Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson



F-84F-Indiana ANG


I've been doing a lot of images of F-84F Thunderstreaks recently, and several have appeared on MM. The F-84F is not a particularly elegant aircraft in comparison with the F-86 or the MiG-15; its rather bulbous front end is followed by a skinny rear fuselage, and the untapered tailplanes look a bit peculiar. But it can look really good if it's posed advantageously, and rear-quarter views often look really nice.

In the past I've made only a few Thunderstreak pictures, and only one has appeared on MM, a USAF aircraft that I showed in 2007. It was a view from the aft quarter.

The initial Image

Stephen Young reviewed this model recently, and this is one of his photographs – a classic rear-quarter view, looking right along the axis of the port wing. As downloaded it is 700x360 pixels, not over-generous, but it's a good clear image, with sharp definition and excellent depth of field. The canopy and the airbrake will need to be reconstructed in closed position.

The lighting is going to need some thought. The rear end of the model is catching a blue light, particularly obvious on the fin and drop-tanks. The front, by contrast, is in bright yellow lighting.

Treatment of the Image

Closing the canopy isn't easy, but modellers very often spend a lot of time (and money) on the internal details of the cockpit, so I have plenty of experience of sorting this part.

The brake is easier. The forward edge of the brake when closed is not the same as the forward edge of the open panel, so you need to estimate it; in this view, I concluded it would be rather less curved. The tedious bit is to get the pattern of perforations on the closed panel – there are dozens of them, so it took me a good hour and a half to get them more or less right.

There is some confusion about the retractable skid that protects the braking parachute housing below the tailpipe. Many artworks show inflight views of the aircraft with the skid still extended, which seems somewhat odd. But because it is so widely shown like this, I have oscillated in my work from one to the other. Recently, I reviewed all my photos of real aircraft in flight, and I found that all the USAF ones had the skid stowed. But several of my BAF ones had the skid extended.

My solution to the lighting conundrum was a bit complicated. Firstly, I shifted the colour balance of my background image towards yellow. On the model, I selected the whole front of the airframe, but excluding the décor elements, and shifted it away from yellow, that is, towards blue. But I'm not keen on blue shifts, because they tend to give a dull impression, so I kept that shift quite small, and supplemented it by reducing the colour saturation of the front part of the airframe, which reduces the intensity of the yellow cast.


I thought from the start that this image might well give a pleasing final picture; I think my optimism was justified.

For several months the image on my computer desktop has been a photograph of a pair of RF-4's of the US Marines flying in close formation, straight and level over a semi-desert landscape. As I found it, the image was marred by the fact that the nearer plane had half its tailplane and fin cropped out of the frame. It was only half an hour's work to extend the frame and put in the missing tail section.

I rate the present Thunderstreak image high enough to be considering swapping it in place of my Phantoms.