spitfire

Don't panic Mr Mainwaring!

This is not 'stop press' news: I'm no fan of the over romanticising of the past. And this is especially true when it comes to the period covering the World War Two period.

Harking back to a hypothetical bygone era when people were dying by the thousand and acting like it's some sort of jolly theme park is not something that sits too well with me.

Keep calm and don't carry on.

However, putting slightly curmudgeonly moral issues aside and sticking them in a Jerry can inside an Anderson shelter, I shuffled off with the family to Hughenden Manor in Wycombe to take in their 'living history weekend'.

Now, thankfully Hughenden has plenty of actually non- rose tinted WW2 history being the centre of a secret mapmaking operation during the war.

But also - rather thankfully - my concerns about it being a bit of a theme parky sort of the day really didn't come to fruition as it was actually pretty tastefully done. From beautiful vintage cars to painstakingly put together military re-enactments to a thunderous Spitfire flypast, even this old cynic got vaguely in the mood.

Quite aside from all the 1940's stuff, Hughenden Manor is really worth a visit to find out more about it's most famous occupant Benjamin Disraeli - and this part of its history is - in usual National Trust style - fantastically told throughout the building.

The family (including visiting Grandpa who really can just about remember the war) seemed to have a jolly time, especially when the dressing up box was found, and if nothing else i had plenty of opportunity for an interesting shot or two (hundred) as it felt not unlike being on a movie set for the day.

So there you go. Cynicism put aside, it was a really well put together day with minimal romanticism and plenty of heart, although one wonders what decade the NT could do next - surely a 90's weekend with dodgy Vauxhall Corsa's on show, a re-enactment of the Poll Tax riots and a set from Toploader?

Ugh. Maybe not...


Tech corner:
Usually people capturing stuff so the Zeiss 85mm was out to play along with the old dependable Sony 35mm f1.4 for indoor shots.

High flying and the risks involved.

Brrrrang....newaaaar....

Yes, sounds filled the sky yesterday in London to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the RAF (or Royal Air Force for non-UK types). 

Despite being neither a particular fan of fighter planes, war or armed forces in general - a bit of a pacifist really - I was glad to be in town to see the impressive flyover of various RAF planes from the past and present. 

It wasn't just me - thousands of people from everywhere in the world were on The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace to greet each passing plane with an excited roar while getting even more excited at the sight of the Royal Family (another thing I'm not too bothered about... wrong gig, eh?)

Despite taking a few shots of the various Spitfires, Tornado's, and everyone's favourite Red Arrows, I was actually more interested in getting images of those around me and they certainly didn't disappoint - because while I might have been here or there about some of it you could tell for a lot of people this was A Big Deal.

Hats (and goggles, chaps) off to the organisation though. Having read up on the flight path, amount of planes and timing precision, the risky flyover went off with without a hitch.

What I was really impressed by was the RAF brass themselves, who could have been a bit snooty, but on a big day for them clearly spent a lot of time chatting with visitors walking down The Mall after the flyover giving off an excellent impression of England at a time when we need to show a decent face to the world.

Before all these high flying shenanigans I'd popped into the Serpentine Gallery to have a look at this year's Pavillion designed by Frida Escobedo. 

Somewhat like my visit to see the Christo sculpture floating nearby, I was a bit underwhelmed. Whilst from a photography POV, the 'slats' allowed me to peak in and get some great candids, and the reflective ceiling gave some whacky distorted shapes, I can't help feeling it was it all a bit meh - I didn't get the story and as a public space it felt very enclosed and not inviting to relax in. Mileage may vary of course!

Back to The Mall. What was a highlight was the opportunity to walk right down the middle with the Palace right behind you without getting mown down by cars or horses. A real thrill. 

Once I got to the end, I made my way back up via Soho to Oxford Street and down to Tottenham Court Road - shooting all the way - and on for a nice cup of tea and some final shots with a cup of tea, hanging out with Mrs W in the V&A garden (which is always a pleasure on both counts!)

So what did I learn? Well, planes and the RAF mean a huge amount to people - with good reason - and seeing the machine in action is pretty impressive, so you don't need to be a military type to appreciate it or indeed not understand all the risks involved to those who've served.

Secondly, whilst I applaud the Serpentine for getting on board with the world and hiring a young, Mexican female architect to produce this year's Pavillion, I think they need to rethink and reimagine the brief for next year - it needs to be expand and grow a bit and be less about making just a statement, but really being an amazing place to be. Saying that, it's always brave and I come back for a look every year, so they must be doing something right. 

Like high flyers from all walks of life know, a risk is usually worth it.

 


Tech Corner:
A little bit of Voitglander 40mm f1.2 (review to come!) but a load of Batis 85mm to get all those lovely planes and fair away looks.