Here’s a photographic angle that not many people get in the 21st century – a shot taken inside the cockpit of a fully functional, airworthy Supermarine Spitfire.
Yes, I was sitting in the pilot’s seat, with the hatch access shut and the canopy closed over my head. This shot, taken on the evening of 5 June 2009, shows you an extremely rare view of exactly how a World War II pilot would have looked through his reflector gunsight.
This was a Mark XVI Spitfire with a four-blade propeller. Because of the depth of field in this shot, you can actually see two of the prop blades forming a V, across the streamlined nose of the iconic fighter aircraft.
In the immediate foreground is the glass of the reflector sight, through which a pilot would be able to gauge whether an enemy aircraft was within firing range. At the bottom of the image, you can see the slightly concave glass circle, below which was the circular mechanism which was pre-set to the wingspans of every conceivable Luftwaffe aircraft type.
The pilot simply had to switch on the gunsight and then set a rotating dial to choose the correct calibration. Once this was done, the reflector sight showed the distance between both the hunter and the hunted.
In front of the reflector sight you can actually see the thick slab of armoured glass in front of the pilot’s head. This was the only segment of the canopy that actually had bullet-proof glass. Judging by my other shots taken that day, the glass here is about an inch and a half thick, or almost 3.5 centimetres.
This was taken at the Temora Aviation Museum in the New South Wales farming area that is known as the Riverina. There are only two airworthy Spitfires in Australia – and they both belong to the Temora Museum.
So why would I drive 1200 kilometres (almost 750 miles) to photograph two Spitfires? Because that’s the kind of thing you have to do, isn’t it? And because the imagery and the first-hand experience is vital for a novel called “The Jadu Master” that I’m wrapping up at the moment.
I do not crop, enhance or post-edit my work in any way. Shot with a Pentax K100D, using a Sigma 18-125mm lens. F6.7, 1/30 sec, ISO 800, focal length 38mm.
Featured in CONTRASTING PERCEPTIONS, July 2009.
Featured in FROM THE COCKPIT, November 2009.
Temora5June – 7389