Where East Meets West – Part 10 – “Just Jane”

The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre is the Lincolnshire Memorial to Bomber Command, and is based at RAF East Kirby – which sits directly on the meridian.

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I visited, with a friend a few weeks ago, and was fascincated by what you can find there.

It is of course the home of ‘Just Jane’, a Lancaster Bomber being lovingly restored by volunteers.  More about her later….

Entering the site through the NAAFI – we treated ourselves to tea and bacon sandwiches, which were very good.

We visited the briefing huts, ready to brief the 57 and 630 squadron crews detailed to attack Berlin.  The large map at the end of the hut shows the route to and from the targets, and turning points.  There is also a meterological report showing ice levels.  I’m sure this room would have been full of anxious pilots, as their time for departure drew near.

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Next door, is the billet hut.  This was home to the air and ground crews on the station.  The beds are  made up and covered with uniforms.  The shelves contain personal things from home, and items belonging to the men who did not make it back.

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The Memorial chapel holds a roll of honour, naming all 848 crew who gave their lives.  It is a place for quiet contemplation, and I didn’t feel that taking photographs in there was the right thing to do.

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The control tower, also known as the Watch Tower, was where the aircraft were directed from.  The sound of morse code fills the air in here.

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Inside the main hangar, is the Lancaster ‘Just Jane’.  It’s a huge aircraft, and we timed it just right – there was a talk going on, and afterwards we were allowed to wander under the wings, and examine the Lancaster close up.  Jane does do taxi runs down the airfield from time to time, but as yet cannot fly.  During the talk it was explained to us the enormous cost of having each section checked and x-rayed before it could be re-attached to the aircraft.  It’s an immense job, but one that is being carried out slowly and methodically.

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Further down the hangar is the incredible ‘Bouncing Bomb’, and the full story of the Dambusters Raid.  I was able to stand in a virtual cockpit of a Lancaster, and view the run down the Derbyshire reservoirs, and over Ladybower.  I’ve been to Ladybower and the dams many times over the years, so it was fascinating to see them from a totally different perspective.

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Finally, there is a complete explanation of what all the bomb signs mean on the side of the aircraft.  I was quite surprised at the ice-cream decal….

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All in all, this is a fascinating place to visit.  Sadly, on the day we went, the weather was cold, and wet – but a repeat visit is planned.

Next time, we are hoping to move a little further South – towards Spalding.

 

RAF Stenigot

At the top of my blog page is a photo of the radar dishes left at RAF Stenigot.

It was one of twenty Chain Home radar stations, stretching from the Isle of Wight to the Orkneys. They were built as part of the air defence network of the United Kingdom, and were critical to the aerial response during the Battle of Britain. Construction of the base actually preceded the commencement of the Second World War in 1938, with the station becoming operational in 1939.  The Chain Home programme was the world’s first operational air defence radar system, and was capable of detecting incoming aircraft flying at 35000ft, from a distance of 180 miles, and thereby helping to direct fighter aircraft to intercept. The system comprised a transmitter block, shielded by blast walls, to broadcast the radar waves from four tall transmitter towers, only one of which now survives.  The returning signals were gathered by a number of wooden receiving towers (none of which now survive), and then passed to the receiver block for analysis. The receiver block was located at the northern end of the station, and was built to a similar design as the transmitter block, also being surrounded by blast walls. Further ancilliary structures, including a standby set-house, underground armoury, petrol store and guard post, were located on the site. The station is believed to have typically employed around 120 people.

Duplicates of the transmitter and receiver blocks were constructed at the station after heavy enemy attacks on the south coast Chain Home stations on the 12th August 1940. These back-up facilities were entirely buried underground, to enable the station to continue in use should enemy bombing damage the original structures. This buried reserve is believed to have been located towards the eastern end of the station, and in fact there is an entrance to an underground chamber on the site).

Further buildings were added to the site in 1942, when a station of the GEE Navigation System was established at the base. This system helped to guide allied bombing missions in raids on the continent up to 1945.

Military use of the site continued during the Cold War, when a relay station of the ACE High tropospheric scatter communications system was installed on the site, and operated for NATO by the Royal Corps of Signals. The facility was built within its own fenced compound inside the former chain home radar station, with construction work being completed in 1960. The relay station consisted of a large, single-storey central electronics building, flanked by two pairs of parabolic dish antennae. Each dish measured 60ft in diameter, and was supported on seven lattice legs made of steel girders, anchored to large concrete blocks. One pair of the dishes pointed north, to pass signals to the next relay station near Alnwick, Northumberland, whilst the other pair pointed south, to pass signals to the relay station near Maidstone, Kent. The station included a number of ancilliary structures, including a generator house, fuel tanks, and a police house and guard dog pens near to the entrance on the sourthern side. The entire site was surrounded by floodlights. The system continued in operation until the early 1990s, when new forms of communication technology rendered ACE High obsolete.

So, if you got this far, you’ll find now a photo of the site as taken some time ago by Andrew Appleton, who sent this photo to a friend of mine – Vicky.

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As you can see – they’ve gone, but I can’t find any information on line as to when.  I did find a video link on uTube dated August this year, so the removal was really recent.  Another landmark bites the dust….. RIP Stenigot……

Update

Construction firm J E Spence and Son have confirmed that the radar dishes were “chopped up” and sent to a scrapyard in October 2018.

Only one radar dish remains at the site after the construction company, working for the landowner, began the process of taking them down on October 16.

A spokesperson for J E Spence and Son said: “I’m guessing they’ll be melted down. They have been chopped up and sent to a scrapyard.”

 

“Contemporary” Art / Photography

This might turn out to be a bit of a rant, but I’m going to try and restrain myself …….

When is Contemporary photography art?  And when does a well taken image denegrate into “just a photo”?

This question has been nagging at me for a couple of weeks now – since an exchange with a photographer online led them to deleting some comments that had been passed on an image.  I’d been able to read it all before it was taken down, but it hit hard at the art side of imagemaking, so please bear with me.

Photography is becoming an ‘easy’ target.  It’s easy for everyone to engage in – and that’s a good thing.  The hard part, I feel, is that something of a disaster is happening around us.  Cameras have become (and I quote here from another blog I read) “optical machine guns, mowing down everyone and everything with carefree abandon”.

What has this ‘freedom’ done to photographers? – well I think it’s made some of them lazy.  (I’m talking generally here, and not relating to those who curate their images, and I’ll come back to that later).  Point and push, slap on a filter, push it onto Instagram, or Facebook, and call it Contemporary Art.  Far too many photographers seem unwilling, or unable to learn – they are told on a daily basis how good they are, what incredible photographers they are – they live in a thumbs up, thumbs down world – where no-one challenges, and when they are challenged they delete the posts.  They’ve already had lots of ‘likes’ so that’s that.  It’s the difference between rhymes on greetings cards, and Milton, to treat them the same is just insulting to both.

The audience says it’s good, so the artist abandons exporation, and repeats what worked before – it requires a strong will to deviate from the norm, and explore into the unknown.  The artist has a choice now, carry on doing what they were doing, or see what’s happening, and change their view, make real art that has come from the photographer, not from the filter.

I gave a talk a little while ago at a camera club – I offered a half dozen of my images round, and asked them to critique them.  I’m thick skinned, and said that if they hated them, or loved them, that was fine, but I’d be asking them how they arrived at that conclusion.  What was it about the images that made them like or dislike?  It was a hard exercise for them.  They couldn’t just ‘thumbs up’, or ‘thumbs down’.  The comments afterwards were that they overall liked the images, (thumbs up) but the discussion in the end wasn’t about the image itself, they were more interested in how I made it in the first place – which wasn’t really what I really hoped for.

And this is what we’re getting sucked into.  It’s less about the end result (which is easy – like or not) and more about, how did the author achieved it, and what camera they used, if indeed it gets that far.

Now, I’m not against asking – I do it myself (I did it this morning in fact), but I ask after I’ve considered the image, and decided on its merits, (well, I’d like to think so anyway).

Too many people don’t edit, in the way that I understand editing.  Composition is something of an anathema to (mostly  younger) photographers.  They want to make something new and fresh – which is great – till we realise that their idea of new and fresh, is the filter I referred to earlier, and which more mature photographers have seen before ad nauseum.

Really ‘good’ photographs are never the product of laziness.  If the photographer puts in enough effort, and thought, then their images should be worthy of more than a quick look (thumbs up). It should not rely on a quick filter trick, which requires no real effort, or thought.

I am still of the opinion that if you put your ‘art’ on Facebook, Instagram, or any social media platform, you are saying to the world “look at my images”, and as a result you must be prepared for people to question your motives, and your artwork, and not get upset when someone comes along who doesn’t like what you have done.  You can’t please all the people all the time…..

Most photographers feel that their images aren’t good enough – that’s the whole challenge, frustration, and joy of photography.  We are all our worst critics, and that generally, is what drives us to improve.  I’ve said before in my blog that it’s OK to fail, it’s OK to take bad pictures, and it’s OK to apply unexplainable filters. What’s not OK, is a failure to learn, to develop, to fail to explore and engage with others who may not like your work for a reason.

And nearly lasty (and you may be pleased I’m getting to the end of what has in fact turned out to be a rant), curation.  Photographers who share EVERYTHING…. Maybe they think the world wants to know what they had for dinner, or see the 25 variations on the same picture.  Photography is like going to a restaurant – they serve you the best meals, offer a menu of choice – the menu says, this is the best this place has to offer, you choose.  They don’t show you the failures, the repetitive dishes.  They hide their junk, they paint the front of the restaurant to attract you in.   They draw attention to the good bits, and let that define them as a business.  They don’t ask you to choose between identical dishes, one colour and one black and white.  Nor do they ask you what colour plates to use.  They define their style.

So to those photographers who keep asking what colour camera they should buy (and yes it’s happening more and more), and which image looks best (colour or black and white) – I say make your own minds up….. be brave, sort yourselves out, but for goodness sake stop showing us your bad bits, stop thinking you’re amazing, and produce something that isn’t a shallow nothing with no story.  Tell a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth.

Finally, a message to the people who think that they want to make Contemporary Images and ‘not just a photo’, please think of something more creative to say……  The photo IS the image.

Than you for bearing with me.

Google vs Getty

The Google / Getty Stock Images Situation

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Over the last few weeks, I have closely followed the situation that currently exists between Google, and Getty Images.

It comes almost immediately after the problems with Instagram terms of service – which were re-issued to state that

“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

“Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy.”

These terms have since been revised, Getty though has continued to broker a deal with Google that seems on the face of it to be totally unreasonable.  On the Google Drive Blog  they announced 5000 new images were to be made available free of charge to Google Drive users.  Create an image on Google Drive, and choose your image to illustrate it.  Whether for personal, or commercial use the images are free.

Where do these images come from?  Well, a lot seem to come from ‘i-stock’ , and others from the Getty/Flickr relationship.

This is a licence deal arranged with Google, through Getty images and iStock RF collections.  There was an initial pool of several thousand images licensed from Getty and iStock RF that are on the Getty platform.

What does this mean – well initially we have seen that some photographers whose images are sourced through Flickr to the Getty RF pool, have received around $12 per image, to have their images on the Google Drive search.  Images which have had the metadata stripped and can therefore not be traced back to the photographer.

So – initially, if you have photos on Flickr, which are currently in the Getty pool, you may find them turning up on Google Drive.. You will know if this has happened, as it will show in the October / November 2012 statements.  The main problem as I see it, is that you have images of people who have signed a model release stating that their image will not be used for certain purposes – but once out in the wild – they could end up anywhere – and the photographer can’t do anything about it.  The Getty contract is suitably vague, and even if you pull out of the programme, you can’t recover images already sold.

There has been another post on the iStock website

“We’ve heard you, and we’ve met with Google and are working with them to refine the implementation which we believe will address some of the concerns raised over the past several days–including copyright ownership.”

Maybe the agreement will be changed.  I’ll be watching to see how this one develops.

Back to Basics – Ducks and Coots

It’s been great to have a few days to myself  – although we did cover the opening of ‘Avenue Q’ down at the Lowry theatre this week, it’s otherwise been fairly quiet.  And with the weather being somewhat excellent, I headed off to the local wildlife park to see what was on.

First off – it’s obviously bath time, and the warm sunshine has got all the ducks up and moving around.

I’m a sucker for a duck, (especially with orange sauce!) and it’s actually harder to take good duck shots than a lot of photographers think.  I love this one.  He’s obviously having so much fun.

Plus, the Coots were knocking seven bells out of each other, as the fight for territory and females escalates into serious fighting.  Three Coots were fighting for some time, but eventually just seemed to stop, give up, and swim off like nothing had happened.

The more I watch, the more I realise just how brutal nature really is.  The bird on the left in the shot below, was eventually pushed completely under the water, and was stood on.  Briefly I wondered if it was going to drown, but up it popped and peace fell once more upon the pond.

Can Air Travel Damage Your DSLR ?

This is something that’s being discussed all over the web at the moment – following a presentation by Rob Hummel at Cine Gear Expo 2011.  In his talk, he states that when cameras are transported by air, at over 20,000 feet, gamma rays (harmless to us) can damage the sensor, causing dead pixels to appear.  Most of the information I’m referring to happens about 8 minutes in.

The whole thing though is a great explanation of how your camera sensor works, and how it compares to the way film is manufactured, and remains sensitive to the different colours  of light.  Watch, learn, and make your own decision….