Looks Like Someone Just Dropped A Bombshell
On Friday night I was at the 2009 Australian International Air Show and things didn’t quite go according to schedule. I had planned to get to the Show by about 4pm or 4.30pm at the latest. I’d been monitoring the weather reports for a few days and I knew it was going to be a hot day, which in turn meant I would be able to shoot under a clear, cloudless sky.
And as the week progressed, the weather seemed to be tailor-made for what I wanted to do. There was a chance of a storm late in the evening, which meant after shooting several frames in clear, bright light, I would be able to shoot several sequences in cloudy conditions at dusk - which would have been perfect, given that most of my subjects would be metallic in nature, even though most are hi-tech alloys.
So it looked as if I’d get a couple of hours in bright light and at least an hour and a half in soft light. Just before darkness fell, I would pack up and head for home. But that was not quite as it turned out. A couple of unforeseen glitches meant that I only walked through the entrance to the show at about 6.45pm, with the light fairly murky in thick cloud.
This in turn meant that I stayed on longer than I had planned to - so I was treated to this display of high explosives in a great display of precision use of armament. The weather had been assessed very carefully because of the fog that rolled in with the heavy cloud, so for a while there was a real question mark over whether any night flying would be possible.
There is, as I was about to discover, a very interesting discipline in photography of this nature. It was stygian blackness all around, save for the runway lights, and I quickly computed what settings to use on my camera. I had opted for the 70-300mm lens, just for the need to shoot over people’s heads for a clear close-up.
So picture this. You’re waiting in the darkness, not knowing which side of the runway the aircraft will approach. In addition, you have no idea where the armament will be dropped, so even if you were using a tripod (I never do) there is no knowing where to point your camera.
Flexibility is everything in this sort of situation. Because I’m so tall, I’m lucky enough to get a clear view over most people’s heads. And when the firewall began, I was quickly able to capture the pyrotechnics.
Someone who saw these images before they were published asked me if this sort of photography requires a lot of skill. My honest answer was, "Not really, but you do need a lot of patience and a certain degree of luck".
Sometimes it pays to be kept in the dark.
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