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  • Writer's pictureLisa

Playing the waiting game

Waiting for a particular shot, and getting it, is a game you play consistently as a photographer and sometimes you have to wait years to get exactly what you want.

Such has been the case waiting to catch a hot start from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster at RAF Coningsby. For whatever reason, it has simply been a shot that I have either missed, or not been around for and it started to get personal. I was determined to get it some way or another. Four years of waiting is quite enough even for my photographic patience.

For the last few Lancaster flights, I have sat, in the dust and dirt, behind the fence at RAF Coningsby with my lens primed and ready aiming at the Lancaster's 3 and 4 engines on start up. Each time, until yesterday, I was thwarted by various factors. Only two weeks ago the number 3 engine made some lovely flames only for my lens to be buffeted by a random gust of wind and I missed the shot completely getting some stunning out of focus shots of the grass.

The week before that I made the fatal mistake of chimping (looking at what you've already taken on the back of the camera) when I should have been paying attention to the start up and missed it altogether. Rookie error say I, and being honest, I should know better after 32 years of photography.

So, yesterdays evening Lancaster flight to Shuttleworth beckoned and I sat in my usual place waiting to see if the hot start would materialise. It's important to note that hot starts are not that common. They are caused by over priming the engines and can be rather spectacular when the engine is warm as seen in this shot below from a couple of years ago as Flight Lieutenant Andy Preece started up Spitfire AB910 at Coningsby on a very warm sunny day. It was one of the teams' PDA practice days and the aircraft had been up and down all day and were subsequently warm and ripe for hot starts.

Now I confess that although the Lancaster is more than capable of spitting out the amount of fire seen above, I have not seen it myself during my four years living near RAF Coningsby so I didn't expect to see such a demonstration as I sat in the dirt last night waiting for the start up. It was also starting to rain and I still had a damp backside from sitting on the grass at the Petwood Hotel waiting for the Lancaster to fly overhead earlier in the day. I've got form for getting filthy or wet when out taking photos so no one should be in the slightest bit surprised. One day I will write up the story of how Flt Lt Antony Parkinson flew so low over my position on top of the hay bales at Coningsby (or so it seemed through a telephoto lens) that I fell backwards off of the bales into a massive pile of cow manure. Then there was the time I fell in the river shooting a Lancaster hangar break by Flt Lt Seb Davey......

So, as engine 3 started up last night, flames erupted from both sets of exhausts on the engine closely followed by engine 4. The shots from engine 4 were much better given that I could see more of it from my vantage point and as I was taking the photos I allowed myself to continue shooting whilst moving my eye away from the view finder and watching directly. It was pretty impressive to say the least. The shot below is the result. There were others in the sequence but this is my favourite. You can buy prints of this shot and all those featured here in the shop. Settings used were ISO400 (it was quite dark and gloomy), F8 and a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second.

So I guess the moral of the story really is, all good things come to those who wait.

Click here for prints of the Spitfire hot starts, and here for prints. of the Lancaster hot start.

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