by Jamie Hunter
Jamie Hunter is one of a handful of photographers that specialize in the world of airborne aviation photography. Most of Hunter's time spent behind the lens is in the cockpit of a fast jet fighter. As someone that always dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, Jamie Hunter undertook an RAF Flying Scholarship at the age of just 17. But ultimately his career path led him to the cockpits of a variety of fighter aircraft, not as a pilot, but as a passenger - specialising in capturing dynamic images of aircraft in flight. Having been inspired by pioneering aviation photographer Charles E. Brown and Japanese aviation photographer Katsuhiko Tokunaga, Jamie saw the potential for flying in aircraft in order to capture media and marketing images. Today, he has notched up over 200 flying hours in fighter jets, flying with the Royal Air Force, US Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force, German and Norwegian Air Forces and has flown in more aircraft types than many of his former RAF pilot training. Dambusters Nearly two years ago we first discussed a suitable way to help mark the 70th anniversary of the RAF's famous No 617 'Dambusters' Squadron in May 2013. Discussions led to an idea about 're-enacting' the famous dams raid mission by flying one of the squadron's current Tornado GR4s over a dam to capture a moment in time - 70 years on. The plan came together in March this year and having sought the appropriate clearances from the RAF we planned how to get the shot. The first challenge was the weather, as it is frequently in aviation photography. We had planned to get the shot over the Derwent Reservoir dam, where the original 'Dambusters' trained in 1943. However, the weather on the day was appalling in that area. So instead we came up with a backup plan. Having scoured maps we came up with the dam on Loch Glascarnoch, not far from the squadron's base at RAF Lossiemouth, and with terrain and a sun angle that would allow the perfect shot. As usual, I sat with my pilot, in this case Sqn Ldr Mark Jackson, and with the pilot of the subject aircraft; 617 Squadron commander Wg Cdr David Arthurton, to carefully plan the flight and the photo elements. The low pass over the dam had so many elements to bear in mind, with safety being paramount at all times. One of the biggest challenges when shooting an aircraft over a ground feature is getting the aircraft orientated exactly as desired over the 'target'. Flying aircraft has many variables, so flightpath, speed, terrain, turns, etc are all planned with fine detail. The briefing is probably the most important part of the entire process, not to detract from the people that service the aircraft to ensure they are available, the people that have faith in my ability to deliver, the pilots, the weather, and many other elements that come into play that lead to success. For my part, I just have to make sure I'm ready to press the shutter release. My part is mainly about experience. Knowledge of the art of what is possible in this tough domain, how to conduct yourself in the cramped cockpit with bulky flying kit hampering your every move. As we streak across Scotland at 250ft, 350mph, a break in the clouds bathes the dam ahead in golden Spring sunlight. Looking hard back over my shoulder at the second jet, Mark counts be down to the dam. 3-2-1…. It's in the can! Phantoms In June this year the German Luftwaffe retires its charismatic F-4F Phantom IIs after 40 years. Last year the Luftwaffe approached me about a photoshoot to capture these jets for one last time. It was the first time in recent times that a civilian photographer had been allowed to fly in these wonderful jets. We flew four Phantoms together from their base at Wittmund in northern Germany. Sun angle is very important and so we wanted low sun - which that time of year meant that we didn't take off until 19.30. After a 2-hour intense flight, we landed back with some excellent results. F-15E in afterburner Some fighter jet engines have the ability to engage afterburner - this means injecting fuel directly into the hot exhaust gasses to increase thrust. It also makes for impressive licks of flame spewing from the engines. Often in ambient daylight, the 'burner' or reheat is not visible. However, as daylight fades, it makes for a dynamic image. The aim in this shot was to capture an F-15E Strike Eagle jet at sunset with the reheat engaged near its base in Idaho, USA. Harrier Jump-Jets In October 2010 the UK Ministry of Defence announced that on cost grounds it would remove the famous Harrier jump-jet from service. In less than two months on 15 December 2010, the Harriers stop flying in the UK forever. I was fortunate enough to fly two photo flights with the Harriers in their very last week of operations. Led by the Harrier Force commander Air Cdre Gary Waterfall, the RAF and Royal Navy flew 16 Harrier in formation to mark the ífarewell to the Harrier. The sunset image depicts a Harrier returning to its base at RAF Cottesmore as the type gave its final bow. Harrier Jump-Jet Eagle break I wanted to create a dynamic break shot based on a well tried and tested shot set up with two jets - but do it with four jets. The key to a shot like this is getting the jets into the right formation prior to calling the: '3, 2, 1, break'. Dogfight For many shots, normal operational flying just wouldn't work. For example, in modern aerial combat jets can engage each other in 'beyond visual range' (BVR). Of course, that wouldn't make for much of a shot. So, it's about concocting a way to depict what they are doing, but with some artistic licence. For this shot I wanted to show the US Air Force's super fighter the F-22 Raptor chasing after another fighter. The shot is designed to look like they are in a twisting and twirling 'dogfight'. With the prey punching out a decoy flare to 'spoof' the Raptor's heat-seeking missiles. Red Arrows I have been flying with the RAF Red Arrows ever since 2005, taking publicity images for the team. As well as capturing the display, I have been able to set up some unique shots to showcase the team for their annual 'protocol' photograph. This shot was about showing the famous 'Synchro Pair' close to the camera, with the remaining seven jets in the background. It was shot from the teams 'chase' aircraft. Chasing the enemy Dusk descends on the Nevada desert as two American super-fighters, an F-15C followed by an F-16C, plug in their afterburners and accelerate into action. Typhoons The Eurofighter Typhoon is the RAF's latest and greatest fighter jet. The RAF has been hit by numerous spending cutbacks over recent years, which have increased the emphasis on squeezing as much operational capability and usefulness out of its vastly-reduced fighter aircraft force. The Typhoon is thankfully able to tackle a variety of missions and roles, offer a lot of versatility and functionality in a single, small fighter fleet. This image is all about depicting that versatility, with two aircraft configured for very different missions. MAY 2013 BACK ISSUE Back to current issue