Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
I have always had a soft spot for aircraft in Belgian colours, and I've presented a number of my images on MM in the past, including a Meteor F.8 in July 2011, a Hunter in February 2012, and four different Hanriot HD.1's in the last few years.
I also have a bit of a soft spot for pictures of F-84's, both the straight-winged and the swept-winged versions.
So, when I found a photograph recently of a Thunderstreak that serves as a gate-guard at Kleine Brogel air base, not far from the town of Roermond on the Dutch border, I set about getting it airborne again. I repaired the parts that were missing or obscured, and pasted the result to a suitable backing, but looking at it against a cloudscape rather than the clutter of the original photo, I saw it had far too much recession for a plausible aerial shot. A pity, because I really liked the blue and white decorative areas on that plane.
Spurred on by that adverse outcome, I googled to see if I could find some more of these Belgian “Streaks”.
The Initial Image
The BAF had six squadrons that flew F-84F's. Three used the base at Florennes, close to the French border. They were 1.Squadron, with a black noseband of various widths on its aircraft; 2.Squadron (red noseband) and 3.Squadron (green noseband).
The other three squadrons were based at Kleine Brogel. They were 23.Squadron (red squadron colour), 27.Squadron (blue) and 31.Squadron (yellow), and their nose makings were more complicated than those of the Florennes units; typically all three squadrons had a nose band in the squadron colour, aft of which was a wedge-shaped area in a contrasting colour, followed by a strip of the noseband colour again. However, 31.sq. aircraft, instead of using yellow/black/yellow, reversed the sequence and had yellow for the wedge!
The image I chose to work on is of a 23.sq. aircraft, as is clear from the nose markings. Typical for these Belgian Thunderstreaks, the red identifier and its contrasting colour (white) reappears on the plane's wingtips and rudder.
This is a big image, 1280 pixels wide as downloaded, and effectively even wider, because part of the starboard tailplane is cropped out, and needs to be reinstated by extending the frame to the left. I therefore have about 1400 pixels in width to work on, and the photograph is so professionally done that a lot of detail is pin sharp, from nose to tail and wingtip to wingtip.
Treatment of the image
The only part of the job that requires some serious attention is the canopy, hovering above the airframe by means of a pantograph-type mechanism. I selected the canopy, copied it to a new auxiliary file, and then copied it back onto my master image; as I expected, it was a little too small to fit the space neatly, since it had been a bit further from the camera. I measured the size of the space and of the canopy, and found that the canopy needed to be about 5% wider, and roughly 8% deeper. I went back to my auxiliary file and resized the canopy accordingly. It now fitted pretty well into the space, and I could make the final canopy selections, sweetening out any minor miss-matches as I went along.
Everything else was plain sailing, and I soon had a final image. I borrowed the pilot from a photograph of a real Belgian Streak in flight, and pasted the image onto a background that was originally a shot of a very colourful hot-air balloon, poised over the field at the bottom right of the photograph. I simply cloned out the balloon from the adjacent field surface.
I wanted to have a secondary airframe in the final picture, and fortunately the review had another photo of the model in a similar pose. I used the same procedures as with the primary, and pasted it onto the background.
I could have gotten away with selecting the secondary airframe in a much more slapdash way than usual; it would have taken less time, and in this image it is so small that nobody will notice the lack of refinement. But I now have an alternative if I want to do a picture of the blue/white 27.Squadron aircraft that first caught my eye. The main change would be changing the red areas to blue, which can be done by colour-shifting.