – I feel the same ambivalence towards trains too! So it was strange to be sitting with Dave, young Harry and John on our way to photograph an airshow a few Saturdays ago. I thought it was extremely unlikely, with my shaky hand, and absolutely no knowledge of how to set my camera to get a plane in focus, that I would have any photographs to include in a blog. I was just there really to enjoy the male banter and watch the show from a good vantage point.
We decided to park in the school grounds and walk up the hill to a good spot. Young Harry and John set off while Dave and I parked the car. After quite a long trek up the hill lugging our cameras, lenses and chairs we found young Harry and John already sitting comfortably whilst eating their sandwiches and chatting about the best camera settings. We had been given a number of pamphlets on the way up warning us that we were on the direct flight path and no responsibility would be taken by the organisers, if a plane came down on our heads. Every field had been cordoned off so my comrades were rather fed up they couldn’t get on ‘the hill’ as they had done in previous years. It made absolutely no difference to me as I was fairly sure a hill would not improve my overall ability to grab a great shot of any plane.
As we waited for the show to begin, we were joined by 40-50 others, mainly men, most of whom seemed to have huge lenses – and I thought mine was big! When we all got over the lens envy and decided that it wasn’t the size that mattered but what you did with it, as well as your skill at setting the dials on the camera, we settled down to discuss the plane that everyone had really come to see. It was likely to be the last flight of the Vulcan. According to all the enthusiasts around me it was a fantastic plane. I was not sure why, but the men panning the sky with their huge lenses seemed very excited indeed. I on the other hand, was far less enthusiastic as I had no idea what it looked or sounded like and I just couldn’t summon up the same level of excitement.
Dave helped me set my camera. I had never used spot metering before, nor did I particularly understand why I had to have two different shutter speeds depending on which plane I was shooting. Slow planes had one speed and fast planes another. The main aim was not to freeze the propellers, as apparently, judges like to see movement in them, not too much and not too little. I have to be honest and say I cared not one fig about what any judge would say about my plane pictures, as I knew I would definitely not be entering them for any club competition. I just wanted a few reasonable shots to show I had finally attended an airshow after 40 years! I also wanted to practice my panning which is quite difficult when you only have one hand that works properly!
We all had a very enjoyable afternoon. I began to see why so many people attend airshows, as there were moments, even for me, when the display was truly spectacular. I actually loved the big old Vulcan, it’s power, the noise and it’s graceful shape. It was almost a magical moment when it flew directly over us and I had to smile, as all those with huge prime lenses couldn’t get it in the frame! My smaller lens did a fine job so big is definitely not always better and besides who has £10,000 lying around to spend on a lens!
Below are some of the better pictures I took that day. I was quite surprised at how good some of them were – I was expecting a blurry mess! It’s thanks to Dave that they have come out at all. Of course, they are not club competition standard but nevertheless, I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon as I mingled with so many large lenses and so many pretty planes.
A big thank you to my cousin Graham for identifying the planes.