AAC Middle Wallop

Winter is very much upon the horizon so now is the time to make the most of the good weather when it’s about. That’s exactly what I did yesterday. I took a day off work with a couple of friends and headed down to Middle Wallop hoping for a good day of movements.

The original plan was to head down to Salisbury Plain for Exercise Wessex Thunder – an exercise including movements from the British Army and AAC as well as some troops from Oman. However, rumours started to circulate that the exercise had been cancelled so we stopped off at Middle Wallop on the way to see what was going on.

The morning started off pretty dark and at 8:30am it looked as though the fog was coming in over the hills – maybe it wasn’t the best day to take off after all. Half an hour passed and as the cloud started to lift the Squirrels started to fire up and get ready for a day of training.

We’d parked up in the car park of the Flying Museum and were worried that we weren’t in the best place the helicopters all seemed to be taking off over the back of the hangers. Never-the-less we decided to stick it out because surely what went out had to come back in.

The morning itself was a little slow with only a few Tutors going out and the odd Squirrel coming back in. It was hard work photographically as well as most of the morning we were shooting into the sun.

As the morning went on the cloud disappeared and those rare blue skies decided to come out and play. It seems that we weren’t the only ones to enjoy the bright blue skies as one of the home team returned. As a distinctive chopping sound bounced off the museum it could only mean one thing – an Apache was inbound…and it was extremely low. I raced up the field to try and get some better light on the beast as it came in and just about got there in time. So low and so mighty – this was surely worth taking the day off for.

As the Apache disappeared into the dip and touched down, I felt that the day was about to get much better. The Tutor and Squirrel movements went on pretty much all day so there was plenty to see when it was a little quieter. The Tutors were great subjects for some slower shutter speeds.

The first Lynx soon came in to land and was followed by a much smaller helicopter. We thought we’d seen it go out earlier in the morning but couldn’t be 100% sure – but we were correct, it was a Gazelle!

Once that first Lynx had come in, it was pretty much non stop for the rest of the afternoon. They just kept coming and coming; Squirrel, Dauphin , Lynx, Gazelle…

The fantastic thing about clear skies in the Autumn is the effect it has on the lighting. It’s not called the golden hour for nothing, although yesterday it seemed to be about two hours. The light was perfect and the pilots seemed to take advantage of this by positioning their aircraft in the best possible way for us to take photos. If anyone from yesterday is reading this…THANK YOU.

As if the lighting wasn’t enough there were also some brilliant opportunities to capture multiple aircraft in the same shot. Tried to make the best out of these with clever compositions and I think they really work well. I’m particularly happy with these three:

The light soon began to fade and things started to get a little quieter. We made our way up to the cafe for a quick drink before the drive home when they rolled out another Gazelle. This Gazelle had gone unserviceable earlier in the day so we were hoping it’d get airborne, sadly it was just on the ground for an engine run. It was still a very nice end to a thoroughly good day at Middle Wallop.

A huge thank you to the team at Middle Wallop for giving us a great day out.

As usual the full set can be found over on the Facebook page www.facebook.com/tommercerphotography

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