Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 31: Fields of wheat in Flanders

As I'm back in steamy Dubai after almost a three week Summer break in my home country Belgium, it didn't take long before I started missing the near perfect weather... 

The Gulf region temperates during the Summer months, very rarely dip below 30C (86F) at night and often peak around 50C (122F) midday. Add to this a very high humidity and one will understand that outdoor photography in Dubai is close to impossible July till mid September. Luckily the great weather makes up for the other 9 months or so!

2013 Pic(k) of the week 31: Fields of wheat in Flanders

The image above of a wheat field near Ghent, Belgium was one of the last photographs I made during my stay. I was shot on the countryside close to where my wife grew up near Ghent. I particularly like the use of the complimentary colours, blue and yellow.

For those that are not so familiar with Belgium, the West side of the country consists of two provinces called West and East-Flanders, often referred to as a whole as, Flanders. Without going into politics, the "Flemish region" consists of a few more provinces beside West and East Flanders; Antwerp, Limburg and Flemish Brabant. All of them are Dutch speaking, also called Flemish.

More info on the above can be found at the following wiki post

Image details:
FujiFilm X-E1 (alias Sexy-1) with the Fujinon 14mm 2.8 lens
ISO200, f6.4, 14mm, 1/1250s
RAW conversion with Lightroom 5
Nik ColorEfex Pro filters; gradient filter, detail enhancer, Pro contrast

More images of my home country can be found here.

Remember; " A photograph is often looked at, seldom looked into" - Ansel Adams

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Flying Legends Airshow 2013 , Duxford, UK - Part 2

In part 2 of "The 2013 Flying Legends airshow" blogpost, we will have a look at the "flying" part during this amazing warbird airshow in the South East part of the UK.

This years flying display was opened by 75 year old Stephen Grey, flying the Bearcat to the tunes of Pink Floyd's "Shine on you crazy diamond". Stephen who is the airshow organiser, announced that he would be doing his final two flying displays (SAT & SUN) at Duxford. French commentator Bernard Chappert, made it a very emotional farewell of which I didn't even manage to frame some decent shots...

Some great images of Stephen and his good-bye display can be found at the great aviation site; Global Aviation Resource

Threeship Spitfire formation

Next, were the Bremont Horsemen Flight Team; they call themselves the only aerobatic formation team flying WWII fighters. In past they have mainly flown US fighters (P-51's, F-4U's, P-38's and F-86's) and this was the first time they displayed in Spitfires. Although the display on Saturday was a bit more conservative compared to some of their previous shows, the one on Sunday was apparently more varied. Having said this, seeing the great lines of the Spits and hearing the amazing sound of the Merlin engines, was already worth the price of admission!

Messerschmitt againts P-40

The flight-line at Duxford is quite long, and constantly being at the right place at the right moment is close to impossible... A Messerschmitt Me109 overflying a Curtiss P-40 starting up, is one example where it did work out!

P-47 Thunderbolt starting up

Large radial engines starting up, often come with a lot of white smoke. Catching that moment is a good photo opportunity... A shame the GA aircraft in the background, take away from the WWII feel of the shot.

Boeing B-17 with stormy clouds

Seeing Europe's only flying Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was a joy! Sally B, is based at Duxford and was used as Memphis Belle in the movie titled the same.

Hawker biplane formation

Another display I really liked where three rare Hawker biplanes flying in formation; one Demon and two Nimrod's. I was especially surprised by the very distinguished sound of these 1930's biplanes. In between a Hawker Hurricane ( see Pic(k) of the week 29 ), flew a solo display. 

Red Bull Corsair

I was hoping Red Bull would fly in their P-38 Lightning from Salzburg (Austria), but instead I had to do it with the Red Bull F4U Corsair. Its enthusiastic pilot made up for part of the miss!

Curtiss H75C-1 taxying out

Some of the aircraft being displayed are very rare; e.g. the Curtiss Hawk H75C-1 above, based at Duxford, is the only one of the type still in airworthy condition!

Aerostars fllying the Yak 50

Not part of the Warbird scene, but surely not less spectacular, were the Aerostars. A UK based team, started in 1997 flying the vintage Yak-50 in close formation. This award winning team is a must see for every aviation enthusiast!

Norway Dakota demo

I've seen quite a few Dakota DC-3 displays over the years, but the aircraft operated by  the "Dakota Norway" foundation, is by far the best one! It is a classic display where everybody walking from A to B, just stops and watches.

The above description of some of the airshow acts is by no means complete. There was a whole bunch more; each and every one unique in its own way. 

Traditionally, the last display of "The Flying Legends airshow" is the "Balbo"; a mass formation of most WWII fighters present at Duxford. On the Saturday, I was at Duxford, the formation consisted of 22 aircraft! What a sight...

Immediately after the airshow ended, we took off in our little Robin and flew under a blue sky in 1h30' back to our home base in Belgium.

Closing thoughts
For me "The Flying Legends Airshow at Duxford, is on par with the yearly La Ferté airshow near Paris. Purely photographically, the advantage of the French show is the fact that the background is much cleaner that it is at Duxford. This might not be immediately obvious in the images above, since in most images I did remove a lot of GA aircraft in post-processing.

MP guarding the Avenger

Paying the extra 5 GBP fee for the flight-line walk, is a no brainer. The multiple re-enactors in front of the static aircraft add to the overall WWII feel.

Compared to other similar shows like La Ferté, ticket prices in Duxford are quite steep; we paid 34.5 GBP + 5 GBP (flight-line walk) per person, plus a 20 GBP landing fee for the aircraft we came in.

Until midday, especially on a clear day like we were there, one is frequently shooting into the sun (backlighting). Once the airshow starts around 2pm, this improves drastically.

French pilot/journalist Bernard Chabbert, who is the regular commentator at the show; really added a lot of value to the whole Duxford experience. 

Even though, I been using my FujiFilm X-E1 almost extensively the last six months, I did use my full frame 36 million megapixel Nikon D800 for the better autofocus capability. All of the images were shot with the 70-200 2.8 VR2, while for most of the inflight shots the 1.7 teleconverter was added for increased focal range.

Overall the airshow which is often described as the best "piston engine only" airshow in the world, was a great experience and I'll sincerely hope to be back in the near future!

Spitfire take-off

The next large aviation event that should be cleared of my bucket list soon, is the vintage fly-inn at Hahnweide near Stuttgart, Germany; Oldtimer Fliegertreffen- Hahnweide
Hotel, rental car and flights are all booked and I should be there from September 5th late afternoon till the night of  September 7th.

Remember; " To most people the sky is the limit, to the ones that love aviation the sky is home"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Flying Legends Airshow 2013 , Duxford, UK - Part 1

The Flying Legends Airshow at Duxford (UK), is probably the largest get-together of World War 2 aircraft in the world. Not a surprise it has been on my bucket-list for a long time!

Spitfire flightline

As my annual Summer leave was spanning the weekend of July 13th and 14th, it was a no brainer, I had to try getting there this time... 

There really is no better way of getting to such a large aviation event as flying in yourself... As soon as it opened, I phoned Duxford and managed to get an 10am arrival slot for the first day of the show. It didn't take much to convince my brother in law who also holds a Private Pilot License (PPL) to join me to the party!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

We launched off in a Robin DR400 as soon as our home airport, Kortrijk-Wevelgem (Belgium) opened, and after a Channel covered in fog and low cloud, we landed at Duxford with a flying time of about 1h45'. Not bad compared to a 6 to 7 hour trip by car and Eurostar train!

There are several Airshows at Duxford year round, but the Flying Legends one, is by far the most popular one! The airport also has a great aviation museum on site, which is worth a visit on its own.

Hawker Nimrod

After we payed our landing and admission fees, we decided to pay the extra 5 pounds for the flight-line walk; allowing us to get better shots of the aircraft displayed on the static display until 1230 (just before the start of the airshow). The image of the Hawker Nimrod above clearly shows how valuable paying the extra 5 pounds is!

DAKOTA Norway, DC-3

Dakota Norway, flew in this greatly restored/maintained DC-3.

Junckers JU-52 tail section
Another interesting transport aircraft was the German Jünckers JU-52 ( nicknamed Aunty Ju ) operated by the Deuthsche Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung. Its corrugated metal skin makes for an interesting photo subject!

Preparing the P-47 Thunderbolt

One of the more unique parts of the "flight-line walk" experience, is the fact that people dress up in World War 2 costumes in front of the aircraft. These two mechanics, fit in very well with the US P-47 Thunderbolt in the background. Unfortunately all is largely backlit until well after lunchtime.

Fieseler Storch Fi 156

Another disadvantage of the setup at Duxford is that fact that the visiting GA aircraft (including ours) are parked at the opposite site. These "modern aircraft" often spoil the shot, illustrated in the image of a German WW2 Fieseler Storch above.

Messerschmitt Bf 109

During the photo-editing process, I've therefore spent a lot of time removing these disturbing background factors. The image of a Messerschmitt Me109 is just one example of this! 

US Airforce pilot in outfit in front of P-51 Mustang

I'll finish the first part of this blog series with a Belgian gentleman, posing in front of a P-51 Mustang.

In part 2 (due early next week), I'll concentrate on the flying displays as well as some final thoughts.

Meanwhile please visit my "Flying Legends" gallery, for more aviation photography!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 30: Bird's-eye view on Cap Blanc Nez

My 18 day Summer break in my homeland Belgium is slowly coming to an end... I've been able to do a fair amount of "light aircraft" flying, including a trip to the French city of Le Touquet, along the coastline, West of Paris.


On the return sector, my wife steered the Cessna C172 along the Côte d'Opale and I managed to frame the above image of the rugged coastline at Cap Blanc Nez through the open side window.

These spectacular cliffs of white chalk are very similar to the white cliffs of Dover on the other side of the Channel. Even though it is nearby, it is not the closest point between France and the UK; which is Cap Gris Nez to Dover.

Even though it was only the second time I took my FujiFilm X-E1 on an aerial photography trip, the little camera did not disappoint!

Image details:
FujiFilm X-E1 (Sexy-1) with 17-55 Fujinon lens
ISO400, 54mm (30mm equivalent), f3.6, 1/2200s
RAW file development with Lightroom 5
Nik Color-Efex for contrast and detail enhancement

More of my aerial photography can be found here.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 29: Hurricane, the forgotten WW II fighter

Last Saturday I attended one of the worlds largest Warbird aviation events...
The "Flying Legends Airshow"in Duxford, UK has been on my bucket list for a long time! 

This weeks Pic(k) of the week is a teaser from this great aviation event which will be covered in an entire blogpost as soon as the photo editing is complete.

Asking anybody with the slightest interest in aviation if he/she can identify a Spitfire, the answer will more than likely be positive. Far less known and often confused with the Spitfire, is the Hawker Hurricane. What makes it even more remarkable is that the Hurricane far outnumbered the Spitfire during the famous Battle of Britain; in absolute numbers as well as in the number of victories.

It is often said that the Hurricane is workmanlike, rugged and sturdy while the Spitfire is much more slender and ballerina like...

Of the 14533 Hurricanes built only a dozen are still airworthy, while about 50 Spitfires are still in flying condition today.

2013 Pic(k) of the week 29: Hurricane, the forgotten WWII fighter

The Hurricane I photographed above is one of only a dozen still in flying condition. This particular one is the only airworthy one that participated in the Battle of France, illustrated by the French flag on its tail. The lower wings have a special paint job that was used in the beginning of the war to make friendly aircraft recognition easier ; one in white, the other one being black.

Hurricane P3351 crashed twice during its WW2 flying career; once near Prestwick, UK, the second time near Murmansk, Russia. 

After recovering the wreckage in 1991, New Zealander Sir Tim Wallis, set up a joint venture between a British and New Zealand company to start a very long and intensive restoration process. Almost 60 years after its last flight, P3351 took to the skies again early January 2000 at the Christchurch airport.

Unfortunately the aircraft wasn't flown much over the last 5 years in NZ and earlier this year a private person in the South of France bought the aircraft and after a complete inspection has made it back into flying condition.

The full history of the aircraft can be found here.

Seeing the aircraft in its original habitat at the old WWII airport Duxford was a joy! Lets hope we will see the aircraft more frequently in the European warbird/vintage circuit over the coming years!

Image details:
Nikon D800 with Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR2
ISO800, 120mm,  f5.6, 1/1600s
RAW development in Lightroom 5
Nik ColorEfex for contrast and detail enhancement 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 28: Subway ghost in Munich

This weeks Pic(k) of the week comes from the underground. 

2013 Pic(k) of the week 28: Subway ghost in Munich

While in Munich two days ago, I photographed this "ghost" deep under ground in one of the U-Bahn stations... No, not really!

I do however like how the single person dressed in black adds to the shot. The best way to have very few people in the shot, is waiting until the train has just left the platform. Often there is very short period where the platform is empty.

It was in February that I first discovered the colourful Munich U-bahn (Metro or Subway). Needless to say I wanted to come back here to document this 100km network of 100 metro stations. I have far from completed the mission, since there are still a lot more interesting stations to shoot. To be continued... 

Over the next few days, I will upload more images of different stations to my Munich gallery

The FujiFilm X-E1, three Fujinon lenses (18-55mm, 14mm, 55-200mm) mounted on a lightweight tripod, were again the perfect combination. Not a single time was I asked to stop photographing. Not sure if this would have been the same, shooting with a bulky DSLR...

Image details:
FujiFilm X-E1 with the 14mm 2.8
ISO200, f8, 1/2s
RAW development in Lightroom 5

I'm off on a 18 day Summer holiday to Belgium now and hope to do a fair amount of photography during that period.

Meanwhile, " Take that lens cap off!"


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pic(k) of the week 27: Pantheon, Rome

Rome, the capital of Italy, is often regarded as the birthplace of Western civilisation. While the city's history goes back more than 2500 years, the state of some of its buildings varies quite a bit; all the way from ruins to very well maintained prime examples of Roman architecture. One of the best preserved ones is the 2000 year old Pantheon. 

2013 Pic(k) of the week 27: Pantheon Rome

The Pantheon, "Temple of all Gods", has been in continuous use throughout its history and has been used as a Roman Catholic church since the 7th century. Until today its 43.3 m diameter dome holds the record for being the largest unreinforced concrete dome. 

Until today the role of the Pantheon remains somewhat uncertain. It is however clear, that the way how the sun rays shine through the 8.2m oculus, plays a vital role in the building design.

One day a year, normally April 21st (happens to be my mums birthday), the beam fully illuminates the entrance at midday.

Image details:
Nikon X-E1 with 14 mm 2.8 Fujinon lens
ISO1600, f2.8, 14mm, 1/160s
RAW development in Lightroom 5 including the new radial filter
Nik ColorEfex for contrast adjustment

More of my images of Rome, can be found here.

Remember, "Rome wasn't built in a day"