Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby Hatstand on Sun 21 Jul 2013, 4:36 pm

I love Spitfires. I love their timeless beauty. I love the sound of them. But of all the remaining airworthy Spitfires, one in particular stands above all others in my eyes. In my opinion, the most beautiful and magnificent of all Spitfires... and an all-original warbird with a rich history... is MH434. So when I found out some time ago, that you could take a flight wing-to-wing with MH434... I knew that one day, I must take up that opportunity. And that day, was today.

We had our photos taken individually with MH434 (I was grinning like an idiot, ear to ear), and we were allowed to walk around her and take photos up close. After some delay waiting for the low clouds to lift, we took off in a Dragon Rapide... and a short while later we were joined by MH434. Words cannot describe the excitement and emotion of seeing a Spitfire in flight, first-hand, this close. If you love Spitfires as I do, you owe it to yourself to save up for this experience. As the first to see her tearing up behind us, I couldn't help letting out a loud, excited exclamation. It was a sight that sent shivers down my spine, and set my adenaline pumping. One chap shed tears.

It was difficult taking photos, the weather was dull and very hazy, the flight was a bit bumpy and there is vibration a-plenty in a Rapide. The Rapide has big flat windows and gives a good view - but we mostly had to twist backwards in our seats to shoot, and occasionally I had problems with my camera focussing on reflections or defects in the windows. And of course I was more than a bit over-excited...

But I got lots of nice shots, and here's a few of them:

1.
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2. In retrospect, in that weather, it wasn't worth the risk of going for a full-disc... you can hardly see it.
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3. It flies very close...
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4.
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5. Did I mention it flies very close?!
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6. Full-disc is a little bit better on this one, but again - shouldn't have bothered really, and the shutter speed was actually too slow...
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7. Taxiing back after the flight... adrenaline still pumping...
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8. Last few are from the ground...
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9.
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10.
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11.
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12.
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I heard there was something else happening this weekend?
Some big airshow or other? With jets and stuff?
Well, I think I got the better deal ;-D

All taken with my Panasonic FZ200 (non-DSLR).
I hope you saw something you liked!
Last edited by Hatstand on Sat 27 Jul 2013, 11:02 am, edited 3 times in total.
Goodbye 600D... Hello FZ150!
Hatstand
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Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby Exiler on Sun 21 Jul 2013, 6:08 pm

Now that looks like a rather good way to spend an afternoon, excellent work there.
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Exiler

Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby F-86 on Sun 21 Jul 2013, 6:53 pm

Very nice indeed, looks like Brian Smith in 434. :clap:
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F-86

Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby Flyforfun on Sun 21 Jul 2013, 6:55 pm

Fantastic pics, really good :clap:
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Flyforfun

Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby timuss on Sun 21 Jul 2013, 9:15 pm

Oh wow very nice indeed :cool: :clap:
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Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby PanamaMan on Mon 22 Jul 2013, 10:34 am

A truly beautiful set with which to remember your day in years to come! :clap:
Anything less than 900mm is wide angle
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PanamaMan

Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby hmeasures on Mon 22 Jul 2013, 1:10 pm

Very nice! Number 2 is an amazing photo :smile:

I work with the guys that took your photo, was at RIAT yesterday though :smile:
hmeasures

Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby Hatstand on Mon 22 Jul 2013, 1:58 pm

Thanks for all the comments!

If this has piqued anyone's interest, here's a few tips:

They fly from Duxford on a few specific dates per year, and you can book them at the Classic Wings web site. My flight did not seem particularly geared up for photography, so I would NOT recommend going with the sole intention of taking photos - it's all about the experience.

But that doesn't mean you can't get some great shots anyway - and the following might be helpful:

Some seats in the Rapide are better than others for photography... but you don't get to choose. You are allocated seats according to size/weight in order to balance the Dragon Rapide. The front seats might be the most difficult to get a clear shot of the Spitfire, due to wings/struts/bracing/windowframes in the way. Second from the front is OK (where I was), but still somewhat limited in the amount of clear field of view. 3rd from front is possibly the best. Rear seats, I really don't know - maybe OK, maybe not.

Also, if you want to see the Spitfire's "Mylcraine" etc artwork on its port side... it's better to sit on the starboard side of the Rapide! This probably applies to any similar wing-to-wing flights if such things exist: if a plane has "nose art", it's most likely on its port side.

We boarded the Rapide two at a time, from the front to the back. So maybe better to loiter at the back, tie your shoelace or something, until the first two get on... and when it's your turn, run for it! Get there first and you can choose the starboard-side seat.

It's pretty cramped in the Rapide, especially if you are of the "large" persuasion (and BTW, some would have no chance of leaving the plane via the emergency "ring pull" exits in the roof!). So I wouldn't advise taking a big lens. The Spitfire flies very close so you need some wide angle, and on my flight there was no opportunity at all for a shot requiring a long focal length. The chap next to me started out using a DSLR, and a lens that looked like about 300mm. I noticed he pulled out a tiny compact and started using that instead, after a short time. Maybe he didn't have enough wide-angle, didn't want to change lenses, or didn't bring a different lens... or maybe his lens was banging against the window. Then again, perhaps he just wanted to shoot some video, I dunno :-D

The Spitfire doesn't swoop in and out, peel away or anything like that. You might get a very brief opportunity for a topside when it manouevres to the other side of the Rapide. But if you blink you might miss it. I had just one chance at that... and I missed it. It was gone before I could lift my camera.
*** EDIT *** This seems to depend a lot on who is flying the Spitfire. check rjlaker's photos on here, taken on another wing-to-wing flight a few days later: the pilot was different, and some cracking good topsides resulted!

Finally, the best and least-obstructed shots in my opinion, were available with the Spitfire behind the Rapide rather than alongside. To take those shots you needed to twist around in your seat (bearing in mind you are strapped in), and shoot somewhat behind you. This may be physically challenging for some - in which case a fully articulated rear screen on your camera could be a major asset.

It may help to plan your camera settings in advance. In my case, I created saved setups the day before, with spot metering and single-area AF (where I would normally use evaluative or centre-weighted metering, and multi-point AF). This was to avoid accidentally setting focus/exposure on bits of the Rapide.

I had one setup with IS and continuous AF on, since I expected the Spitfire to be largely "static" relative to the Rapide... and one with IS off and single-AF (which I use for sharper results when panning with my FZ200) just in case it moved around a lot. I also set "auto review" on, so I could quickly check results and adjust exposure compensation etc if necessary (I normally turn off auto review, gets in the way of my "live view"). If you don't shoot RAW, don't forget to set your white balance.
Last edited by Hatstand on Sat 27 Jul 2013, 11:09 am, edited 2 times in total.
Goodbye 600D... Hello FZ150!
Hatstand
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Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby yannyfoxx on Tue 23 Jul 2013, 9:59 pm

Jealous!
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yannyfoxx

Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby airshowguy on Wed 24 Jul 2013, 6:08 am

Very nice pictures. I was visiting Duxford last sunday with my dad an i can see myself and my dad in one of the ground pictures. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing.
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airshowguy

Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby Hatstand on Wed 24 Jul 2013, 10:22 am

airshowguy wrote:Very nice pictures. I was visiting Duxford last sunday with my dad an i can see myself and my dad in one of the ground pictures. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks! If you want a copy of the original photo (ie. higher-res) with you and your dad in shot, just send me a PM with your email address.
Edit: on second thoughts, never mind - probably a bit big for email. I'll upload it somewhere and send you a PM with the URL.
Goodbye 600D... Hello FZ150!
Hatstand
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Re: Air-to-air with Spitfire MH434

Postby Hatstand on Wed 24 Jul 2013, 4:40 pm

airshowguy, check your Private Messages.
Goodbye 600D... Hello FZ150!
Hatstand
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