Trust Me, It's A Flaming Difficult Task
Here’s the equation. It’s very delicately balanced and even the slightest variation could tip the scales towards total mediocrity.
It’s dusk at the 2009 Australian International Air Show, the weather has closed in and the public address system has been telling us for the past half an hour that the night-flying segment might not take place.
By the time total darkness has fallen, the Super Constellation has revved its engines and begun its stately journey towards one end of the runway. It won’t be taking off. Instead, it will do a high-speed roll down the runway before braking, turning round and doing the same thing in the opposite direction.
Yes, I’m looking forward to this, because the flaming exhaust stubs will make a great image.
But in a different section, I can see some serious activity around an F-111 of the Royal Australian Air Force and a couple of F-16 Falcons of the USAF. Sure enough, a few minutes later, they are positioned down the northern end of the runway. It is several minutes before a decision is made. They will fly. A cheer goes up around me.
But the equation has been running through my head, unresolved, for quite a while. I’m not using a tripod (I never do). It’s completely dark. There is some peripheral light, but the F-111 and the F-16s are well away from the floodlights. What settings am I going to use on the camera?
I want to capture the glow from each afterburner as the fighters accelerate past me. Without a tripod, in the darkness, I don’t have a hope of capturing each jet in totality. All I’ll get is a blur, even if I can get a clear shot over the heads of the people in front of and beside me.
I know there will be no second chance for a while, because the next air show will be held in 2011. I have discarded my 18-125mm lens and screwed in the 70-300mm lens instead. Because of the darkness and the speed of the F-111 as it accelerates down the runway, I know I have to compose as tight a shot as possible, to combat the blur and to emphasise the afterburner instead.
The results are very, very far from perfect – but that is the true joy of experimentation.
For other participants in Dot’s concept, go to Sky Watch HQ.