Saturday, September 25, 2010

Williamtown Airshow - a frustrating day

I recently attended an Airshow at RAAF Williamtown in NSW. The airshow was excellent with a lot of cool displays on the ground and some really wonderful air displays. The Super Hornet was so loud, so tight, really really exciting but really the star of the show was the F-111 (better known as the Pig).

The Super Hornet is louder, more maneuverable, and generally more spectacular, except the F-111 has a party trick no other aircraft out there can match - the dump and burn. The dump and burn is pretty simple, fuel is expelled out a fuel dump valve at the rear of the aircraft between the two engines, the pilot then hits the afterburners, lighting up the trailing fuel in a huge rooster tail of flame. I got a few images of it but these are probably my best two.

So why was this a frustrating day?

Well for many years I've read horror stories of Sigma quality problems, and in particular problems with the Sigma's handling the high torque lens drive motor fitted to the Sony A700, 850 and 900 (some discussion here on DPreview). I have avoided all these problems, secure in the belief that while the 'lower' Sigmas might has a problem, the top of the line EX series was immune. Well I was proved wrong.

On the first pass of the F111 the less was tracking well, locked focus and I was shooting nicely then suddenly as I re-composed and the lens locked up and I was greeted with a horrible grinding noise as the now stripped focus gears just spun against each other without engaging. Bugger, one pass in and I'm at at airshow with no lens longer than a 50mm prime.

Well thats not entirely true, I had no auto focusing lens longer than 50mm, I did still have a Sigma 100-300 f4 now manual focus lens. Well, I hadnt read the article on Luminous Landscape article on the importance of persisting in the face of frustration (Photography, Rain or Shine) but I decided to press on and see what I could get. Well you know, I didn't get a lot, trying the manually focus on aircraft is nightmarishly difficult so my hit rate was minute. But it was still a day out and I got a few. I think the ones I were the shots of the Roulettes, the RAAF aerobatic display team.

But thats a story for the next blog entry.

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