Photoshoot No2: ‘Just Jane’, with Photography Workshop
Robert Griffiths soaks up a COAP Workshop at East Kirkby to prep for an evening with TLE’s Avro Lancaster VII ‘Just Jane’ shoot.
Receiving a call that a spot had come up at short notice for a COAP event I said yes straight away, planned the trip and got my kit together. I suddenly had a date with an aviation legend, an Avro Lancaster called ‘Just Jane’, for a night photoshoot. As I had never been on a workshop so I had no idea what to expect, let alone what to take. Packing up every piece of photography kit I own, I set off on an adventure to a venue I had never had the chance to experience, despite always hearing about it.
Arriving at the venue a little early I entered the NAAFI at East Kirkby, greeted by a café with a few groups of people, who I assumed were here for the same workshop. I was then introduced to Rich Cooper and Steve Comber, who are friendly and easily approachable and would instill a wealth of knowledge and advice that would push my photographic ability to its limits.
Starting with a Workshop in one of the original Nissan huts that RAF crewmembers called home for so long, Rich and Steve took it in turns explaining aspects of photography that would work on the photoshoot and at others. Delivered via a presentation, they both went through taking museum shots, and aircraft photography (an amazing amount of experience from two legends in the aviation photography world!) on the ground and in the air, enhanced by stories of Steve’s own experiences at Museums around the world (boy has that man travelled!). They also briefly spoke about how the night, which was staged by TimeLine Events, would progress and what we could expect, as well as what editing software is used and how they use it (thanks to Rich for introducing me to LR!).
Outside, she had been brought out of her hangar, and boy what a sight to behold. Never had I been this close to a Lancaster before, especially one that can taxi. The sun would not set for another couple of hours, so using this opportunity I tried to test different settings and compositions. The re-enactors joined ‘Just Jane’, giving a sense of an operational air base in the mid-40s at the height of World War II, and they didn’t disappoint. With RAF Officers, pilots, crew members, firefighters, ATA pilots and even a USAAF pilot, the feel of an operational airfield was ever more prominent, the hulk of the Lancaster always visible in the back ground. Before sunset ‘Just Jane’ started up for her taxi run along the grass strip, the sound of four Rolls Royce Merlin engines is a memory I will always have. After several figure-eight runs she pulled back up and fell silent, bringing silence back to the airfield. We had one last briefing in the Nissan hut for more in depth information on the evening.
As night fell, so did the ability to use the camera handheld, so using the Workshop advice we brought out the tripods and set the cameras and positions up. By spreading out more than one scene the photoshoot not only went smoothly but ensured that everyone had equal opportunity to photograph the bomber from different angles. The re-enactors would pose for upwards of a minute without moving for photographs and would always try to comply with requests. Soon it was time for the night engine run, again the four Merlin’s bursting to life and shattering the peaceful tranquility of the area. Having seen night photos of this, there was one photo I was especially eager to capture; a full propeller disc.
Since attending the Workshop I have seen a vast improvement in my photography and the way I think while taking photographs. Would I recommend COAP to anyone? Without hesitation. It is a fantastic experience for anyone who likes taking aviation photos; whether serious about upping their photography or gaining knowledge and getting access to places you couldn’t get to on your own. The Centre of Aviation Photography is without a doubt the best thing I have done for my photography.