Monday, 19 May 2014

Kjell Brattfors - Antonov An-2 - Sweden

(By clicking on the first image it is possible to view all images as a slideshow)

A few weeks ago, along with a group of aircraft buffs (I hope they won't mind me calling them that!) I took a mad day-trip to Sweden on what was a beautiful Spring day. My intention was to blog this visit as soon as I could upon my return but knowing I had a few matters going on at the same time, including the second week of my Open Studios event, it was going to be a bit of a tall order to complete it. Needless to say, the usual syndrome hit - if it isn't blogged straight away then it gets more and more difficult to get it done. New priorities usually take over and sadly, there have been posts such as this which have fallen by the wayside in this way in the past, not least my visits to Mildenhall and Lakenheath airbases which I made with the very same group. This time, I was determined not to let it pass by and here, a little later than planned, is my 'not such an aircraft buff' view of one aspect of our day. (My apologies to those who have been waiting for this post) The other part of the day may at some point, be afforded the same attention...
I hope!

What a welcome at Kattleberg Airfield. The beautiful weather...

...the inviting club house with a view to envy, quirky touches and..
 amazing host - Kjell Brattfors (pronounced Shell)

I may not understand a whole lot about aeroplanes, even though I married into a family where the aircraft industry was an important part of life but what I did understand was that Kjell has a passion. A passion for his own aircraft - an Antonov An-2, and a passion for his own little Kattleberg Airfield, nestled in a spectacular swathe cut through an otherwise wooded area about 30 miles outside Gothenberg. This beautifully kept tarmac airstrip was not only home to Kjell, his house being at the eastern end with a view down the runway but it was also home to his colourful beast of a machine LY-ABK, a Russian-built An-2. The look of this single-engine bi plane was deceptive as it appeared more vintage than its actual years. Having had a production-run of 18,000+ over 45 years, some of the later produced aircraft, including this one, were not as old as could be expected.

Tucked away inside a large open-fronted hangar, Kjell proudly showed us his shiny yellow, red and blue An-2 and we couldn't fail to be impressed. Answering the raft of questions that everyone had, he was happy to point out the shiny silver exhaust pipe sweeping back and down from the right hand side. To me, this looked nothing unexpected but the others knew it was non standard. This was a modification that Kjell had made, and so successful it was in preventing the fuselage becoming spattered in engine oil as well as, more importantly, increasing the efficiency of the engine, he had put it into small batch production. Here was someone who clearly knew what he was doing.

As conversation became incomprehensibly technical, I happily went about acquainting myself with this impressive machine. Although appreciating the skill of those who have learnt to fly I just have to admit that everything but the sat-nav in the cockpit is double-dutch to me. As for the knobs and dials, well I had no chance of understanding, but then neither would anyone else who wasn't up to speed with Russian.

However, what I could appreciate were the beautiful shapes and forms, curves and rivet patterns. I happily absorbed the beauty of this beast, enjoying the odd smile of amusement along the way. The others were also being taken by this beast, judging by the strokes of admiration that were being sneaked.

If it wasn't enough to have one of these Russian work-horses-of-a-plane, Kjell had a second one tucked away at the far end of the runway, with this one certainly not hiding its Russian heritage. From what I understand, this second An-2 was to be used for parts, although in some ways it would be a shame to do anything to it as the fading sign writing and the original interior had a charm and character all of its own.

As we all ambled back along the runway, carrying out an impromptu FOD patrol and enjoying the clear Swedish Spring skies, I thought about what I had gleaned (as a non-buff) from my visit. I admire the passion and drive which people such as Kjell possess. I am always amazed by the mine of information that this group of friends have on board. I have learnt a little about Antonov An-2s. I enjoy new and different opportunities and experiences such as these. I like Sweden, even after such a small taster. I would be quite happy to return to and stay in Kattleberg to appreciate the tranquillity of the place (and perhaps have a chance to enjoy the sauna I spied tucked away in the corner of the club house!)

I think that is reason enough to feel that mad days out such as these are exciting and worthwhile, and hope that my blog, an observational view rather than a technical spec piece does justice to it all.
I must thank all those who organised everything both at the UK end and in Sweden and also the one who cared to invite both myself and himself along. Most of all here, I would like to thank Kjell.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Escape to West Cork

It is the time for our annual May break in West Cork and I can't say how much I have been waiting to get back out here for an escape, after the many things that have been happening during recent weeks.
Our regular, if today, rather bracing walk around the Head blew away the cobwebs and we were once again able to sit and take in the beautiful views, the wonderful colours and the delights of watching gannets diving for fish, just off the rocks ahead of us.

I had simply gone out, armed only with my 24-105 lens and no filters, so the stunning colours are purely as seen.
Could it be any better? Well yes, if the wind would just calm down a bit, there might be the possibility of spotting a minke whale or two off the coast, or maybe even a basking shark, which are currently known to be in the area.
We can but hope.

As well as the stunning scenery, the fresh new growth is taking shape along the verges - the majestic gunnera, the wild garlic, and best of all, the first jewel-like glimpses of the flower of West Cork, the fuchsia.

Ahhhh! I can breathe again.


If you too would like to escape and enjoy the delights of West Cork whilst learning the basics of photography, I am announcing that I hope to be running exclusive short breaks in the Autumn.
Details are to be finalised, but if this appeals to you, please do register your interest and I can forward the information as it becomes available.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

International Dawn Chorus Day 2014

'Grainy' screen-grab start to the day for the dawn chorus!

It was 4.30am and my iPhone was gently playing 'slow rise' from underneath my pillow. As I came to, I remembered why I had set my alarm so early. Today is International Dawn Chorus Day when everyone is encouraged to 'celebrate nature's daily miracle'.

Whilst there were dawn chorus walks planned all over the country I opted for the lazy way to enjoy the wonderful birdsong, by staying on my home patch, which also meant I could stay in my PJs. Living in a town, it could be thought that birds won't perform with as much gusto as they might out in the countryside but I had no worries this morning. The birds were already well into their performance by the time I had stepped over the perplexed mutt and visiting friend, sleeping in the kitchen. Out into the back garden, the light was just increasing in the east whilst in the west, the sky was still the wonderful deep blue. I set up my camera on the wall and recorded several short burst of birdsong, in the end choosing just a 45 second recording to post here.

For those who weren't up early enough this morning to enjoy their local performance, here is what I enjoyed at 4.40 this morning, in our sleepy north Essex town. So sit back, turn up the volume, click on the link below and enjoy!

As I said, I opted for the lazy way to take part in the International Dawn Chorus Day - which meant creeping back to bed for a few more hours, just as the morning light was streaming in through the curtains and the unmelodious, wood pigeon late-comers began their coo-coooo-cooing.
Was it worth the early start? Absolutely!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Open Studio - Weekend 2

The second weekend of the Saffron Walden Open Studios is almost upon us so I am dusting off the tables, adjusting the flowers and stocking up on greeting cards in the rack. I'm pleased to say there has been a lot of interest in the print of the image above and it is still for sale, as well as the now well recognised print of the Golden Hour over Saffron Walden but who is to say they won't be snapped up in the opening hours.

Please don't be afraid to drop in on Saturday or Sunday, when my door will be open again from 11am to 6pm. All the location details are available via this link

Look forward to seeing you all.