If you’re anything like me, you grew up with posters of jets plastered all over the walls of your bedroom. As humans we tend to surround ourselves with the things we love, and from an early age I loved jets. I pulled daily inspiration from the pictures on my walls – inspiration that would eventually lead to me pursuing a career as a pilot. Much like a body builder draws motivation from a poster of Arnold Schwartzenagger, my drive to excel in UPT was bolstered by pictures of Vipers and Eagles in my dorm room. There is certainly something to be said about the power behind a well-composed photograph of a sleek, airborne killing machine.
Yielding the awe-inspiring power of the camera are aviation photographers like Lloyd Horgan. Lloyd is based in the West Midlands of the United Kingdom, and has an extensive collection of aircraft photos. When I first saw some of Lloyd’s photos, I thought they were taken while airborne from another flying platform. I was shocked to learn that many of these were taken from a hilltop! Imagine my surprise when I found out that he had been shooting these photos from a fabled location known as Mach Loop! Yes, the very same Mach Loop I wrote about last year – the place where RAF and USAF pilots go to rage fast and low.
Lloyd got into photography when he was only 16 years old, and has since turned his passion into a career. He has chronicled several big events in the UK and has truly seen history being made through the eye of his lens. Although he shoots everything from architecture to motor sports, my favorite photos are the jets. In fact, his work has made me take a second look at some interesting aircraft.
Being an air-to-air guy myself, I haven’t had much appreciation for the Panavia Tornado. The German Air Force flies the Tornado at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, but I never really integrated with them while flying out there. It’s their “B-course”, so they didn’t have much room in their syllabus for mixing it up with Raptors. All I knew was that they had to use afterburner when pulling up into the closed traffic pattern (the field sits at 4,000′ MSL, so it’s somewhat understandable). I’ve flown with Tornados at Red Flag and have become familiar with the nuances of escorting this capable striker aircraft. But other than mission planning and seeing them on my cockpit displays, I never really paid much mind to them.
Lloyd’s photos inspired me to do a little open-source research on the Tornado, and here are a few things I learned, punctuated by Lloyd’s amazing photography:
The Tornado was developed much the same way the Eurofighter Typhoon was: as a joint venture between several countries: Italy, Germany, and the UK (the Typhoon had additional participation from France and Spain.)
The external, under-wing stores (fuel tank and weapons pylons) rotate as the aircraft changes its wing sweep angle in order to maintain aerodynamic streamline.
The Tornado carries a host of air-to-air missiles (it’s an AMRAAM shooter!) in addition to its primary array of air-to-ground ordnance. The German and Italian variants are capable of delivering the B61 Nuclear Bomb!
I recently caught up with Lloyd and had a few questions for him:
Rob: What made you want to get into aviation photography?
Lloyd: Somewhat rather differently to some people I’d imagine. I stumbled across images from the Mach Loop on flickr whilst looking for images to use at College whilst studying photography there, I’d never seen such amazing images of aircraft before and living only 90 miles away it would’ve been stupid not to have paid a visit.
I can still remember, rather vividly, my first visit the Mach Loop. I spent the day up there with a friend from my college course, the weather was typically Welsh, low grey cloud and drizzle. After a long 3 hour wait the first low level jet I had ever seen appeared around Hill 15, only to be followed by another three jets. A mixed formation of 2 Harrier GR9’s closely followed by 2 Hawk T1’s, seeing those jets bank hard and pull vapour approaching the Bwlch was something else and a memory I will never forget. After that I was hooked, it took another two years to really find my feet with the right camera gear and getting my driving license. After that I delved into air shows, although not the same buzz as photographing jets at low level it was still a sight to behold.
After some hard work and networking I finally got some big breaks in 2013, most notably flying and photographing Esquadra 751 in Portugal over three days, 751 are the Portuguese Air Forces SAR Squadron based out of Montijo. Without doubt my best experience yet, closely followed by documenting a SAR crew from 771 Squadron and documenting a 24hour duty covering a SART sortie to real ‘shouts’. Hopefully 2014 will lead to more exciting opportunities, I’d love to try and tie something up with the USAF but as of yet I haven’t made much if any progress!
Rob: Do you fly?
Lloyd: Yes and no. I unfortunately don’t have my PPL, however I am looking at other options in the near future like Gliding. I’ve been lucky enough to fly quite a lot with a friend who owns 1/2 a Christen Eagle II, you can’t beat aerobatics!
Rob: I read up a little on how you found Mach Loop on your “about” page, any further details as to how you got involved there? How often do you get out to shoot the Loop?
Lloyd: 2009-2012 it was a lot, especially in 2012 however with the SDSR and the ever shrinking fleet of jets the RAF now operate its seen a reduction in the amount of low flying, especially in the Mach Loop. You can still have one or two good days a month now if you’re lucky but they’re a lot rarer than they used to be sadly, a sign of the times I’m sure. I try to get out as much as work permits and of course the weather, no one wants to shoot grey jets in flat light!
Rob: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring aviation photographers?
Lloyd: Keep on pushing and learning, in the age of digital photography there is so much room for adjustment with RAW and PP techniques. I think if you can marry excellent photography & PP skills together you’ve got it all sussed.
I think another mistake a lot of people make is that you need to spend big bucks to get the best images, I’m talking Nikon D3’s & 600mm lenses. I like to think I do pretty well with my fairly budget friendly set-up, since late 2010 I’ve shot with a Nikon D300s & Nikkor 300mm F4 AF-S, whilst not exactly entry level gear I find its a good compromise between cost and quality. Especially when I see my images coming out better compared to other photogs who have splashed upwards of £6000 on gear.
See what other aircraft Lloyd has photographed at Mach Loop and around the world by visiting his website. I promise you’ll be inspired to learn something new about an aircraft you see there!