I recently attended the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford in the UK. It’s one of the largest military airshows in the world, and even though the US military planes weren’t there this year, the flying display was great to watch. It was also great to photograph, and the visitors, from all over the world, had brought lots of lenses with them!
I was in the FRIAT enclosure, at display centre, and it seemed like every telephoto lens that had ever been made was there. I added to the lens mix by taking a Sigma EX 70-200 f 2.8 lens with a dedicated APO 2x tele-converter. That gave me the equivalent of a 600mm lens on my crop sensor DSLR; more than long enough.
One highlight of the show was the new Airbus Military A400M. The aircraft on display was one of the 5 pre-production aircraft, known as “Grizzly 5”. In service the A400M will be called “Atlas”. For this shot of the take-off I needed a short shutter speed to reduce camera shake. It’s at 1/2500 sec, and that has stopped the movement of the large scimitar-bladed propellors.
Another highlight was XH558, the only flying Avro Vulcan in the world. I tried to get a slightly unusual shot by waiting till it was flying away and photographing it from almost directly behind. It’s making its own heat haze from its four Olympus engines, which makes the fuselage “fuzzy”, but the wingtips are sharp. You can see the large control surface movements need to manoeuvre the aircraft.
Being at display centre meant that some aircraft approached from directly in front and then broke formation. It made for fun keeping the focus right but this shot, of the Royal Jordanian Falcons’ Extra 300-Ls, shows how good timing, and a good location, can produce a more unusual image than a simple fly past. And no, they didn’t hit each other!
Was it worth being a FRIAT member? Absolutely!