Fallen off the radar

My intention to blog last weeks trip up to Aberdeen seems to have fallen off the radar. DIY and work were the main culprits, one I can shirk more than the other.

On the way up to Aberdeen I remembered about a R. Netherlands Air Force Hunter, which is now on display outside a company’s premises near Stonehaven, so that was my first detour.

The company refurbishes gas turbine engines similar to the ones that powered the Hunter (Rolls Royce Avon) so that was enough to get them self a gate guardian.

N-315 Hunter, R. Netherlands AF, near Stonehaven

The actual photo was a bitch to get. the angle of the sun and the limited number of angles gave me a high contrast head ache. I turned to HDR for a solution, making five copies of this image, running it through the HDR program then converting it to monochrome as the colours were naff then colour popping the orange back into the picture to contrast with the deep shadows.

I’d love to go back and shoot this one again, perhaps then the sun is higher or earlier in the morning.

Seeing that I was already off the beaten track I then drove up to the helipad at Culter, I passed someone who was making a noise survey on the way in, which proved to be a blessing as an R44, flown by none other than the boss-man himself was flying about so they could make an accurate survey. Otherwise there would have been nothing around.  The noise survey seems a bit on the petty side as I am sure tractors make more noise than an R44 but it keeps the neighbours happy… or less irate. Strangely enough I was challenged by a member of staff when I arrived.  They must have been a bit on the jumpy side with the survey, maybe there is more to it than that but I meet a stranger and leave a friend, so all ended amicably. Culter  is one of my favourite places for photography it has a nice backdrop, if you can excuse the pylons that keep Aberdeen happy, warn and lit-up.

G-CBFJ R44 Culter

My meet a stranger, leave a friend policy works quite well, once someone knows that you are on the level and not up to mischief and is not some nutter with a camera then it can lead to better things on a return visit. This policy works quite well apart from two places; Cumbernauld Airport and Thornhill Farm. Both have a common element and very much anti-spotter, enthusiast and sometimes anti-pilot!

Another cross country drive to Aberdeen Airport, and one of the busiest helicopter airports in the world. It is the hub for the oil industry with may oil related flights a day. This is intense stuff. Sometimes a stream of choppers arrive, they will ground taxy to their respective terminals, Bond, CHC and Bristows, who is by far the largest operation. The passengers disembark, the baggage unloaded, the outbound passengers embark, their luggage loaded all without stopping the rotors. The helicopters are expensive things to maintain, and one of the critical items is what they call engine cycles, each time an engine is shut down and started back up counts against it hastening the time when the aircraft has to be taken off-line and into the hangar for that all important engine and airframe overhaul… and a helicopter in a hangar is losing money every second that it’s in there.

The most potentially dangerous part of this rotors-running philosophy is the “hot-refuel,” where the engine remains running throughout the refuelling operation. Having a source of ignition so close is managed in such a way that the risks of the Jet-A1 fuel igniting is minimised. Funny enough I have seen it done at other airfields but never noticed it being done at Aberdeen. It is usually done with a fire crew not so far away.

I did not manage to get any photos of the Bond Helicopters, maybe the next time

The final image was of a new arrival at Aberdeen in the form of a Jaguar, which forms part of the Fire Dept Training. I don’t know why it is here, it’s too close to the fence to be used in a live burning exercise, my guess is that it may be used to train firefighters in how to deal with military aircraft. Following the closure of Kinloss means that Tornado aircraft from Lossiemouth would have to divert somewhere should the runway at Lossie be closed for any reason. The ejection seats and ordinance would pose significant safety risks if not handled properly. The wee G10 came into its own here as I was able to frame the picture up using the live view and shoot above the fence, live-view is a luxury that I don’t have on the 5D mk I.

XZ371 Jaguar

I had to clone my shadow out of the foreground, I hate seeing this in photos, it’s a sign that the photographer did not try and avoid it or did not notice it through the viewfinder. I could not do anything about it, so I resorted to Photoshop to save face.

My great intentions of making some night photos all came to nothing when both sets of batteries died in the cold air of Aberdeen. I also made a few, fundamental and bl**dy stupid mistakes, which consigned what I did make to the digital dustbin. You learn by your mistakes and if you don’t make them then you never learn!

So that’s it, another set of days-off and more DI(Bl**dy)Y in the offing.


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