The Roulettes – Parafield Airshow 2012

Roulettes, Parked

A highlight of the Parafield Airshow for 2012 was the participation of The Roulettes, which are a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) formation flying aerobatic team.

The last time I had the opportunity to see the Roulettes in action was at the RAAF Edinburgh airshow in 2007, so I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to photograph these aircraft during their performance.

Flying the Pilatus PC-9/A (a two seater variant build under license in Australia) the Roulettes display involved a number of aerobatic manoeuvres in various tight formations with smoke trailing from the aircraft. There are 6 Roulettes performing the display, however 7 Roulettes in total were on the ground at Parafield Airport, the 7′th is a spare aircraft.

A number of photographer’s with photographers passes were offered the opportunity to photograph The Roulettes performance from the first level balcony of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower. Which provided an awesome opportunity, offering a fresh perspective (angle) on the aircraft from an elevated view as they taxied past, directly in front of the tower towards the runway.

Roulette, Taxiing

Three of the Roulettes lining up on the runway, ready to take off in preparation for their display.

Roulettes, Lining up

Captured flying head-on in the wedge formation:

Roulettes, Head on

Performing an inner loop whilst maintaining the wedge formation:

Roulettes, Wedge Formation

Roulettes 5 and 6 flying break from the main formation to fly in mirror formation, which involves one of the aircraft flying inverted directly above the other.

Roulettes, Mirror Formation

The aerobatic display is concluded with the breaking of formation, the commencement of which is captured in the image below, as the outer Roulettes begin to roll out.

Roulettes, Breaking

A small subset of the Roulette images taken on the day are presented above, additional images will be uploaded to the Aerobatics Album as they are processed.

Clipsal 500 (2012) – F/A-18B Hornet Air Display

Each year the streets east of Adelaide inner city which surrounding the park lands are blocked off to form a temporary street circuit for the V8 Supercars series, this event is known as the Clipsal 500. A 500km endurance event, split over two days, often forming the first race of the season. The circuit is a modified version of the Formula 1 circuit from many years ago.

The Clipsal 500 has a large assortment of on- & off-track entertainment accompanying the race, of particular interest to me are the air displays performed by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). This year ‘The Roulettes’ returned performing their aerobatical and formation flying, which I unfortunately missed, however I will catch up with them at the upcoming Internode Parafield Airshow later this month!

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (F/A-18B)

A McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B Hornet (B model being a two seater variant) was also performing low altitude, high-speed passes over the circuit on both race days as part of the entertainment. Flying out of RAAF Edinburgh, this year the Hornet was A21-112 from 75 Squadron, based out of RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory.

These photographs were taken from outside RAAF Edinburgh, capturing the Hornet returning from its display over Adelaide city. Weather was better than last year, but still fairly overcast.

Using the Canon EF 400mm f5.6L lens afforded some nice close up shots, the co-pilot can be seen looking in my direction in this shot.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (F/A-18B)

Although the 400mm prime is an extremely sharp, fast focusing lens, it isn’t the best choice for aviation photography due to its inflexibility. I’ll be hiring a Canon 100-400 f5.6L for the Parafield Airshow to provide better flexibility and maximise opportunities.

Touch down, taken through the fence.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (F/A-18B)

I look forward to capturing the Clipsal 500, hopefully from a new vantage point in 2013.

High Speed Photography: The Beginning

My first real introduction to photography outside of family snapshots was a Year 10, High School Photography class back 1993, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The most memorable topic from the class was an exercise in high speed photography, capturing the split second a smashed light globe begins to fracture.


Please excuse the quality of these scans, they’re scanned from rather small 17 year old black and white prints. I do still have the B&W negatives, however I don’t have access to an appropriate scanner to digitise the negatives.

The setup consisted of a 35mm film SLR mounted on a tripod in a photographic dark room with all lights off. An off-camera flash was used in conjunction with a sound activated flash trigger. The very brief pulse of light emitted from the flash provided the only source of light exposing the frame. A cable release was used to keep the camera’s shutter open whilst the light globe was smashed, the sound of which triggered the flash exposing the film, at which point the shutter could then be closed. With some adjusting of the sound activated trigger sensitivity effectively increasing or decreasing the trigger delay, the desired effect could be obtained, that is the light globe just beginning to shatter but still mostly intact.

For safety this took place in an enclosed area with black plastic surrounds to catch flying glass debris and appropriate protective eye-wear was worn.


Since this experience, I’ve always wanted to revisit this genre of photography. I find it fascinating capturing moments that are just simply far too quick to see normally. Having recently acquired a Canon 580EX II off-camera flash unit, I’m now in a position to start building up a high speed setup at home. In the coming months I’ll be building a microcontroller based high-speed flash trigger using an Arduino board.


I’ll be publishing my progress, experiments and all technical information here on this blog as I progress through the build.

Clipsal 500 – F/A-18 Hornet Air Display

Each year a series of small air displays form part of the off-track activities at the Clipsal 500, V8 Supercar race in Adelaide. This year the performances by ‘The Roulettes’, an elite formation acrobatic team from the Royal Australia Air Force (RAAF), were cancelled due the majority of the PC-9 fleet being grounded after an engine fire incident earlier in Februrary.

This left the performances up to a lone McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, undertaken by an Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) F/A-18B (B model being a two seater variant), flying out of RAAF base Edinburgh.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (F/A-18B)

The weather was absolutely terrible on Sunday, but I was determined to test out my new camera, a Canon 7D, on the Hornet returning to Edinburgh after it’s performances. I arrived at a vantage point on public land, which proved a popular spot amongst like minded aviation enthusiasts. With my RF Scanner tuned to the local Air Traffic Control (ATC) channel I had the advantage of remaining in the car out of the rain until I heard the Hornet radio ahead it’s imminent approach.

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (F/A-18B)

Attached to the camera was a Canon EF 400mm f5.6L lens and the camera was setup in Shutter Priority (Tv) mode such that I could specify a desired shutter speed of 1/1250 to adequately capture the fast moving aircraft. I haven’t had much opportunity to experiment with the 7D’s autofocus system yet, especially on fast moving subjects so I went for a conservative center grouped Zone AF setting, in AI Servo mode which I found to work really well overall even in the poor weather and light conditions.

Gallery is now live

Qantas Airbus A380

The Gallery is now live, containing a small initial batch of images. Additional images will be uploaded progressively over the next couple of weeks.

For those interested in the technical aspects of the gallery and its customisation, I’ll provide some additional details.
The gallery being used is Alex Rabe’s NextGEN Gallery WordPress plugin which has been heavily customised to suit my requirements.

A quick run down of the major customisations:

  • Descriptive Permalinks: Permalinks are constructed using the gallery and album names rather than the standard "ablum-<id>/gallery-<id>" nomenclature, providing more descriptive URLs as the album/gallery names by nature are descriptive. No modifications to the database schema were required for the implementation.
  • Breadcrumbs: All gallery pages contain a breadcrumb trail generated to provide quick links back to the current gallery, album or the root of the gallery.
  • View Counts: Album, Gallery and Image page views are counted and stored within the database. Counts are visible to administrators only and page views by administrators do not count towards the page view counts (required database schema update).
  • Descriptive Page Title Generation: All gallery pages are generated with descriptive page titles utilising the gallery and album names, also where applicable (imagebrowser) the title also contains the image headline/caption in the standard hierarchical design.
  • Singlepic Links to Imagebrowser: With all effects disabled, links generated via the use of the "[ singlepic ]" tag link to the corresponding imagebrowser URL of the target image. An example of this functionality is demonstrated in the Qantas A380 image displayed in this post, click on the image to browse to the full-sized imagebrowser URL displaying the image along with its associated metadata.
  • Imagebrowser: The imagebrowser view has been mostly rewritten, relocating the navigation controls and image counter. Also increased the use of image metadata to provide image headline/caption, description and location information. A subset of the important EXIF information is displayed on a single line, whilst the full EXIF metadata is hidden until the user clicks a “show full metadata” link which expands to reveal a table containing the full metadata. Image keywords are displayed in preparation for making the individual keywords links to search the entire gallery for image containing the specific keyword.
  • Imagebrowser Navigation: Originally navigation within a gallery from the imagebrowser via the previous and next links was circular (pressing previous on the first image links to the last image in the gallery and vice versa), this was disabled in favour of linear navigation where previous and next links are suppressed when the limits of the current gallery are reached.
  • IPTC Headline/Caption vs Title: Typically the IPTC 'Title' property is used as an image reference, for example source filename or historically a filing reference and is not synonymous with the IPTC 'Headline' property (sometimes referred to as 'Caption'). The 'Headline' property provides a brief description of the image, which is far more useful in the context of gallery page generation. Hence the use of the 'Title' property was replaced with 'Headline' to match my metadata workflow and provide more descriptive labels during page generation.
  • Minor SEO Improvements: Generation of img tags utilise ALT and TITLE attributes containing the image’s caption to assist search engines and associated crawlers.

All customisations were performed via modifications to the plugin PHP source, creation of NextGEN Gallery templates and style sheet, whilst modifications to the database schema where avoided unless completely necessary to assist compatibility with future plugin updates.

I have a number of other customisations and general improvements currently in the works, such as gallery search functionality and linking imagebrowser keywords to keyword searches, coming soon.

Welcome (site launch)

Welcome to my completely revamped website, which at time of writing is still very much in the early days of construction and is a work in progress.

My first priority is the customisation of gallery code and associated theme such that I can begin presenting my images on this site.  Once this is complete I’ll begin customising the sites overall theme.

The goal of this site is to consolidate my existing online galleries (snwau on: flickr and pBase), but also incorporate a blog detailing my photographic adventures and experiences, including a photo-blog (photo a week project – starting soon!) and other related information.

Over 12-months ago I had started a home project to roll my own PHP gallery, blog, etc. from scratch.  Whilst I made good progress and it was an interesting developmental exercise, I just never got the spare time to complete the project and deploy it into service.  I’ve just got too much on the go at the moment, so in 2011 I’ve decided to concentrate on just a couple of projects and quite possibly actually finish at least one :)

Well I best get back to my emacs window and get cracking on that gallery customisation.

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