Friday, March 20, 2009

Greased Lightning

Not Your Normal Sundowner

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


There is always a solution to a problem. And when a photographer does not have enough light, there can be no greater problem than that.

I was in a hurry as I walked into the 2009 Australian International Air Show late on Friday evening, because I had a very long walk ahead of me and the late-evening light had suddenly turned murky as the clouds rolled in across the horizon and visibility began to close in.

In theory, I should have had about 75 minutes of pure light until sunset - but that rule applies only in a cloudless sky. Haze had developed and there was now a thick blanket of cloud on all points of the compass. To my disappointment, the sun was sinking rapidly into the greying haze, like a brilliant gold doubloon being submerged into an acid bath.

As soon as I had passed through the turnstiles, I got my camera out of my bag and shot the first frame (above). It was an interesting sky, with distinct layers across the horizon, each with a different saturation of colour.


I still had a long way to go to the area where the larger jets and the warbirds were parked and I knew the sun would have vanished by the time I got there, leaving only the last vestiges of weak, diffused light before darkness.

I knew that I would not get a single shot of an aircraft with the setting sun in the background. Accordingly, I doubled back a couple of hundred metres to where the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter was parked, to utilise the light conditions before they deteriorated any further.

The fighter has an interesting story behind it, because it was the product of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme across several partner countries. It is also called the Lightning in honour of the World War II-era fighter, the P-38 Lightning. I also seem to recall that one of the names under discussion was the Spitfire II, after the famous British fighter created by Reginald Mitchell.

I was able to stand on tiptoe to shoot above the heads of other patrons and because I was using my long lens (a 70-300mm Sigma) I was able to compose a very tight frame with the cockpit canopy and the setting sun in perfect alignment.

It's always great to have a flash of Lightning at sunset.


For other participants in Dot’s concept, go to Sky Watch HQ.

57 comments:

Hestias Gem said...

Love the story that picture tells

Mojo said...

There actually is one other problem I can think of to compare to not having enough light... having too much! And I'm not altogether certain which is the more difficult to overcome.

But the color you've captured here is a perfect example of how the term "Golden Hour" came to be. Love the composition in both shots, and the second one makes me want to see more of the aircraft -- very effective!

It's fitting that Lockheed adopted the name "Lightning" over "Spitfire" though both namesakes had admirable service records. The P-38 Lightning was originally built by Lockheed, and as far as I can recall only saw action in the Pacific Theater during WWII. It wasn't nearly as widely deployed as the Curtis P-40 (the workhorse of the American forces in the Pacific) but it did have one very high profile victory to its credit. It was a P-38 that shot down Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of the retooled Japanese Navy. This is the first I've heard of the "sequel" though. Better that it should never have to achieve the things its predecessor did.

Maggie May said...

That was quite a fight against time, to get the right pictures! Glad you made it.
Really good photos and an interesting story too.

Sylvia K said...

What a golden hour indeed! Really breathtaking! Thanks as always for the gorgeous shots and words to tell the story of your skies.

Artist Unplugged said...

Beautiful photos, love the composition of them, that sky is gorgeous. I just did a painting of the sun from behind a cloud and my next cloudscape will be of the golden sky. Have a great weekend!

TheWritersPorch said...

Beautiful David as always! Your eye amazes me!

The Girl From Cherry Blossom Street said...

Sir David, I like how you mildly incorporate your knowledge on photography into your story without sounding technical.

Sunset views are always breathtaking.....

jinksy said...

I could believe the plane actually was up amongst the clouds...
The other shot reminded me of Roman soldiers carrying banners into battle. What atmosphere!

mountain.mama said...

It seems that getting a great picture depends so much on being in the right place at the right time WITH a camera! Sometimes the light is gorgeous and my camera is at home. I love those shots, especially the second one. Good work as always.

introspection said...

Even to a photographically untrained eye, the photos are mindblowing...!
Golden sky, golden hue, and pictures worth a mine of gold..! Sunset photos are always breathtaking but they are that much difficult to shoot I think.

imac said...

Wonderful post and pics David.

Janet said...

If this is what happens when you have problems, I say bring on the problems! Those are glorious shots.

PRH....... said...

As usual fine "Sun Shots"...I hesitate to say "Sundown" or "Sunrise"..because they aren't either.

;)

Daryl said...

A similar lack of light achieved the odd effect I got with my Wordless Weds photo ... THIS however is super ...

Cheffie-Mom said...

"It's always great to have a flash of Lightning at sunset." -- Great line. Very interesting post. The photos are amazing!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I'm in love with these photos! The last one is my favorite! Absolutely breathtaking!

RuneE said...

Oi, you do like pun ;-)

PS Great picture though!

marcia@joyismygoal said...

Oh my David--the flag on fire is such an opportunistic shot and you did it so well-- as well as the layers being so distinctive and I have to love the plane my hubby works for Lockheed

Eddie Bluelights said...

Beautiful clouds and golden linings - super shots David

Guy D said...

Fantastic photos, I love how you included the F-35 cockpit in the last photo, well done.

Have a great weekend!
Guy
Regina In Pictures

Merisi said...

David,
that last image is out of this world! :-)

Deborah Godin said...

Really stunning! And interesting notes to go with.

Janie said...

And I'll bet you had thunder, too, if that jet started flying. Beautiful sunset color.

YourFireAnt said...

Fantastic shot, that last one. I look forward to perusing your blog more fully in a few days. And thanks for your comment on my photo blog.

FA

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Oh, I LOVE that bottom shot! You had to stand on tiptoes? For some reason I picture you as being very tall. ;-)

lakeviewer said...

I'm taking notes, keeping my eyes on the light. Check!

Ananda girl said...

I know almost nothing about photography, other than what speaks to me. These are brilliant! I love the colors and the suggestion of changes.

Anemone said...

David my Australian hero !!
The best sky pictures this week.
...and also the story...

Nice weekend to you from Anne in Norway.

Diane C. said...

The flag looks like it's on fire in the middle photo. It was interesting to read about how you captured the amazing cockpit canopy photo.

bowledover said...

Each picture you show, makes me think about improvements that can be made by a snapper like me.
Fantastic colour tone capture and even the cockpit gives dimension to the picture.

Hilary said...

That's just incredible.. I love the flags and that last shot is superb.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I thought the first couple photos were amazing, but you saved the best for last! Wow!!

~Lisa

letspaintnature.com said...

Just in time beautiful pictures!

Lew said...

Looks like the Lightning is at 35,000 feet in the clouds!

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Absolutely Beautiful photos David!
You never cease to amaze with your natural eye!

Rob Inukshuk said...

Rushed or no, you got some brilliant pics. Love that last one!

Wordvery = wingsh

Lene said...

Well, you really got some great results :) Eventhoug I would never dare to take a trip with that plain, I love your photos :)

Weekend tomorrow - enjoy :)

VALKYRIEN said...

Amazing shots! I just love the 2 last one! Wonderful colors - and a great idea! And the first? It has to start somewhere - and you have a way of doing just that; you make your reader get wondering what is next.... :)

And I am glad your fight against the clock paid off!

Carolyn said...

David these are wonderful photography, oh to have your knowledge. Thank you for sharing and happy spring. Smiles

PJ said...

The backlighting is fabulous. You've made the most of a dicey situation! Happy SWF!

Arija said...

Adore your Lemony Snckert sky in the first shot, it is hard to get that colour even when it appears in the sky, which is pretty seldom.

che_femi said...

the sky,,,,i love it........
nice picture

C. Michael Cox said...

(it is insane how many quality posts you can produce in one day:)

I love how you can capture the reader on your quest for a photo. I'm actually rooting for you as you go on these quests for the perfect shot - and I'm chasing the light with you! Thank you for allowing me to go on your adventures.

Regina said...

Beautiful colors. A different one. Great shots..

Horus Jay said...

Stunning shots!
I had no idea the US was/is showing off the F-35 outside The States.Being a US citizen and what we hear and see about it the F-35 is overated as is the F-22 and the Super Hornet isn't much better.Gripen,Tyhpoon,Sukhoi have my votes for king of the skies.
Again great photos.You truly have a eye for capturing the moment.

vincibene said...

Wonderful shots!

cheshire wife said...

Unbelievable that you took that last photo with your feet on the ground. I would have thought that you would have been up in the clouds to get a shot like that.

Annie said...

great shots David!

prkl said...

The cockpit shot is great. Happy SWF!

Moannie said...

Stunning, Superb, goes to show that everything comes to he who waits, and nobody does it like David.

Indrani said...

The last one... I might have taken the shot of the whole aircraft and felt very happy about it.

How differently you think and frame your shots!

Evita said...

This is so beautiful and I love the way the yellow hues and bubbling clouds fill up the photo! Great shot!

Cath said...

They are fantastic! Considering the light was going fast, you think on your feet very well!

I thought the first shot was taken whilst in the air at first. Very effective framing.

April said...

Great post and stunning photography! Thank you for your tip about posting larger photos. I really appreciate your comment.

Denise said...

Incredible captures and enjoyed the post very much.

The Write Girl said...

Hi David,

Amazing shots of the sky and gorgeous tints of yellow are accented here. Thanks for checking out my SWF entry.

Take care

Pagan Sphinx said...

These are gorgeous, as always. I love how the flag looks like it's caught fire. Nice series there.