Woodford Vulcan Flypast

On the weekend of 27th-28th June 2015 the last airworthy Vulcan in the world completed the historic Salute To The V-Force Tour’. Avro Vulcan XH558 flew over all of the complete V-bomber airframes which are located across the UK. The aim of the tour was to ‘pay tribute to the aircraft and personnel of the V-Force who helped to keep the peace during the dangerous years of the Cold War’ and to ‘honour the past’. The tour was especially poignant because 2015 will be Vulcan XH558’s last season of flight.

Avro Vulcan XH558 startling a flock of birds over Woodford Aerodrome

Avro Vulcan XH558 startling a flock of birds over Woodford Aerodrome

On the 27th June I went to take some photographs of the planned flypast over Woodford Aerodrome and Vulcan XM603. The Avro Vulcan was designed by Roy Chadwick and built at Woodford Aerodrome which made this particular flypast extra special. I therefore positioned myself so that I could get Vulcan XH558, Vulcan XM603, and the airfield all in the same shot.

Avro Vulcan XH558 flying over Woodford Aerodrome and Vulcan XM603

Avro Vulcan XH558 flying over Woodford Aerodrome and Vulcan XM603

Interestingly, Vulcan XM603 is the only remaining aircraft of this type which is painted in the anti-radiation white finish. It will be the showpiece of the new Avro Heritage Museum which is due to open later in the summer of 2015.

Avro Vulcan XM603 painted in the anti-radiation white finish

Avro Vulcan XM603 painted in the anti-radiation white finish

Woodford Aerodrome, the birthplace of so many iconic aircraft (including the Avro Lancaster, Avro Vulcan and Hawker Siddeley Nimrod) is sadly in the process of being demolished. All of this combined to make a very emotional farewell as XH558 waggled its wings as a wave of goodbye on its final pass.

Avro Vulcan XH558 waggling its wings over Woodford Aerodrome and Vulcan XM603

Avro Vulcan XH558 waggling its wings over Woodford Aerodrome and Vulcan XM603

A brief history of the Vulcan

In 1947 Air Staff Requirement B.35/46 was issued with the aim of producing a state-of-the-art multi-engined bomber that would replace the Avro Lincoln. The resulting aircraft would continue to give Great Britain a voice in international affairs but it would also stretch the British aircraft industry’s design teams to the limit. The requirements specified seemed ludicrously advanced for the time and included the capability of carrying a 10,000lb nuclear weapon to a target up to 1,725 miles away. The aircraft must also be able to maintain a cruise speed of 575mph while operating in the altitude range of 35,000-50,000ft.

Avro was one of six companies who submitted a design with Roy Chadwick (designer of the Avro Lancaster) laying down the initial design for the Vulcan. Avro’s design was deemed the best and the company was awarded with a contract to produce its design. The Avro Vulcan first flew in 1952, just over 11 years since the first flight of the Avro Lancaster. In 1957 the aircraft went into service with the RAF and became an integral part of Britain’s V-Force. In total, 136 aircraft were produced between 1956-1965 and these included the new type B2 Vulcan, which featured a ‘kink’ in the leading edge of the wing to extend airframe life.

You can clearly see the kink in the leading edge of the wing as XH558 flies over Rhyl.

You can clearly see the kink in the leading edge of the wing as XH558 flies over Rhyl.

The Cold War was a frightening time in history with the potential of complete annihilation hanging over humanity. It would be easy to cast the Vulcan as an evil weapon of destruction but this is an overly simplistic view. The presence of the Vulcan fleet as a nuclear deterrent actually helped to maintain the peace. A measure of its success in this role is that it was never used for this purpose.

During the Vulcan’s operational history the aircraft was also used for maritime reconnaissance and also as aerial refueling tankers. It was only during the last few months of its operational life that the Vulcan was used in combat. During the Falklands War, the Vulcan acted as a conventional bomber for the RAF. It was the only aircraft capable of carrying out missions covering such enormous distances. To successfully fly from Ascension Island to the Falklands, the Vulcan was accompanied and refueled by Victor Tankers. As such, the Vulcan completed a series of missions known as Black Buck and these included the bombing of Port Stanley airfield.

The last Vulcans were retired in 1984 but aircraft XH558 continued to be used by the RAF for display purposes. It flew its last air show for the RAF in 1992 and completed its last flight for the RAF in 1993. The Vulcan returned to the skies in 2007 through the work of the Vulcan To The Sky Trust. Sadly 2015 will be the last time a Vulcan will take to the skies because XH558 is due to retire. At 55 years of age, and after 8 flying seasons under the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, the aircraft has reached the end of its life. It is a poignant point that these numbers make up its registration, Avro Vulcan XH558.

Avro Vulcan XH558 displaying at Rhyl Air Show, 2013

Avro Vulcan XH558 displaying at Rhyl Air Show, 2013

Please click here to see the rest of my photos from the flypast.

In search of the adder

There are six species of reptiles which are native to the British Isles: adders, grass snakes, smooth snakes, sand lizards, common lizards and slow worms. A few days ago I took a trip into the Peak District in search of the adder; Britain’s only venomous snake.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as I left home and I had high hopes that I would find what I was looking for. Adders emerge from hibernation in April and shedding their skin is one of the first things that they do. Early spring is therefore a perfect time to spot these elusive creatures but as I reached higher ground the sky had started to cloud over. A stiff breeze had also picked up and I feared that these factors might make it harder to spot my quarry.

Despite being venomous, adders are very timid creatures and will only bite as a last means of defence. When adders feel threatened they will instinctively try to escape into the undergrowth. It is this defence strategy which makes adders so difficult to spot because they will hide as soon as they feel the vibrations of your footsteps. Most cases of adders biting humans result from people trying to handle them or accidentally treading on one. These instances are rare and can be avoided by treating adders with care and respect.

Despite the overcast conditions I soon spotted my first adders basking on a mound of vegetation. The first thing that struck me was the delicate beauty of these creatures down to each perfectly formed scale. They are also much smaller than I had imagined; being not much thicker than my finger. It was hard to guess at their length because there were three intertwined individuals coiled up. I believe the lighter coloured grey/green snake is a male guarding two females because adders breed from late April through to early May.

Intertwined male and female adders, The Peak District.

Intertwined male and female adders, The Peak District.

If you look closely at the male you can see that it has nearly finished shedding its skin. The end of its tail still has some of the old skin which needs to be removed. The snake will do this by rubbing its body against rocks and rough vegetation.

Male adder. Note the skin being shed on the end of the tail, The Peak District.

Male adder. Note the skin being shed on the end of the tail, The Peak District.

A little further on I came across another individual basking on a bed of ferns. I think this is a female and you can see that it has flattened its body to maximise its surface area. The sun broke through the clouds at this moment and stayed out for several minutes. As soon as this happened the adder started moving but it had returned to its original resting spot by the time the sun had gone back in.

Female adder basking with flattened body towards the sun, The Peak District.

Female adder basking with flattened body towards the sun, The Peak District.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip out and realised that cloudless days are perhaps not the best time to spot these creatures. When there is some cloud cover the adders seem less active and spend more time basking.

Please click here to see the rest of my photos from the trip and my other reptile images.

Winter wildlife

When we had two periods of heavy snowfall in the last month I was determined to get out and take some photos. It’s been a couple of years since we last had some snow so I took several trips into the Peak District to make the most of it.

My first trip was to Bleaklow in the hope of seeing some mountain hare. It’s often difficult to get up there because the Snake Pass is often closed when it snows heavily.

Although I saw plenty of tracks I failed to spot any hare but I did get close to a red grouse. It was quite happy to let me approach as it dug around in the snow for sprigs of heather to eat.

Red grouse

My second visit to Bleaklow a few weeks later was much more successful. I spotted 6-8 individual hare but it was difficult to get close because the snow was so deep. They are definately better adapted to the snow than I am! I was pleased to get a photo showing the hare in its habitat but also to see a rare animal thriving in the wild.

Mountain hare

Cold temperatures kept the snow on the ground for over a week and when a thick fog rolled in I headed for Lyme Park. I went to take some photos of the mist covered woodland but I also hoped to see the red deer. As I walked across the moors a group of deer appeared out of the mist. The rangers put out feed during times of severe weather and the deer were taking advantage of this bounty. Isolating individuals out of a cluttered group was quite challenging and in the end I settled on this composition.

Red deer - Lyme Park

You can see the rest of the photos from these trips on my website.

Special Father’s Day Offer

With Father’s Day just around the corner, Shared Earth Photography is launching a special offer on all prints and products. For a limited time all orders will receive a 10% discount so why not treat your dad to a unique gift from our extensive range of photographs. Perhaps you dad is passionate about wildlife or enjoys relaxing walks in the countryside. Maybe he enjoys abstract art or modern architecture. Whatever the case, we are confident that you can find the perfect photograph in our collections.

Our Father’s Day offer not only applies to our prints but all of our merchandise. We can print your chosen photograph onto mugs, coasters, jigsaws and much more. All of our products are supplied by professional print labs, ensuring the best possible quality and customer service.

To claim your 10% discount simply enter the code SEP16062013 when prompted during the checkout process. The promotion will run from 27th May – 10th June (inclusive).

Go on, treat your dad this year to a special and unique gift.

London’s Olympians Arrive In Manchester for the Great CityGames

Some of the world’s greatest atheletes will take to the streets of Manchester this weekend for the BT Great CityGames. Now in its fifth year, the event will take place on the Great CityGames track running along Deansgate and at the purpose built athletics arena in Albert Square.

The event is completely free and is a chance to see a world-class line-up of athletes including Olympic gold medalist Greg Rutherford and Paralympic gold medalist Jonnie Peacock.

For many, this will be the first chance to see medal winners in action since London 2012, and includes the Bupa Great Manchester Run on Sunday.

The rest of our images from today’s photocall can be found here.


The Green Chapel

Lud’s Church is a deep chasm in Staffordshire which was formed by a massive landslip and can be found in Back Forest in the White Peak. It is believed that early Pagans considered it to be a sacred place and was later a place of worship by the followers of John Wycliffe, an early church reformer. Known as the Lollards, they were persecuted for their religious beliefs during the 15th century.

Lud's ChurchLud’s Church is over 100 metres long and 18 metres deep with mossy and overgrown walls. Sunlight rarely penetrates the floor of the chasm which means it stays cool on even the warmest days. The photograph below gives some sense of scale with the person taking in the splendour of the place at the top of the frame.

Lud's ChurchLud’s Church has been linked to the legends of King Arthur and is also known as the Green Chapel of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is claimed that the outline of the Green Knight’s face can be seen in the rocks of the chasm’s walls.

Lud's ChurchThe dappled light inside Lud’s Church is a real challenge when finding the correct exposure for a photograph. The dynamic range was in places too great for my camera which meant that I created two exposures of some photographs and blended them in Photoshop.

Lud's ChurchYou can view the rest of the photos from my trip in my Staffordshire gallery.

Spring has sprung

Temperatures have risen over the past few days, promising that spring has finally arrived. The unseasonal snows last month feel like a distant memory as the sun shines in through my office window. It is hard to believe that it was only a few weeks ago when the local country lanes were blocked by snow drifts.

Spring is my favourite season because the days grow longer and there are signs of new life all around us. It is a season which promises a fresh start and is a reminder of the opportunities that the warmer months offer. Days spent by the seaside, country walks, and evening barbeques are all things to look forward to.

Horse chestnut budSpring gives me the opportunity to expand my portfolio of flower photographs and starts when the first snowdrops emerge. The harsh weather this year meant that the snowdrops didn’t last long and were often covered by snow themselves.

SnowdropsThe bad weather also delayed the crocus and my local churchyard is still carpeted with these beautiful flowers. I like to use my telephoto lens to capture the delicate form of the crocus because it throws the surroundings out of focus. It does mean getting down to their level so I treasure my angle finder, which makes the experience that little bit more comfortable. I’m sure it causes a good deal of amusement when my head is down and my bum is in the air! I hope you enjoy the results.

CrocusCrocusYou can view the rest of my flower photographs on my website.

Painting the town red

A Red Arrows Hawk TMk 1a was on display in Manchester over the Easter weekend as part of an event organised by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The event, Experience Our Way Of Life, was held to raise awareness about the armed forces. Judging by the crowds it was a great success with many people enjoying the sunny weather.

Red Arrows

Finding uncluttered compositions was difficult with the large crowds present so I decided to put emphasis on the aircraft through the use of selective colour.

Red Arrows cockpitThe position of the plane also meant that frontal views would involve shooting into the sun. I therefore decided to take a series of detail shots instead.

ChinookA Chinook helicopter and Viking amphibious all terrain vehicle were also on display in Albert Square. The Chinook was particularly difficult to photograph because it was in partial shadow and again most angles involved shooting into the sun.

Gun turretRegardless of the politics, the event really brought home how much we owe to the people who choose to lead this way of life so that we can live ours safely.

You can view the rest of my photos from the event here.

Celebrity book signings

There have been a lot of new books published over the last couple of weeks to maximise the sales potential of the Christmas shopping period. Many of them are promoted through book signings which are always popular events.

Miranda Hart
© Shared Earth Photography

Michael Palin
© Shared Earth Photography

During the past week I have had the pleasure of photographing Miranda Hart, Michael Palin, the Hairy Bikers, and Sir Chris Hoy. Meeting such a diverse range of personalities over such a short period has been a really interesting and enjoyable experience. I hope to attend more book signings over the coming weeks but in the meantime I hope to make the most of this weekend’s good weather forecast by getting out into the countryside.

The Hairy Bikers
© Shared Earth Photography

Sir Chris Hoy
© Shared Earth Photography