Viewing entries tagged
RNAS Culdrose

Comment

New Year, New Challenge And New Kit

Well we’re already well in to 2015 and I’m incredibly keen for summer to come around, so far 2015 seems to have been a bit of a slow burner. I haven’t taken many shots and unfortunately I haven’t had too many opportunities to use some new kit that I purchased and was kindly given over winter. After hardly using my GoPro Hero 3 white last year due to the lack of shooting options I decided to upgrade to the new GoPro Hero 4 black, what a difference. I’d like to do another end of year video for 2015, which was my main reasoning behind upgrading to the Hero 4, that and the 720p at 240fps sounds crazy – which it is! 

My Nikon D7100 with a Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 lens attached, with the TriggerTrap mobile remote kit and phonetrap securing my iPhone 5.

My Nikon D7100 with a Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 lens attached, with the TriggerTrap mobile remote kit and phonetrap securing my iPhone 5.

The kind guys over at TriggerTrap got in touch last year as well to see if I would be interested in using their Mobile Remote Kit, until then I hadn’t actually heard anything about them. A few exchanged emails later and I had a couple of the kits arrive, although sadly not in time for Hot Blade.
Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with the TriggerTrap Mobile Remote Kit let me introduce you… It plugs into your camera as any normal remote would, that cable is then connected to the mobile dongle, which in turn is plugged into the microphone jack on your smartphone. To then turn your smartphone in to a mobile remote you need to download the free TriggerTrap app, once downloaded open it up and you have a fully functioning remote in the shape of a smartphone. From a simple cable release to time-lapse to bramping and sensor modes. It really is such a fantastic bit of kit, the only problem I’ve encountered is really no fault of the app and its more a reflection of how useless the battery is on my iPhone 5. When shooting at night I have noticed my battery gets drained pretty quickly, however in the cold my battery always depletes quickly and have I mentioned how awful the battery is anyway?! I’m hoping I get to utilize this more towards aviation over this year. 

The aurora borealis over Barmouth, Wales, fired using the TriggerTrap mobile remote kit. 

Another new purchase for me was the Samyang 8mm fisheye, I’d seen a lot of good shots from photographers appearing online taken with this lens, for a lot of my flying work I had used a loaned Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye from a good friend. A fantastically good lens for cockpit shots and interior shots when the side door is open on the helicopters, unfortunately I couldn’t justify the extra cost of the Nikon over the Samyang, even with the latter having no autofocus. First thoughts on the lens is everything I had hoped for, although I haven’t really had chance to use it properly for the shots I have in mind, yet. Its pin sharp when stopped down, there is some slight chromatic abrasion and it can occasionally lose sharpness towards the bottom left hand side – I’ll be keeping an eye on that to see if it really is an issue or its just my iffy focusing. 

Royal Navy Sea King pilot and observer in the Chrisite Matrix StIM simulator at RNAS Culdrose. Taken with the Samyang 8mm fisheye.

I’ve recently been approached by Rich Cooper regarding his new venture COAP (centre of aviation photography) a new initiative to bring workshops, seminars and assignments to aviation photographers. Rich has asked me to talk about my experience photographing helicopters at one of the seminiars on the 30th May, mine will be titled “BLURRED BLADES: The Art of Helo Photography” I’m incredibly nervous about it but I feel like it’s a new challenge and I hope I can pass on some of the techniques and information with regards to how I capture some of my images.

Just a quick update for now, within the next week I'll have another blog post up about what I've been shooting since the start of the year. 

Comment

Comment

Flying With 771 Squadron

DSC_7486.jpg

 A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN ON DUTY SAR CREW

So with only 24 hours left to go before I needed to leave home for the horrendous 4 1/2 hour drive down to RNAS Culdrose I was finally given permission to flying with 771 Squadron. The idea was to spend 24 hours with an on duty SAR crew and document everything from a SART sortie, shout outs and 'downtime'. 

DSC_6857.jpg

After signing in at the front gate of Culdrose and meeting Lieutenant Jonathan Duke he takes me over to 771 Squadrons crew room for the morning briefing, this includes everything from the Met, information about the 'cab', what our SART sortie would involve and diversion airfields amongst other things. 

In for the morning briefing prior to our SART sortie.

In for the morning briefing prior to our SART sortie.

After the briefing it was then left to Jonathan to show me the emergency exits in the Sea King Mk5 and also the correct brace position in case of the worst case scenario of ditching in the sea. At 1000L I was about to get my first taste of flight in a rotary aircraft and also a military aircraft, one thing I had never considered is how much the kit can really weigh you down. On top of the flight suit I had a life support jacket, my harness for winching and a helmet, all essential pieces of kit but when you throw a camera bag into the mix it doesn't half get hot.

DSC_6876.jpg

After the pre flight checks we taxied out onto the runway at RNAS Culdrose and ascended to 2000ft, our first port of call was with a boat of the coast of Cornwall to conduct winch training. A matter of minutes later and the pilots, Commander Martin Shepherd who is the CO of 771 and Lieutenant Jonathan Duke had found the boat in question and began to position for winching. 

First to be winched down on to the boat was Petty Officer Aircrewman Adam Mayes, once down 'Maisy' unhooked the line. Lieutenant Commander 'Grossy' Daw then calls me over, checks my hardness, hooks me up and then begins the winching process. With 'Maisy' giving commands to 'Grossy' on my position I finally touch down on the top of boat.  

 

771 NAS Sea King Mk5 during winch training. 

771 NAS Sea King Mk5 during winch training. 

 'Grossy' then lowers the stretcher down to 'Maisy' on the deck of the boat, it was fantastic seeing all four crew working together seamlessly. Once the stretcher was down on the deck 'Maisy' hooks back up to the winch line and gets winched back up, whilst this is happening the boat has to reposition do. The crew hold off for a few minutes before approaching the rear of the boat again to winch down 'Maisy' to hook me back up. 

You can see from the image how much spray is kicked up from the downwash/rotorwash. 

Spray from the sea is kicked up onto the lens.

Spray from the sea is kicked up onto the lens.

Once the winching ops were completed it was then another short flight over to Halzephron where we 'landed on' in a field near to a site that would be used as a Pinnacle landing on the cliffs. After jumping out of the cab with 'Grossy' and positioning ourselves in a good viewing spot Commander Martin Shepherd and Lieutenant Jonathan Duke began their descent for the cliff with 'Masiy' guiding them down. A true testament to how all the crew play a vital part in manoeuvres such as this.

 'Maisy' guides the crew down from the back as he hangs out of the door of the Sea king Mk5 during a pinnacle landing.

 'Maisy' guides the crew down from the back as he hangs out of the door of the Sea king Mk5 during a pinnacle landing.

The hero shot as 'Grossy' poses for the camera with a 771 NAS Sea King Mk5 hovering behind. 

The hero shot as 'Grossy' poses for the camera with a 771 NAS Sea King Mk5 hovering behind. 

What had seemed like only a matter of minutes with winching ops, pinnacle landings and a cliff walk we were on our way back to the airfield for 20 minutes of auto rotations. The whole experience felt quite surreal, being able to go out on a SART sortie and be part of the training that plays such a vital part in their job was truly an honour. 

DSC_7494.jpg

With brews passed out the debriefing began with the crew, it was fantastic hearing the crew analyse everything we had done throughout the sortie. A matter of minutes after the debriefing the phone rang for their first and only shout of the day.

 

Ground crew remove the chocks from the wheels of the Sea King Mk5.  

Ground crew remove the chocks from the wheels of the Sea King Mk5.  

In what seems like a matter of minutes the crew had quickly scoped out the area on the map in the ops room and were in the Sea King Mk5 with rotors running. It really just shows how efficient everything is, this of course comes from training like our SART sortie earlier in the day and experience. 

DSC_7673.jpg

After rescuing an injured female cyclist and flying her to hospital they return for a debriefing with two paramedics sitting in as well.  

After the first and only shout out we spent most of our time in the crew room watching TV, I can see how it could sometimes get a little monotonous if you go a day or two with no shouts. 


After polishing off our food on the balcony outside 771 Squadrons crew room we made our way to the briefing room for the night met brief, basically in the morning I'd be finding out what the Culdrose clag looked like.  

DSC_7685.jpg

It was then time to settle down for the night shift, with Skyfall on the TV and the distant noise of a Sea King starting up it was all a little surreal, I mean its nothing something you experience everyday. I wanted to get some low light shots of the next SART sortie that was due out so I made my way out on to the balcony again and watched the ground crew scurrying around making sure everything was ok. With the crew inside performing checks they started their start up procedure. 

Long exposure of the 771 NAS Sea King Mk5 as the crew prepare to taxi out.  

Long exposure of the 771 NAS Sea King Mk5 as the crew prepare to taxi out.  

DSC_7738.jpg

I joined Lieutenant Jonathan Duke for a walk around of the cab whilst he made sure it was 'cocked' which ensures they encounter no nasty surprise during a quick start up in case of a shout.

So with Skyfall finished and with no shouts having come in we parted company for the night and hit the hay.

And sadly that was it, my time with 771 Squadron was over. The thick fog/sea mist that had rolled in over night cancelled all plans for the day of getting some more images of the take over crew training on the cliffs on their morning SART sortie.

It was a fantastic experience to spend 24 hours with these guys, they provide a service which so many people are thankful for and it will be interesting in 2016 to see how the Bristow will take on the challenge. I'm just thankful I had the chance to spend time with the very welcoming guys and girls at Culdrose that really could not have been more helpful.

Although I'm sure many would wince at the mention of it, but in my opinion and I'm sure many others they're all heroes in my opinion. Putting ones self in possible danger to save another life, albeit not the dangers you would find in a war zone but dangers nonetheless.  

I would like to express my utmost thanks to everyone who made me feel so welcome during my time there.

Comment