Yorkshire Air Museum 'Target Falklands' Weekend 2009 Report
Saturday 17th October - Sunday 18th October
As the evenings draw ever darker, Elvington hosted three events in one weekend: 'Target Falklands', a Victor 'Thunder Run' and a Mosquito-Victor nightshoot. I was part of the team who organised the first nightshoot back in March, so it was interesting to see what we had learnt when it came to setting up a similar affair. On top of this, I assisted the museum in the running of their event, making for an interesting and varied weekend.
takes a look behind the scenes at the setting up and running of the UK's newest aviation photographic trend; the night shoot. All photography by the author.
I arrived at Elvington around midday on Friday to assist with the setting up, and most of Lindy's crew were already hard at work preparing her for the main event. Alongside were the crew of Tony Agar's gorgeously restored Mosquito NFII, making sure that everything was in order to perform her own role in the evening's proceedings. As with all events, last minute teething issues are the norm, but by the time the museum closed most problems were sorted, and the rehearsals could begin. We then spent the next few hours testing the museum's new lights and making sure Lindy's lighting was, primarily, still working after the March event, but also to see if we could light her slighlty differently this time around. Rounding off the day, we had time to check the lighting out on some of the museums other exhibits in anticipation of future shoots before we made our way to our accommodation - were staying on location overnight, braving the cold and the ghosts reputed to roam the site!
The only time I had to myself on Saturday was the early hours of the morning, so I was up at the crack of dawn, but what do you do in a museum at 06.30? I took my tripod out and waited for dawn's early light to peek over the hangers hoping that the sun would follow it in order to snap some sunrise shots. Believe me, this is a lot colder than taking sunset photographs! Shortly after 07.30 the exhibitors and staff began to arrive, leaving us all just a few hours to finalise everything to do with the running of the day. The main event during the daylight hours was a gathering of Falkland veterans who gave lectures and were in attendance at a book signing session. It was at this point I found out I was museum photographer for the day as well; no pressure then!
Also on display were a collection of paintings, books and models, and my first duty of the day was to photograph John Kennedy signing a model of Chinook ZA718 BN, followed by a mad dash outside to see the Mosquito emerge from her hanger into a bright sunny October morning. Only after all this was it was time for breakfast! Next up, I returned 'Lindy' and the Mosquito to construct the barriers before the public arrived. Lindy's team also set up a tent that replicated one of the type used by the Victor crews during their stay on Ascension. The final touch was a replica of the sign placed outside the original tent all those years ago.
At 10.00 on the dot, the doors were opened and the public began to stream in. We knew from advance ticket sales that the event was going to be well attended, with some combining the day's happenings with the nightshoot, but in the end the crowds exceeded all expectations. Before long I was racing back and forth between locations, covering the various veterans as they signed some of the items which were for sale. The lectures then began and for a short while the museum outside emptied as the crowds filtered inside to hear Barry Neal and Martin Withers give a lecture on the famous Black Buck One mission. They were then followed by John Kennedy speaking about his exploits in Chinook Bravo November during the Falklands Conflict.
Whilst this continued, we took the opportunity to load the brake parachute into 'Lindy' for the run the next day. Such was the success of the lectures and preceding Q & A session, everything was running late, thankfully giving us a welcome respite and a chance to grab a bite to eat before the afternoon's events began. My first duty of the afternoon saw me under the highest pressure of the day so far; I had to undertake a photoshoot consisting of six Black Buck crews in front of Lindy with a crowd watching! Thankfully I remembered to take the lens cap off and the shoot went well, they also posed in front of the tent and sign to replicate a picture taken back in 1982. It was then back to book signings which - judging by the queue stretching outside the doors - was very popular.
All too soon the day event closed; how time had flown and what a day it had been! I was lucky enough to have brought my copy of 607 with me and now it had 6 captains' signatures in it. But now my "real" work began, though not before one warm up piece by Lindy, where she ran up her APU and dry cycled the engines. She also deployed her flaps and airbrakes to give those on the night shoot a close up view of her controls operating. As her finale for this part of the show, the HDU was lowered. As the public went for a safety brief. We moved all the barriers infront of the Victor out to such a distance whereby all could get a full frame shot of 'Lindy'. Lastly, all the lights were positioned.
There was one final piece to the puzzle: The event had been supported by a chain of camera shops, who had sent one of their photographers over to cover the Elvington's Mirage III with professional lighting to allow the public to try out the remote flash units. They also brought along two of Canon's latest cameras, namely the 5D Mk II and the brand new 7D, both of which I had the opportunity to try. The latter thoroughly impressed me with its stunning colour - unfortunately I had to give it back! The shoot itself was over in a blur as over fifty photographers took all the pictures they wanted and set off home. After the gates finally closed we had that task of putting the aircraft to bed and laying all the lights up. A look at my watch confirmed that it was 21.00 - the last fourteen and half hours had flown by!
I was up again early on Sunday, this time to try to get a sunrise shot of the Mosquito. My plans however were thwarted somewhat by a thin layer of cloud. But we had no time to spare as Lindy had to be on the airfield before 08.00 due to the attendance of a drag meeting sharing the site with us. It was all hands to the pump as the fence was removed and 'Lindy' was towed to the field. Once she was safely parked it was time for a quick bite to eat before attending the safety brief by Elvington's Fire Chief.
We then made a quick dash back to the museum to record the Buccaneer's taxi inside the compound. When I arrived I was met with a large crowd waiting to see Blackburn's finest. Luckily I found a vantage point above the masses. It was then I saw how many folk had turned up. It later transpired that over a 1000 people visited the museum on the Sunday to see 'Lindy' run.
Soon it was time to head back to the Victor for the final brief by pilot Barry Neal, before James and me had to walk just over a mile down the runway to position ourselves for the run. Even from our point on the runway we could hear the four Conway engines roar to life as she then commenced her parade lap around the threshold taxiways before the crowd inside the museum perimeter fence. As she was lined up I made a quick check of my camera – it was switched on and I had remembered to put in a memory card. And she was running! All too soon she approached us and then the chute trailed. Something I have always wanted to photograph is head on chute shot of a Victor! The plan was then for Lindy to continue to the end of the runway, turn for a brake check then head back up the runway with the chute still attached, unfortunately on turning the chute partly deflated and begun to twist. We followed Lindy back in the fire engine to see her shut down and that was it - the event was complete!
The weekend truly was bumper one, it was good to see the public turn out in large numbers. For a second time the nightshoot had been a huge success – so much so that plans are underway for similar events to occur twice more next year, on the 20th March and the 16th October. It is good to see that in these lean times Museums such as Elvington can survive and even prosper by being proactive in ensuring that the public sees what it wants to see and furthermore it was great to see how many youngsters were in attendance