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30/08/12 Typhoons In Wales

With a half decent weather forecast and the chance to see some good friends I headed over to Wales for my low flying fix. The choice of location was at the Bwlch. A hillside on a mountain pass near Dolgellau. There are 3 ledges and we opted for the top one, a place I very rarely go. The shots can lack the impact that you get from other locations around Wales but the chance to be with friends was too good to turn down. First up was a pair of 4 Squadron T2s from nearby RAF Valley and then a pair of Tornado GR4s from 9 Squadron at RAF Marham.



Just before the Tornados came through a pair of Typhoons had flown through the valley behind but hadn't come round and as the 3 minutes passed (the time in which it takes to complete the loop) we thought they'd disappeared to the South but a few minutes later they popped around the corner. A 6 Squadron Typhoon with a new 1 Squadron Typhoon behind it, both of which are a rarity in Wales as theses two squadrons are based at RAF Leuchars in Scotland. 1 Squadron used to be a Harrier Squadron until the fleet was retired at the end of 2010.



After a few Hawks and several hours, the sun put in an appearance and gave us some great light in the valley should anything come through. This is a light the camera's autofocus and photographers love. The grey colour scheme of the frontline aircraft really pings in this light and Zennith11 of 11 Squadron from RAF Coningsby put in a couple of great passes.



Soon after the two passes by the 11 Squadron Typhoon the cloud rolled back in and only a couple of Hawks and another pair of Tornados came through in rather poor light. All in all it was a great day with many friends and a few great passes from the crews in the Tornados and Typhoons. 


23/08/12 Ex Pashtun Dawn 17 Media Day

Twice a year the Salisbury Plain Training Area plays host for 3 weeks of a huge tri-force exercise with Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force and the Army. All the training gets put into practice with live firing, practice medevacs, 250 long vehicle convoys, troop movements by helicopter and a show of force from RAF Tornado's. The majority (if not all) of personnel involved are only weeks away from being deployed to Afghanistan for 6 months and this is the last preparation in their training before their deployment. Usually during these 3 week exercises there is a media day event, for national and local news crews, newspapers and radio to attend.



This Media Event consisted of an RAF Chinook, an army Air Corps Apache and an Army Air Corps Lynx Mk9. The crew were only to happy to answer questions relating to the helicopters, their previous deployments to Afghanistan and about how the rotary aspect of the task force within the British armed forces was helping make a difference to the fight against insurgents and protecting and saving those on the front line.



The range was also active with demonstrations from a number of weapons that will be used out in Afghanistan from Light Machine Guns (LMGs) to shotguns to the SA-80. We were very privilidged to be allowed to fire some of these weapons under supervision at targets across the firing range.



After a friend had spoke to the three pilots, we positioned ourselves on the ridge overlooking the ranges. This was to allow for some dramatic and unique shots. Unfortunately the Apache was just too far away for a decent photo but the the Lynx and the Chinook were brilliant!




Many thanks to all three members of the armed forces for their hospitality and I hope you all have a safe tour of Afghanistan.


09/08/12 London Lit Up

As London is hosting the greatest show on Earth for the Summer, a number of famous landmarks in the city have been lit up for the occasion. From building to bridges to boats, all are sporting colours from the Olympic flag. The city has never looked better and as the suns rays dropped behind the West End the decorative lights came to life. Bright lights lit up the sides of St Pauls Cathedral while Millennium Bridge was home to an ever-changing set of coloured lights from blues, red, yellows and greens that lit up the walkway and spanned the Thames.



The atmosphere was like no other, people from every corner of the World had descended on London and many had also come out for the night to photograph the bright lights of the city. Tower Bridge looked immaculate and the Olympic rings hanging from the bridge really gave people an image that summed up the games' time in London.



The London Eye also had a light show throughout the evening with a series of lights running around the wheel which was great to watch but not something you can capture with a camera. The highlight for me though had to be Westminster which was lit up along the Thames with famous Olympic quotes, the Union Jack flag and pictures of famous athletes from around the World.



It's a shame the party's finished but well done to all involved from Team GB and let's hope the Para-Olympic team are just as successful!


25/07/12 Sunrise at St Michaels Mount

This place is to Cornwall as is what the Houses of Parliament is to London. Iconic. People instantly know where it is with no introduction needed. We had limited time in Cornwall but really wanted to get some interesting shots of this location as it'd be a while until we return. The plan was to head over here after finishing up at Sennen but the tide was still too far in. Sunrise came and showed the full extent of the situation of the tide, it'd gone all the way out unfortunately but nevertheless this was the only chance to get some shots in interesting light. After starting out on some slippy rocks, a Dutch man joined me and before long the sunlight was appearing over the tops of the Cornish moors and casting a golden colour over St Michaels Mount.



Soon a major problem occurred, whilst both me and the Dutch man had been busy photographing we had paid no attention to the tide that had been edging further and further inland and we were no completely cutoff from the beach and causeway by a foot of water. So with jeans rolled up, camera bag on, boots in one hand and tripod in the other I waded knee deep through the cold sea water to the causeway, just in time for the foreground to explode with a burst of golden tones from the sun that had just lifted above the moors.



It was great to discover somewhere which I've never visited yet have always wanted to and I know that it won't be too long before I'm back exploring the rocky cliffs and rugged coastline.


24/07/12 Part 2: Stormy Sennen

In this glorious weather a trip to the beach was in order, so with a bit of time to kill before dinner we headed off a little area known as Sennen Cove in West Cornwall. The beach went on for miles, sandwiched between two massive cliffs at each end. The tide had been coming in all afternoon and high tide was due to be around 9.15pm, we came back after dinner to shoot the incoming tide that was battering the coastline and Sennen's sea-wall as the sun was setting, throwing soft yet vibrant colours into the Cornish sky. 


 When it came to shooting into the setting sun, the LEE filters became invaluable. It took away the need to blend multiple exposures in post processing which saves time, image quality and gives a much more natural finish to the image. I took the shot above using a 0.6 strength graduated filter combined with a 0.6 neutral density filter. This permitted a long enough exposure time to get the "mist" effect as the waves crash through the pebbles whilst the graduated filter held back the colour and light in the sky to allow for a perfect exposure.

Fast forward twenty minutes. The sun has dipped below the horizon but the sky still retains those pastel colours. However, unlike the previous image, the intensity of the light and colours has disappeared with the sun. This meant the graduated 0.6 filter was no longer needed as there was no intensity to hold back. The only filter I left on was the 0.6 neutral density. This is just a plain grey filter. It doesn't change the colours and doesn't have a gradient to it. The sole purpose of this filter is to allow for longer exposure times when shooting things like waterfalls or the coast. I left this on to allow me to get the longest exposure time as was possible to blur all definition out of the water and get the desired misty effect.



It should be said that shooting coastlines can be dangerous. On a couple of occasions I was lucky not to have my camera damaged by the saltwater, which can scratch the lens and filters and even luckier to have not been swept off the sea-wall by a huge wave. Never turn your back on the sea, even when you think the tide is going out!

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