A couple of years ago, I was taking a road trip across the Cascades and I came upon a large dish alongside the road. It was a surprise and ended up being a blog post. I guess it is a little less spontaneous to search out a dish but, while I was over at Middle Wallop, meeting up with my friend Paul, I knew I was near the old airfield at Chilbolton. This had been an RAF base and then was used for test flying by Supermarine and Folland. What I didn’t know until I looked it up was that the airfield was taken over for use as a radio telescope after it closed to flight operations. I decided to swing by and see the dish. As I came over the hill, I could see it in the valley but the road was narrow and there was nowhere to stop. I got to the gate and a big sign advertised that random visitors were not welcome so I had to make do with a shot from the gate.
While walking along the Thames, there were plenty of aircraft overhead making their approach to Heathrow. I wasn’t too focused on them and was instead photographing the scenes along the river. I did look up as one jet came over and it looked like it was in a livery I didn’t recognize so I grabbed a shot with the 24-105 fitted. Turns out this was a Rwanda Air A330. That is something I don’t see every day. I wish I had been using the longer lens but this will have to do.
The Royal Navy has recently commissioned two new aircraft carriers. At 60,000 tons, they are the largest ships the Navy has ever had. The first is HMS Queen Elizabeth and the second is HMS Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales was due to undertake its first major exercise off the east coast of the US but, shortly after departing Portsmouth, it experienced some technical issues. I don’t know whether there is official confirmation of what happened but there is a suggestion that one of the screws contacted the seabed.
Whatever the issue, she had to return to port and the Queen Elizabeth was substituted for the exercise. There has been discussion that the ship will need to go to Rosyth for dry docking but, as of our visit, it was still alongside at Portsmouth. I was able to get some good shots of it from Spinnaker Tower as well as some from the ferry as we headed to the Isle of Wight. I hope they can fix whatever the issues are rapidly.
A previous vacation to the UK had included a visit to Stourhead and, we liked it so much, we decided to go back on the latest trip. We went with a load of the family for lunch and then a walk around the grounds. The weather was lovely and there was a hint of the onset of fall in the foliage. The place is just gorgeous and wandering through the grounds on a sunny day with your family is hard to beat.
Winchester Cathedral was not built on the best of ground. About 100 years ago, a major effort was made to save sections of the building from collapsing. A diver spent many months under water in the pilings beneath the building bringing in material to shore everything up. The effort was ultimately a success and some buttresses were added to take care of the rest. However, this all was done after the walls had made some significant movement. Today, this is still apparent when you look at some of the angles and realize that things are pointing in odd direction. The original stone masons were not inaccurate. Things just moved after they were done. Their choice of foundations was more of the issue!
Middle Wallop has a café upstairs in the museum and Paul and I retreated there for a little sustenance and some idle banter. On the visitor ramp across from the museum, a Juno helicopter from the training fleet was sitting awaiting its next flight. As we ate, we saw the crew step to the helicopter. For those of you that have followed military aviation, you will know that there was no need to interrupt our food. Unless there is an alert, military aviation happens at a deliberate pace.
After a while, with engines running and rotors turning, we did finally head out to the balcony alongside the taxiway that they would be using. Even this was slightly premature as it was a little longer before the rotors finally generated lift and the Juno got airborne. It then taxied towards us and through the gate to the airfield before turning across the grass and pulling up to depart. A brief addition to the day but a good one. My first Juno!
A long time ago, as part of the redevelopment of the harbour at Portsmouth, a tower was built. It is alongside the Gunwharf Quays development and rises above the waterfront providing a view across to the Isle of Wight and back to the South Downs. The tower is shaped like a spinnaker from a yacht and so it is named Spinnaker Tower. I have seen the tower on numerous occasions when taking the ferry from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. However, I had never actually been up it.
On this trip, we had a lot of time to explore Portsmouth and I decided to go up the tower as part of the visit. There are three visitor levels. The main level is the lowest of the three (but still a decent height). It has the most space and includes a glass floor section to allow you to look directly down. The next level up is a little smaller and has a café. The top level is smaller still and doesn’t really provide much the first level doesn’t have. The windows are also angled in steeply which makes them more problematic for photography.
The view across the whole of the dockyard including the Victory and Mary Rose was great (although one is indoors and the other is currently under covers) and you could see across the Solent or back towards the city. I really enjoy elevated viewing locations so this was a great place for me to spy on the world around me.
Our vacation in the UK wasn’t about aviation exploits but, if an opportunity presents itself, it would be churlish not to follow up. I had made arrangements to visit my friend Paul while I was in Hampshire and, halfway between us is Middle Wallop, home of Army aviation in the UK and also a museum. I guess that would be a good place to meet up.
The museum isn’t large but it has recently gone through some refurbishment and it is definitely a good place to spend a couple of hours. Army aviation has a strong rotary element to it but there has also been plenty of fixed wing activity. The collection is a good reflection of both. I will save one exhibit for a separate post but there are plenty of others. The Lynx was a big part of the Army’s fleet for many years and the example that they have in the first hangar is actually a development airframe that has been restored. The three windows on the cabin door are the most conspicuous identification item. There is another operational Lynx in the second hangar too.
A selection of Austers are included in the displays. There is also a Scout (with a second one on the grass by the parking lot). An Agusta 109 is tucked away too. This example was in service with Argentina in the Falklands and was co-opted by the UK forces when they took control. It was used for support to the SAS along with a second example. They ended up buying two more so I guess they worked well. The Beaver was also used extensively with one sitting outside too. The Alouette had a career with the Army but was not as widely used. It is still displayed, though. There are some old types reflecting the early days or military aviation too.
First stop on our vacation was Winchester. It has been quite a while since I was last there and I didn’t remember much about it. The cathedral is the center of the city of old and we had a stroll around to see it. Later, Nancy took a visit inside but I never got around to doing that. Instead, I have to make do with some shots of the exterior of the cathedral. It will reappear in another post before too long, though.
Lightroom has three methods for stitching the panoramas together. I tend to use one but for some shots, a different style is beneficial. I was flipping through some shots of an HH-101 Caesar helicopter that I took at RIAT in 2019. I also had a Danish AW101 that I had shot in pano format. The Danish airframe had not been shot as well as it could have been and I did not have sufficient coverage. I decided to try different versions of the stitching to see which one gave the best result. Some result in a more natural look while others look more fish eyed. I can also stitch in Photoshop which gives me more capability for filling in gaps but, with the tricky areas being the rotors, that wasn’t going to work well since the AI is not going to work that out. Stitching also allows some warping to fill edge gaps but this can mess with the alignment of the main part of the image. I tried a couple of versions and they are compared here.