The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

There are aircraft that you love above all else.  The Avro Vulcan,  The Avro Lancaster, The Supermarine Spitfire, The P-51D Mustang even the Grumman Avenger but then there is that one that rises above them all.  For me that aircraft is the de Haviland Mosquito.  An aircraft made mostly of wood (Sitka Spruce to be exact) designed to be built by furniture and cabinet makers during the war.  One of the fastest aircraft of the day, using its speed and agility to deliver the same payload as a B-17 bomber with only a crew of a pilot and a navigator and initially no guns on the airframe at all.  Of course that all changed when the Mk.VI came out.  The clear Perspex nose blister was removed and the shape shortened, four Hispano 20mm Canon and four .303″ Browning machine guns were added to the space.  At full tilt boogie, the aircraft sent out a wall of lead.  It was formidable.

It was a Mosquito that brought down the aircraft of the man who killed my grandfather and his crew.  Something I learned in just the last few months.

Sadly, the Mossie is extremely rare.  The thing that made it so special its wood structure does not wear as long or as hard as Aluminum.  Until two years ago, there were none flying.  Thankfully a company in New Zealand was finishing a long restoration on a Mk. VI Fighter / Bomber.  I had planned to see it at the Hamilton Airshow but work (as usual) screwed me over and it didn’t happen.  I was even more gutted to hear the aircraft had been sold to an Italian interested party and would not be seen in North American airspace again.

Lucky for me, the Italian deal fell through and the aircraft’s owner brought her back this year.  I made sure to book off the weekend well in advance.

Skyfest was a much smaller event than the usual Airshow.  To compensate, tickets were not cheap but then again, what’s a bucket list check off worth anyway?  It was also going to be a try out for my new Sigma 150-500mm f5.6-6.5 lens.  Well tryout day one of two as I’d be doing the Vintage race out at Mosport the next day.  Believe me, I learned a lot about the lens, one of the biggest things being how to hold it properly.  But let’s get back to the Mosquito.

Sitting in the hanger prior to going out on the ramp. When you’re the last of the few, you get special treatment.

The thing you notice about this aircraft is how smooth the skin is.  Most metal airframes of the period are dented and dimpled by the hundreds upon hundreds of rivets in their skin.

Only five exhausts per side for a V-12 engine. Turns out the sixth exhaust was burning the fuselage so the last one is two pipes combined.

The business end.

The Pilot and Navigator’s seats. Notice that the Navigator’s seat has no armour. There’s a great book called, “Terror in the starboard seat.” Written by a Canadian mosquito navigator. Well worth a read if you can find a copy.

Leaving the hanger. Not a great shot as I’m dealing with two very extreme light levels.

Getting prepped for flight.

Taxi time. And yeah, it sounds pretty damn cool.

The Lanc follows her out.

My long lens is getting a real workout here. I’m at the full extension of 500mm, the beauty of which on the 7D is that it’s 800mm equivalent. Worth every penny for this shot.

In formation with the B-25J

The sight, I thought I’d never see.

Back on the ground far too soon.

A little HDR treatment to finish her off.

I’ll post more up about the Skyfest later in the week and I’ll also be showing some of the shots from the Vintage race as well.

As far as the lens learning curve goes, it was steep.  Because it’s a f5.6-6.5 lens without a tripod, you’re not going to get good results at ISO 100.  I found myself shooting at ISO 540 and because I was worried about depth of field issues I upped my F-stop to between f9 and f11.  This seemed to work out the best for me.  One of the guys at the Sigma booth had shown me how to reverse the lens mount for ease of use by putting it out of the way.  Bad mistake to do this as your palm then has a tendency to rest on the focus ring which will not function in AF mode if it senses any sort of resistance.  Once I’d flipped the mount back to it’s regular location, it rested on the palm of my hand and kept the ring free and clear.  My early day AF issues went away.

This is a lens which likes lots of light.  I’ll probably pick up a polarized filter for it, I’m thinking the new Hoya 2 series one (whose name escapes me right now) but just enough to knock the hot white out as you need light to make this thing work at its best.

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