Concorde landing overhead
pic Photographed using a Nikon F801 camera with Nikkor 20mm wideangle lens hand-held; taken at 1/500th second at f4 on Fujichrome Velvia film rated at ISO 50 and processed normally; no filters used.

Mid-morning sunlight, May.

Bournemouth International Airport, England.

The story behind the picture....
"Occasionally, Concorde visits the Bournemouth International Airport near my home, and is always worth seeing. In fact, back around 1996 the main runway there was specially extended to accommodate it and other larger passenger aircraft. A public road runs alongside the airport perimeter and runs right past one end of the main runway, permitting close views of the larger aircraft taking off and landing, though the prevailing westerly winds usually mean being under the take-off flight path.

"I usually find out when Concorde will be visiting and mark it on my calendar. On this particular day, the morning weather forecast showed easterly winds, which meant that Concorde would approach and land from the west (aircraft usually land into wind), coming in right over the public road at the west end of the airport. After 'phoning the airport to check arrival time and confirm the approach path, I loaded up my camera equipment and drove to the airport in good time to get a position in the expected crowds of spectators.

"On arrival at the end of the main runway, I positioned myself amongst the throng of other observers and photographers that had gathered there. With over half an hour before Concorde's arrival, there was plenty of time to think about how to photograph it. One of the 'classic' shots is the rear view as it touches down onto the runway, usually sending a swirl of dust from each wing-tip, and most people with their cameras seemed to be lined along the fence to photograph this.

"However, I'd noticed some Friesian cows grazing in the field on the opposite side of the road and thought that a picture of them with Concorde coming in overhead would look good, almost surreal (especially if they took no notice of it and carried on grazing!). So I fitted one camera body with a wide-angle lens (a 20mm, which is quite wide) and another with a telephoto zoom.

"Soon, the aircraft was sighted about ten miles (sixteen kilometres) away, making its final approach in the clear blue sky. Unfortunately, the cows in the field had all munched their way out of my intended picture, but, nevertheless, I decided to cross the road and opt for a shot with a wide-angle to include the field as Concorde came in to land close overhead. Setting up the shot I could just make out the dot that was Concorde, still a Kilometre or two away.

" second it was a dot, the next it seemed to be about to land on me! Like looking the wrong way through binoculars, very wide-angle lenses tend to distort perspective, making distant things seem more distant and effectively trebling the approach speed of moving subjects. Since Concorde was approaching at around 120 mph anyway it meant that by the time I pressed the shutter all I saw in the viewfinder was half a Concorde, which was now directly overhead about 100 ft up!

"Immediately, there was the deafening roar of the jet engines and, in a reflex action, I covered my ears with both hands (having forgotten my ear-plugs!), leaving the camera to swing on its strap. Watching the aircraft as it touched down on the runway, the swirls of dust formed beautifully, but no way was I in any position to photograph it. Cursing with the thought that I'd missed a good picture and an uncommon opportunity, I trudged back to the car and went home.

"A few days later when I collected the film from the processing lab, I was surprised and pleased to see that I hadn't chopped off Concorde's nose after all!"

Geoff Doré

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