Bye Bye Barbarella

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The Retirement of Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747 ‘Barbarella’

I was rather hoping this may just be a small gathering of families, plane spotters and a few photographers but no, the fact that we were immediately directed to the overflow carpark told me it was already very busy.  Another thing that surprised me was that alongside the previously mentioned people were pilots, cabin crew and other people who had previously worked onboard or with this aircraft all there to bid farewell to their queen of the sky.

I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a few former crew members and it was clear they had an emotional attachment to this aircraft and for them it sounded as though, for them, this was the equivalent of a colleague retiring and someone they would dearly miss.

For me however, the attachment was that I had flown on one of Virgins 747s to Florida last year and we had a great time doing so. I can’t remember the  name of the aircraft though, so it could well have been Barbarella.

July 2018
Manchester Airport

Trying to get a good vantage point to view the plane was going to be difficult as there was many people there before me, but I saw that others where standing on their seats or even climbing to the top of the children’s playground structures trying to get an uninterrupted view. But that would likely end in catastrophe for me so I made do with the view from my bench, which wasn’t a bad one.

Departure was scheduled for 12 noon and sure enough around she came from the airport terminal and headed directly towards the crowds at the runway visitor park. What was funny is that as the plane was approaching us from the terminal, it was partially obscured by one of the airport side buildings and to me, the top section  looked like a whale who’s body and dorsal fin was just sticking through the top of the water. See what you think?

So as the pilots steadily approached, they kindly stopped directly Infront of us to allow the crowd to take pictures of the soon to be retired 747. Word on the ground was that the aircraft was heading to Heathrow to have all four engines changed before being returned to the leasing company, which was apparently part of their lease agreement, I don’t know if this is true but it’s sounds interesting at the least, so I’ll gladly go along with it.

After around 5 minutes they moved on past the grey hanger to our right which houses Concorde and down towards the bottom end of the runway where they would again pause for a few minutes, out the way I might add, still allowing other aircraft to land and depart.

The crew then slowly headed back around towards us stopping on a couple of further occasions to let the large crowd take further pictures.

I’m not in anyway a plane enthusiast but I do like to look at, admire and travel on these huge iron birds, well when I say travel, anybody who knows me will tell you that I hang on for dear life, almost drowning in my own sweat I get so nervous. If you have saw the scene from the comedy film “Airplane” when the pilot is coming in for landing and violently sweating, this will give you some idea of what I am like. Although, I must say,  the older I’m getting, the less nervous I’ve become.

On Many Occasions I think to myself how is it possible for these huge aircraft to even leave the ground. I do find the physics of it all fascinating and have a vague idea of how aerodynamics work  but even so, it seems like it shouldn’t be possible. Obviously the four massive engines help to propel this beast forward and keep it airborne providing many thousands of pounds of thrust. There is something quite reassuring about the aircraft your flying in having so many engines. 

So as the crew wave to us all from the flight deck, the engines spool up and the Boeing aircraft creeps off heading for her departure runway which would be 23R. 

While all this was going on, a few other aircraft had landed and taken off but not many people seemed to notice this, much to the the displeasure of a Qatar airways plane who, after landing, toured past Barbarella’s crowd, pilots waving trying to steal the lime light.

There was also a fast approaching, dark grey cloud which was heading straight for us and wouldn’t it be typical for it to rain just as the main event was happening. I’m glad to report however, that the cloud past by on the far side of of the airport and didn’t spoil the fun.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, you could hear the distinctive roar of four jet engines throttling up and she was off down the runway. To my surprise it left the ground a lot earlier up the runway than I expected, but I suppose this was because there were no passengers or luggage on board and possibly not full with fuel as they were only going down the road to London Heathrow.

And as quick as that, she was airborne. Retracting her undercarriage and legging it down the road. This was not the end of the show however, the pilots would say one final goodbye in the form of a ‘wing wave’ where they gently rock the plane from side to side dipping their wings on their ascent out of Manchester.

I did capture one final picture which tells a great story all by itself.

One retired airplane that is Concorde, who been there, done that and got the free bus pass and the other…..Barbarella who is just starting her journey to retirement.

A few facts about Barbarella.
  • Entered service in 2001
  • Costs in the region of 265 million US dollars
  • Seating capacity – 455
  • Carries more than 57,000 gallons of fuel
  • 8357 miles maximum range
  • Wingspan – 211ft
  • Length – 231ft
  • Height – 68ft
  • Crusing Speed – 565mph
29th December 2014 Barbarella made an emergency landing at London Gatwick Airport due to a landing gear malfunction shortly after take off. The flight was heading to Las Vegas and had over 440 passengers and crew onboard forcing the pilot had to land the plane with a damaged undercarriage.

New York City

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30 sec, 14mm, iso200, f9

The Reason For This Trip

July 2020 will be our 10 year wedding anniversary and as a treat to ourselves, we thought we would book a few days away in New York City, just the two of us. The Big Apple is a place that was on both of our bucket lists and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.


I Am Not Rambo

Now, obviously I was always going to take my camera with me on this trip as I couldn’t possibly travel all that way and leave it behind. That said, I must remember this is not a photography trip and under no circumstances am I to get carried away clicking that shutter button and acting like the photography equivalent of Rambo, firing off shot after shot capturing everything that catches my eye as this could become annoying for my wife. However, there was an agreement in place that I could go and take this one photograph without consequence, the shot of the Lower Manhattan Skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Its an image I’ve seen many times before and is probably one of the classics, but no matter how many times I see it, my reaction is always the same…..WOW! So for this reason If I only had one shot left in my camera, this would be the one!

My Vision

I wanted to capture this scene at sunset by using a long exposure just as the city lights started to illuminate. This would allow me to add extra interest to the buildings in the form of lit office windows whilst still capturing the hopefully colourful sunset sky, also smoothing out the water and adding movement to the clouds.

The groines in the foreground are, I’m led to believe, the remains of the old Pier One which once stood proudly on the river bank and are a perfect addition to this image.

Dumbo, Brooklyn

Having taken a very easy tube ride from Times Square in Manhattan to Brooklyn. We arrived around 3 hours before sunset and immediately headed for the local beverage establishment. Not for an alcoholic drink but for a warm coffee as it was starting to get cold. This was expensive! and too posh for us but no matter, we were determined to get this image…….when i say we, what I actually meant was me.


1/500sec, 12mm, iso 800, f8

Our route would take us past the very popular Dumbo instagram shot of the cobble stone street with the Manhattan Bridge in the background framing the Empire State Building. This location is even listed on Google Maps as ‘Insta gold’ believe it or not.

Take a look…….Manhattan Bridge Instagold, 15 Washington St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States

It was packed! Trying to get a clean shot was difficult but with patience, I managed to get one or two that I was happy with.

1/250sec, 40mm, iso 800, f8


The location I wanted to shoot from was in the Brooklyn Bridge Park, or more specifically, Pier one. It’s right on the banks of the East River offering excellent views of Lower Manhattan and the Manhattan Bridge. You can also see the Statue of liberty from here too.


60sec, 13mm, iso 640, f10

Although I knew what image I wanted to go home with, this didn’t stop me trying to capture something different from what I had seen before and I think I achieved it with this next image. The huge boulders made a great base for the image whilst the long piece of driftwood made a fantastic leading line towards the groines, then onto the buildings in the background. The only thing lacking was a decent sky. It was very dull and overcast with the threat of rain but no matter, I was still enjoying myself and I was just very grateful for having the opportunity just to stand there.

60sec, 13mm, iso 640, f10

How I Captured This Image

So, I as I illuded to earlier, a long exposure was the way I wanted to go with this image. Firstly, I attached my camera to the tripod and framed up my shot being careful not to cut the tops of the buildingsout of the image. I then switched to manual focus and focused on the buildings in the background as these would be the main subject of my image. I use manual focus to make sure that the camera doesn’t change focus points between shots. I then screwed my trusty 10 Stop Hoya Pro ND Filter on the front of my Olympus 12-40mm lens therefore extending my shutter speed to 30-60 seconds which would give me the smooth water I desired. Then It would just be a case of setting the shutter on a 2 second timer to eliminate any camera shake when pressing the shutter button, which could blur the image, and take shots as the light changes.

Printing My Image

I’m very pleased with the images I came away with that night, yes, I would have liked a better sky but sometimes you just have to take what your given and at least it didn’t rain.

Weirdly, it was the earlier image taken an hour or so before sunset which was my favourite and this is the one I decided to hang on my wall. I’m not sure why I preferred this one when I had my heart set on the sunset image but photography can be a funny thing sometimes.


I had recently bought a Canon IP8750 printer and this would be the first image that I would print at home. My paper of choice was a sheet of A4 lustre, a middle of the road conventional size and finish and because I didn’t want anything to fancy or expensive for my first round of prints incase I made any mistakes.

It now hangs proudly on my wall and brings back great memories of a fantastic trip.

Sunrise Photography From Cwm Idwal In The Snowdonia National Park

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This would be the dramatic mountains and lake of Cwm Idwal.
‘Cwm’ which is Welsh for ‘valley‘ and ‘Idwal’ Which stands for ‘Lord of the wall‘ is located in the northern area of the Snowdonia National Park in Wales.
Conveniently, there is a National Trust public car park on the A5 near Llyn Ogwen, which is also the start of the Cwm Idwal walking trail.
For me however, I would only be going as far as the lake its self which is about a 15min walk from the car park and being a person who likes to be economical with my energy, this would provide outstanding scenery for not a lot of effort.

Sticky Out Tree and A Waterfall

    29mm, f9, iso 640, 1/100 sec

Immediately at the foot of the trail, I was greated by a fast flowing, tall waterfall. I was able to cross the falls easily thanks to a small bridge but, amazingly, what grabbed my attention in this caotic scene was a small tree, sticking out from the rocky bank above the water with the amazing, slightly snowy mountains in the background. With images of single trees like this, I prefer to have seperation between the tree and the background so they don’t overlap and blend into one another. I had my camera as low as possible, nearly touching the ground to achieve this shot.
It is also very important not to overexpose the highlights as there is nothing worse than getting back to your computer and finding that the sky has no detail and your left with just a white empty space where the sky once was. Exposure bracketing would be a great way to ensure you capture all the detail you need, but it will require software blending later on.

24mm, f9, iso640, 1/100 sec

*exposure bracketing is when you take a shot that your camera thinks is the correct exposure for the scene, but then also taking extra shots under and over exposing. I take 5 exposures which consists of -2 stops, -1 stops, correct exposure, +1 stops, +2 stops.

Llyn Idwal

The weather was predicted to be dry all over Wales this morning but this wasn’t the case. The rain and wind had seemingly followed me from Merseyside.
The path is made up mainly of rocks and the ground was very saturated so a decent pair of waterproof footwear was essential, I must get some for next time!
As I reach the lake edge, with wet hiking shoes, I struggled to catch my breath, not from the walk up, but from the shere beauty of view that greated me. A vast lake surrounded by spectacular tall mountains shrouded in cloud and it was just one of them moments where you can’t help but stand and stare.



A Compromise

I was instantly drawn to a group of large boulders at the water’s edge and thought these would be a great foreground for a long exposure. However, due to the strong wind and patchy rain, all my images either came out blurred or were ruined by rain drops on the lens. So instead I would have to make do with handheld, high shutter speed images which would freeze the movement in the water, but ensure a sharp image.
With the day being dull, I needed to bump my iso up quite high in order to maintain the depth of field I wanted and to obtain my target shutter speed of 1/100sec. Iso 1000 infact.
Never be afraid of uping your iso to get a faster shutter speed as it’s better to have grainy pictures than blurry ones in my opinion.
There were many others shots to be had at the lake but due to the time wasted waiting for the weather to pass, I would have to save them for next time.


A few handheld shots from the path on the way back down.






Andrew’s At It Again

As I look at my images in Photoshop, I can’t help but create another reflection image, to see what it might have looked like if the water was flat calm. Have I mentioned that I love reflections. I’m clearly addicted to them.



This trip turned out to be little more than a breathtaking scouting mission where I say Wow! And Awesome! a lot.
I certainly didn’t get any award winning images that’s for surebut it was a fantastic experience none the less.
I did attempt to explore a bit in the opposite direction to the lake where I spotted a couple of smaller waterfalls, but quickly abandoned it as there was no clear path and the ground was very boggy.
I’ve also now made a mental note of many compositions I’ve seen which will definitely make it easier next time. This also gives me a great excuse to come back again one day.