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Photo Recce in Blackpool

With another of my hats on (literally) I am the “Media Communications Officer” for the Cumbria & Lancashire wing of the Air Training Corps, part of the Royal Air Force Reserve where I hold the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

Part of that role is to cover events in the Wing and liaise with various press and media to maximise the coverage that the organisation gets.

Next weekend (7th February 2016)  we have a large parade of some 800 staff and cadets marching through the streets of Blackpool to celebrate ATC Sunday, our organisations birthday.

This is a big year for us as we were formed on the 5th if February 1941 and it is therefore our 75th anniversary and also the 75th anniversary of several of our Squadrons including my own 1151 (Wallsend) and 1862 (City of Carlisle).

I took a trip down to Blackpool yesterday to do a recce on the site to look for vantage points and try to work out where the lighting is likely to be in relation to those shots. It also gave me the opportunity to plan for the other photographer on the event next week, Tom.

Blackpool really is a unique place, in places ultra Victorian, in others bang up to date. It has all of the drawbacks of any seaside resort, the seedy side of life seem attracted by the bright lights and the tackiness, yet it also has a great deal of wealth and culture as can be seen in many of the distinguished church buildings slap bang in the middle of the town.

It was a beautiful day lighting wise. The dark clouds and rain from the morning gave way to a warm rich sunlight which was particularly unusual for mid day. The thermometer reading on the side of the Wintergardens read 7 degrees, don’t let that fool you though, there was a bitter, strong wind which, with the chill factor, dropped the effective temperature way below freezing.

I was using my Canon 1D Mk iii for this shoot which I shall also be using next week. It is built like a tank and simply shrugs off the cold weather and the bit of rain which also decided it wanted to fall on me during the shoot.

The 1D is a full frame camera with a 1.3x crop factor rather than a crop frame APS-C  sensor 1.6x. And although now rather long in the tooth with only 10.1Mp it has bigger pixels and gives a better dynamic range than many of the newer APS-C cameras and generally far better shots.

It should be an interesting shoot next week as Tom will be using his Canon 6D which is a full frame camera with no crop. It will be good to compare the outcomes.

As you can see, the cenotaph at Blackpool is an amazing sight. Next week there will be upwards of 800 proud, well presented RAF Cadets and Staff in three groups around this monument. It’s guaranteed to be impressive…….if the weather holds that is.

One thing of interest will be the Air Training Cirps ensign which will be flown from the very top of Blackpool Tower. It should make an impressive picture.

Now, one thing to point out is that these were quick shots, straight out of the camera, no touching up in lightroom or photoshop except to resize them smaller. In fact I didn’t even manage to get a good white balance at the time. So you’ll see spots and strange colours.

But do you know what? maybe that’s great as the photos are for a purpose, to give an idea of what I’m going to face next week not to win competitions.


The view from the roof of the West Coast Rock Café promises to be a great one. Overlooking the square between the Wintergardens and Opera House on the South and the Church to the North it should look splendid with hundreds of RAF uniforms in straight parade lines stretching across it.


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Lets see how it all turns out next week


Best wishes



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