Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson

Superconstellation G-TWA


I've always been a big admirer of the Lockheed Constellation, and have long harboured an ambition to make an image of one of them in flight. It's a big aircraft, and reviews of big models are often marred by excessive perspective.

I decided recently to create a new folder of photographs of Constellations, and I soon had about 150 images in it, including half a dozen reviews of model builds. To my surprise, most of the reviews had images with quite acceptable perspective, so I had an embarrassment of choice of a candidate for my picture. Speculating as to why this was so, I decided that the reason was that modellers of military aircraft think instinctively of dramatic aerial situations, whereas those who do airliners imagine their subjects cruising along against an attractive skyscape – they are more interested in the picture than in the action. Well, that suits me, because I share their point of view.

The Initial Image

I chose this photograph of a TWA Super Constellation photographed on a show bench; you can see a part of the show label in the left lower corner of the photo. It was not photographed from too close up; exhibiters get understandably twitchy if you try to get bug-eye shots of their models. The image is acceptably sharp, though definition falls off near the tip of the starboard wing. The lighting is quite even, but also gets darker on the far wing.

Treatment of the Image

My approach to the detailing was different from what I would have done with a warplane. Basically, no one is particularly interested in structural details on an airliner, so I mostly disregarded them, and concentrated on the fairly extensive décor elements. Most of these were selected in-situ, but a few were copied to auxiliary files which were enlarged before the selections were made, then reduced again before pasting back onto the master image.

The three engine pods were treated by cleaning up the details on the nearest nacelle, and then pasting smaller versions onto the other two. The lighting on the inboard port engine needed to be modified before it could be pasted, because it is catching a strong reflection of the large expanse of white from the fuselage.

I had a problem with the endplate fin on the starboard side. After I had selected the outline of the portside one, I casually slid it up to see how it matched the more remote fin, and was surprised to find that the two fins are different shapes on the model; the starboard one has a much wider chord, relative to its size. I decided that the proportions of the port fin are more authentic, and I modified the other one to match it.


I am quite pleased with the final image, and I may do more of these Lockheed types in future. I have conceived the notion of making an image of a type that I flew in several times back in the 1960's, the Vickers Viscount. It was a lovely plane, though it was on one of them that had my only frightening flying experience. We were about half-way down the runway at Schiphol and had almost reached take off speed when a tyre burst, and the pilot jammed on the brakes. All aboard are waiting for us to go through the boundary fence, but we came to a halt yards from the end of the runway. We taxied back to the stand, and our take off was delayed nearly two hours.