Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
My original ambition when I started work on images of Belgian Air Force Thunderstreaks was to get an in-flight image of the plane that serves as a gate-guard at Kleine Brogel AB, near the small town of Overpelt in NE Belgium. As a village, Kleine Brogel is tiny, of significance only to the small community who live there, but the air base seems to be a very busy place, and has hosted some major NATO events in recent years. No doubt the village pub has benefitted in no small degree from this activity.
The aircraft in question is F-84F RA-T of 27. Squadron. I have collected a number of photographs of RA-T, including several from http://swag-trip-logs.blogspot.co.uk -an excellent source of photographs of aircraft taken by enthusiasts at many airports and air bases worldwide.
The Initial Image
This photo comes from a review of a model of Z6-E, an F-84F from 23. squadron, which was also based at Kleine Brogel, and it has similar markings to those of 27. squadron aircraft. All six photos from the review are generously sized, 1280 pix. in width, and they have very clear details over the whole airframe. Like many of the best model images I collect, the pictures give no clue of the author's name, probably because of the nom-de-plume habit prevalent in many of the best sites.
Treatment of the Image
I had no difficulty with the selection process, but it involved more work than usual, because I was intending to revise the markings to arrive at an image of RA-T in due course. Therefore, all of the décor items needed to be selected and stored, so that they could be suppressed, or re-located, or re-sized, when the revision was being done.
Once I got to the point where I was satisfied with my version of Z6-E, I stored the final file, copied it with a new tag, and started the conversion process on this fresh master image.
Portraying RA-T is only doable once you have decided which incarnation of the décor scheme you are aiming at. The aircraft has had several refurbishments over the years, and each time its décor is a bit different than before. I decided I would do what I think is the present scheme.
The most difficult part of the conversion was to define the big white code on the front fuselage. The letters on RA-T are slightly larger than on Z6-E, and the individual letters are more slender than the chunky style of that aircraft. I also had some difficulty in judging the degree of foreshortening of the letters. I needed several shots at this operation before I got the code looking fairly convincing.
A lot of patient work was needed to make the other detailed changes; when it was finished, I could paste the resulting image to a suitable background image.
I decided to use a copy of the 23. squadron image as a secondary, much reduced in size, and with the inner tanks re-coloured to give a nat. met. finish, as was pretty common on these aircraft.
A bonus that comes from this kind of job is that I end up with stand-alone portraits of both the aircraft involved, as well as this composite showing both in the air together.
For some reason, there are a lot more photographs of 27. squadron Streaks than of 23. squadron ones on the image searches. Apart from the six model photographs, my archive only has two other images of them. I wonder if it could be that the blue/white décor is inherently more eye-catching than the red and white that 23. squadron used. Anyway, studying the two photographs of real 23. squadron planes, my impression is that the model is a good portrayal of 23. squadron's style.
If I could find a good aerial view of the Kleine Brogel area, such as I have for many parts of the UK, mostly taken from microlights, I'd love to do a picture of RA-T flying over Kleine Brogel, as it must have done many times in the 1960's. My recent image of two Meteor 8's from Leuchars banking over the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth is an example of the harnessing of model-makers' skills with the photographic prowess of some microlight enthusiasts.