Sometimes we see a picture that looks so far-fetched that we assume that we are looking at a picture that has been photoshopped, and sometimes we are. Nevertheless, some pictures, unbelievable as they may seem, are the real deal. A while back, I stumbled upon an unbelievable photo of a plane crash, or rather the moment before the plane crashed. I was instantly intrigued. Could this be real? Or was it just a big ruse?
At the end of World War II, the English Electric Aviation Company received a contract to develop a jet bomber. The resulting bomber was the English Electric Lightning F1. The ER103 design study was sufficiently impressive for English Electric to be awarded the contract for two prototypes and a structural-test airframe. The early prototypes evolved into the Lightning, an airplane which was to span the time from when the Spitfire was our primary front-line fighter to the end of the Cold War. The Lightning was the only British designed and built fighter capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2 to serve with the Royal Air Force. The aircraft in the photograph was XG332. It was built in 1959, one of 20 pre-production Lightnings. Alan Sinfield took a photograph of XG332 in 1960 at Farnborough. However, it was the very last photograph taken of XG332, in 1962, that became the famous one, and deservedly so. How does someone manage to take a photograph like this? Jim Meads is the man who took the picture, but this was not the picture he expected to take that day. He was a professional photographer who lived near the airfield. In fact, he lived next door to de Havilland test pilot Bob Sowray.
Meads says that Bob Sowray mentioned that he was going to fly the Lightning that day. An excited Meads took his kids for a walk, taking his camera along, hoping to get a shot of the plane, and give his kids something amazing to remember. Well, that part of the walk went according to plan. It was a walk his kids would not soon forget. He had planned to take a photograph of the children with the airfield in the background, just as the Lightning came in to land. They found a good view of the final approach path and waited for the Lightning to return. As it turned out, Bob Sowray didn’t fly the Lightning that day. The pilot was George Aird, another test pilot working for De Havilland. George Aird was involved in the Red Top Air-to-Air Missile program. He was a well-respected test pilot.
The flight was to take place on September 19, 1962. The day did not go as planned in any way. George Aird was in the Lightning doing a demonstration flight off of the south coast. As he approached Hatfield from the north east, he realized that he had trouble. During the flight there was a fire in the aircraft’s reheat zone. “Un-burnt fuel in the rear fuselage had been ignited by a small crack in the jet pipe and had weakened the tailplane actuator anchorage. This weakened the tailplane control system which failed with the aircraft at 100 feet on final approach.” The plane suddenly pitched up, quite violently…just as Aird was coming in to land. Aird lost control of the aircraft and ejected. Had the nose of the plane not pitched up suddenly, Aird would not have had enough time to eject.
The tractor in the photograph was a Fordson Super Major. Upon close inspection of the grill, one can see that it reads D H Goblin, which is the name of another de Havilland jet engine…the Goblin. The tractor driver was 15-year-old Mick Sutterby, who spent that summer working on the airfield. He would play an amazing, but unexpected part in the amazing picture. He wasn’t posing for the camera, but rather, was telling the photographer, Jim Mead, to move on, because he shouldn’t be there. Mead saw the plane coming in and the nose pitch up. Then Aird ejected and Mead says he had just enough time to line up the shot as the Lightning came down nose first.
Sutterby recalls, “I followed my father into work at de Havilland, Hatfield in 1954 when I was 15. My father was the foreman in charge of the aerodrome and gardens. My job in the summer was gang-mowing the airfield and at the time of the crash in 1962 the grass had stopped growing and we were trimming round the ‘overshoot’ of the runway with a ‘side-mower’. I stopped to talk to a chap with a camera who was walking up a ditch to the overshoot. I stopped to tell him that he shouldn’t be here, I heard a roar and turned round and he took the picture! He turned out to be a friend of the pilot and had walked up the ditch to photograph his friend in the Lightning. I saw some bits fly off the plane before it crashed, but it was the photographer who told me he had ejected. There was not a big explosion when it crashed, just a loud ‘whhooooof’.”
“I was about 200 yards from the crash scene. I saw men running out of the greenhouses and checking the scene of the crash. The works fire brigade were on the scene within a minute. Somewhere at home I have a picture of it burning. Although the picture shows it nose diving to the ground, in fact it was slowly turning over and it hit the ground upside down nose first. I was later told that if the pilot had ejected a split second later he would have ejected himself into the ground. I was very lucky. If I had known he was coming into land, I would have been positioned near the ILS (Instrument Landing System) aerial which was only 20 yards or so from the crash site! I believe the photographer had his photo restricted by the Air Ministry for – I think – about 3 months because the plane was secret,” Sutterby said, almost as if in thought.
“He then took it to the Daily Mail who said it was a fake. The photo was eventually published by the Daily Mirror. From there it went round the world, and I remember seeing a copy in the RAF museum at Hendon. I recollect the photographer usually photographed hunting scenes for magazines like The Field. I recollect that the pilot broke his legs but really was very lucky. I hope this is interesting. All from memory,” finished Sutterby.
George Aird didn’t have an easy landing, and in fact, landed on a greenhouse and fell through the roof. The fall broke both of his legs, and he landed on the ground, unconscious. The water from the sprinkler system for the tomatoes woke him up and he reportedly said that his first thought was that he must be in heaven. In the end no one was killed, but the resulting picture by Jim Meads is nothing short of spectacular!!
Imagine thinking that things that have no substance, actually do have substance. I know that sounds odd, but consider our shadow. It is caused by our body coming between the sun and the ground. We have all seen them, and most of us give them no thought at all. Now consider a two year old girl, who notices her shadow for the first time. Suddenly, something strange is following her and she cannot get away from it. Many of this little ones actually become quite upset, and telling them it is ok, or it is only their shadow doesn’t help at all. Explaining what creates a shadow to a two year old doesn’t help either, because they are too young to figure out what you are saying. To them, the shadow is a thing of substance…a stranger, and the child does not like it. While a little child being afraid of their shadow is pretty normal, what of other things that have no substance being mistaken for things of substance.
In reality, it is probably just people being able to use their imagination, like the little girl who was the subject of a photograph taken by Adam Diston in 1886. Little is known about the photographer himself, but his imagination and creative thought are fascinating to me. I did find out he was born 1827 in Edinburgh and spent the greater majority of his life as a photographer. I don’t know if the little girl thought you could cut a sunbeam or not, but maybe…just for a moment it seemed possible that something without substance, could have substance. Diston brought that out in her, and in his picture, made it almost believable. I think he might have been a truly great photographer.
And what of the wind? Wind can blow all around you and still you stand in the same place, and yet, if you raise your jacket over your head, it can fill the fabric and take you for a little ride. We can’t go far on just jacket power, but put that same wind in a sail, connected to a boat and you can travel the world. And yet, a breeze goes by almost unnoticed…because it has no real substance…at least not until we harness it. Or in the case of a sunbeam, we imagine it’s substance. And in the case of the shadow, we envision it as a person…a stranger. It’s all in how we see things.
Connecting with cousins in the town of my birth has been such a great experience. Some we have met in person, and others we only know through Facebook. I suppose that to many people that might seem like not really knowing them at all, but they would be wrong. I’m sure that often it’s harder to get to know cousins who are separated by so many miles, but my cousin Elizabeth Schumacher Nordquist has made it so easy to get to know her and her family, that I feel like I have known her family for years. Elizabeth is a photographer, and that shows in the pictures she takes of her family, and her niece and nephew. But, with Elizabeth, there is more. She tells of the personalities of her kids too. I feel like I know the girls, even though we haven’t met.
Both of the Nordquist girls, Addilayde and Meadow are just as sweet as they can be. Their mother homeschools the girls, and so often babysits her sister, Angel Pallas’ daughter, Hazel, and her sister Grace Oltman’s son, Hosea. Addi and Meadow are great little babysitters in their own right. They love their cousins, and are quick to help their mama with all the details of the babies’ needs. Of course, the biggest need the babies have is to play, so that is what the girls do best, and it’s the part the babies like best too. I’m sure that Elizabeth has to fight for time spent with the babies.
The girls have very different personalities, as I said. While Addi is very much a Girly Girl, and is not interested in the tomboy things, Meadow is very much her Daddy’s girl. She loves to help him with the things he is doing, and doesn’t mind getting dirty. She loves to see the game that her dad brings home from a hunting trip, and doesn’t mind sitting right on its back. Addi doesn’t want to be anywhere near it. Elizabeth says that Addi is her mini-me, and I would have to agree. They look alike, and both have a keen sense of fashion. Not that Meadow doesn’t like her fashions too, because she does…she just loves being where her dad is, and doing the things he likes to do.
One of these days, I hope to meet these sweet little girls, their parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I already love this family. They are very special to me, and I can see that their parents have brought them all up to be very special people. They certainly didn’t fail there. All of these people are very special to me. Every day I look forward to the latest pictures taken by Elizabeth, that give me a little peek into their lives.
I remember getting my first camera. I was probably 6 years old at the time. Once I got it, I was almost never without it. I can’t say that I took the greatest pictures in those days, but what I can say is that I was often behind the camera rather than in the pictures. That had its good and bad points to it. The good thing was that I took pictures of the things that held an interest to me. The bad part was that often, I wasn’t in the pictures. I had never really given much thought to that until we began looking for pictures to use in the slide show for my dad’s funeral. It was hard to find some of me with my dad. I felt quite sorry about that. in the end, we found enough pictures, but I started thinking about the years ahead. I knew that I needed to do something different.
Being a photographer is a wonderful thing, and I will always love to be a photographer, but I have learned that the photographer sometimes has to relinquish the camera and be in the picture. If you never do that, it’s hard for anyone to know that you belong to the group being photographed. While that isn’t always a problem, there are times in life when it is a problem…such as the time I mentioned before. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is great fun to be the photographer. When I see the pictures taken by other photographers, I get great ideas for shots I want to take myself. Of course, there are just pictures that happen, and no planning could make them any better than the shot you got almost by accident. Personally, I love taking wildlife pictures, with birds in flight being at the top of my list. Those are among the most difficult to take. The birds are moving so fast that by the time you get the camera ready and focused, the birds are long gone. It is a type of shot that takes lots of practice, but one that is very rewarding once you succeed.
It’s strange to think that the hardest lesson for a photographer to learn can be to make sure you get in a few of the pictures yourself. You would think that would just be second nature to someone who knows the value of pictures. I’ve never felt like I am very photogenic, and maybe that is why I don’t feel such a need to be in the pictures, but after many years as an amateur photographer I realize what a folly that is. Good, bad, or ugly, I needed to be in a few of those shots.
As another summer moves into the past, yet another of my grandchildren has had senior pictures taken. This year, we will have only one graduate, instead of two. Nevertheless, as each one graduates, I feel a little sadness. Before my very eyes, my grandchildren are growing up, and moving on with their lives. I want them to be little again. This year’s graduate is my grandson, Caalab Royce. Caalab’s favorite things are his guitar, his truck, and his dogs. That said, he decided to incorporate his guitar and his truck into his senior pictures, and chose the Washington Park Band Shelter as his backdrop. The pictures turned out great.
Caalab isn’t one to spend a lot of time posing for pictures, and would much rather take those spontaneous selfies with his mom, sister, and me. I think maybe he would rather make funny faces that the nicely posed type of shots that senior pictures are. He just doesn’t have the patience for that sort of thing. Still, I think he had a good time in the end…or at least it looked like he had fun. I think I will have a lot of trouble choosing my favorite among the shots Jessica Coleman at Poetic Images Photography took. The pictures are really good, and I think they capture a lot of who Caalab is. And isn’t that what a good photographer does…capture the essence of the person.
When I think of another of my grandchildren being out of high school, I am beyond surprised. It seems impossible that my grandchildren could be so grown up already. Caalab should still be that little boy who began playing with my hair at six months of age, and has never stopped wanting to do that. He should still be that smiley boy, who is full of mischief…oh wait, he is still that smiley boy, who is full of mischief. Maybe not so much has changed after all, and in reality I do have this school year before he actually graduates. And I hope he will always like to come and hang out with his grandma and papa, because we would miss it if he didn’t. Spending time together is of the utmost importance to me, because my family is of the utmost importance. I suppose that is why the changes of having the grandchildren growing up are so hard. When my girls grew up and got married, I hoped and prayed that they would stay in Casper, because I wanted to be a part of their daily lives. Thankfully, so far that has been the case. Now it is the grandchildren…and I hope they will stay in Casper as well, because I want to be a part of the lives of my great grandchildren too.
Graduations are new beginnings, and the senior picture is the first step toward that new beginning. The end of summer, and the senior pictures always serve as a reminder that life is short, time flies by, and change is inevitable. I just wish I could be the exception to that rule, and that life could always stay the way it is right now…or maybe back just a few years to when I was still the one taking my grandchildren to school each day. It was so nice to see them every day. I felt infinitely blessed…still do, because they are the best.
A big part of picture taking with children is getting them to smile. Kids can be moody and irritable when you make them sit or stand still while you try repeatedly to get just the right shot. I suppose that is when people started trying to find creative ways to make a child smile. “Say Cheese” seems to be one of the most common ways to get a kid to smile…or at least it used to be. Most kids have heard that so much that it is not quite as funny as it once was. Most parents and photographers have had to get a little bit more creative.
It’s almost like the more embarrassing the situation they can come up with, the more the kids laugh. Like when the photographer asked me if I had any boyfriends, and I made a funny face, as I gave thought to who I liked at that moment. Many kids have to laugh…or more likely crack up at that question, because a lot of the time, they aren’t even sure if they like the opposite sex or not, but…well, maybe they do…just don’t tell anyone that. I think that is when you get some of the funniest faces with kids…when something is a combination of embarrassing and funny, such as that moment when someone thought you said “cut the cheese”, and not “say cheese”. Of course the next thing that happens is that one or the other of the kids breaks out in uncontrollable laughter. It doesn’t do much for the nicely posed picture, but it can be a great picture if you are looking for a real life funny shot.
I think several of us have been caught in that funny moment shot, she someone conveniently snapped a picture when we had the goofiest look on our face. My grandson, Caalab Royce is famous for taking those goofy shots of me…his Gma. Then he threatens to put them on Facebook, or just show it to everyone he can think of, because it is so funny looking. All he has to do is get ready and say “Gma” and it will invariably end up in a funny picture.
I guess it doesn’t matter what you do to get people to smile, sometimes you just have to be very creative. And even then, you may not get exactly the reaction you were hoping for. That’s just the way it goes with pictures. You get what you get.
Everyone thinks that the latest craze…photo bombing, was started in recent years by some especially innovative photographer who had a great idea of a way to grab the attention of the people looking at the picture. That may have been when photo bombing was named, but not invented. I think that since cameras came into being, people were jumping into the picture at the last minute to see if they could add a little bit of humor to the shot. Sometimes, the photo bomb was simply an accident…a child who wanted to see what was going on. It’s a common thing for kids to do, and if it puts them in the middle of a picture they might not have been in otherwise, so much the better. You can hardly blame them. Like all kids, they simply wanted to be in on things.
When you think about it, they are not alone in that desire. Everyone likes to be involved in things…especially if it means they get to play the part of the comedian sometimes. My Uncle Bill was one of those people. He did one of the early photo bomb pictures, but he also decided to do the sticking the tongue out picture too…although he said he wished he hadn’t done that one. He wanted to see how the picture would look if he stuck out his tongue, and in the end, he said he didn’t like the look. These days, sticking the tongue out is all the rage in pictures, but I have to agree with my Uncle Bill. I don’t think having your tongue hanging out is the most flattering look there is. Still, I suppose it is the thing everyone does. I doubt it will go away soon.
I think the smiling face or the goofy look that pops up behind the subjects of a photograph at exactly the right time are great. Most pictures are too posed most of the time, and that little moment in time, when some goofy person decided to photo bomb the picture, always serves to make everyone smile a little bigger and even laugh out loud, because the whole mood just changed. These days, the photo bomb is something that happens often. And with the other latest thing in pictures…the selfie, it’s easy to find just the right opportunity to do a photo bomb. The person doing the selfie is already busy trying to make sure they are posed just right, and when the photo bomber jumps in, it is a total surprise. The picture might take on a look of shock, surprise, or they might just be someone who takes it all in stride, and then the photo bomb almost looks planned. Maybe it was, and they just didn’t tell you that part.
So many times, we are so busy taking a picture of someone or something, that we fail to notice the little things happening just beyond the center of our attention. Most often, they are not really important things, and they will continue to be fairly unnoticed later on too. Things like a bird or dog or even a car on a nearby road, are just coincidences that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. We just overlook them as we look at the main subjects of the picture.
Nevertheless, there are things, that when they are placed in a picture, can change the picture in a bigger way, and in reality, add to its depth….give it character and add a touch of humor to it for all to see. It’s not something that usually invades the picture, but rather someone who invades it, and often that someone is a child. Yes, you get the occasional inattentive person who is off in their own little world, and so they walk right into your shot, but that is not what I’m talking about here. Those shots are simply annoying, because they ruined the shot by their careless act of indifference.
No, I’m talking about the watchers. Usually little kids who are so excited about the picture being taken or the people who are in the picture that they stand at the window or in the doorway to watch the proceedings, and since the photographer wasn’t looking at the window, even though it was right behind the subjects they are photographing, they get the little watcher in the picture too. I love those kinds of pictures, because it is just so typical of little kids to want to see what is going on, and they have no idea that they have inadvertently stepped into the shot. It’s just all about the fact that they are curious about what is going on.
I don’t think these watchers ever ruin the shot, like the inattentive passerby does. The watcher is more like the bird or the dog who gets into the shot when it was not in the plan for them to be there. They just like to see what is going on, and so, there they are at the moment you snap the picture. They don’t ruin the picture, but rather add that little bit of humor, character, and even depth to the shot, and speak to the very nature of kids. “If you aren’t a part of it, just be near enough to catch what is going on.” And, “Oops!! I didn’t mean to be in the picture!!”
Recently, while looking through some old school pictures, I came across one of my own, that I vividly remember being very embarrassed about as a kid. It was silly, I suppose, but at the time…I just couldn’t believe it. Back then, the photographer couldn’t be totally sure that the subjects eyes were open, or that they smiled, or if they had hair in their eyes, or much else about the picture until it was developed. They looked through the view finder, but there was that second when they snapped that picture where they just had to hope the subject held the position they had seen them in just long enough for the picture to be taken. And film cost money, so they didn’t take several shots in the hope of having one turn out…at least not until the senior pictures were taken and the family was paying for all that film.
The other challenge a photographer faced, was getting a child to smile when they maybe didn’t feel like doing so. With no parents there to make the child sit still and smile, the photographer was on his own, so he would usually come up with any funny comment he could think of to guarantee that coveted smile in each of the hundreds of school children that passed in front of his camera on any given day. Sometimes, that was a huge challenge. Kids might have had a bad morning, didn’t like what their mom made them wear, or didn’t like their hair. Whatever the case, kids can be very temperamental when things aren’t going their way.
I don’t recall ever being one of those children who didn’t smile for the camera, but still the photographer didn’t know that, so he had to do what he felt was necessary to guarantee my smile. In this particular year, the photographer thought he had it all figured out, and on the smile part, he did, but there was just one small problem…the eyes. No, I didn’t close them, as you can clearly see, but I wasn’t looking at the camera either. When I saw the picture, I thought, “Oh yuck!! I look goofy!!” I couldn’t have retakes, because the stipulations for retakes were things like eyes closed or hair in the eyes, not eyes looking up. You might be asking yourself, what was she doing that caused her to be looking up. It’s a valid question and one that I can still answer for you. This is the look you get when you ask a little girl, “Do you have a boyfriend?” I always did those days, of course, but I had to think about whether or not I was willing to tell the photographer that. You might be wondering why my hair didn’t bother me too, but that was the style then…my goofy look wasn’t. I just have to wonder if he asked the girls that particular question after that.
Little boys are all pretty much the same. They are curious. They want to know about everything that is going on around them. I can’t say that I blame them. There are a lot of interesting things to see, do, and learn about, in this world. Now I’m not saying that girls aren’t curious, and this story could just as easily have been written about little girls, but today’s story is about boys…and one in particular.
When my mom was a little girl, school pictures were done differently than they are today, and even differently than when I was a little girl. I don’t know if they took any individual pictures, but so far, I haven’t come across any. The pictures were taken by class. While I have seen some with the whole class together, I have also seen some with just the girls and just the boys. That is something that wasn’t done when I was a little girl, and indeed later on, the class picture was just a grouping of the individual pictures, placed together on a 5 x 7 picture.
The funny thing about the curiosity of little boys is that there always seems to be one who is a bit of a lady’s man, and just loves hanging out with the girls. That same little boy probably wants to be right in the middle of everything. That little boy will somehow insert himself into situations where he just doesn’t belong, such as this little boy, who managed to be at the edge of, and leaning into the picture of the girls…just close enough to get into the picture. The cameras of yesteryear were unable to view the picture, and therefore, you really didn’t know what you had until the film was developed. The photographer probably never saw this little boy leaning into the picture until the film was developed, and they were stuck with it, because it cost more to retake.
Now, it is possible that the photographer, the teacher, and maybe even the parents were upset with this turn of events, but I, personally, find it very cute. I picture this little boy as the one who loved little girls a lot, and didn’t really care if anyone knew it. He was curious about them, and wanted to know all about them. He might have even had a girlfriend in that group…or maybe several. That is how a lady’s man is. Try as he might, he doesn’t just stick with one girl…at least until he finds that one girl who changes everything, and removes his lady’s man status. Until that day comes, he goes from girlfriend to girlfriend, and might even have more than one at a time. Whatever the case may be, I think that there is always one little boy like that in every class, and sometimes there are several. That is just the way little boys are.