Once in a while it all comes together. Magnificent aircraft. A well-flown display. A truly beautiful backdrop. And a perfect elevated and accessible viewpoint. That is how it was on this day.
It was practice day for an Airshow at Williamtown Airfield, just North of Newcastle on the New South Wales coast.
Williamtown is a shared airfield. One side is the resident East Coast base for Australia’s force of F/A 18 Hornet jets. It is also home to basic fast jet training and the Classic Hornet operational conversion program. Across the runway is the home of civil aviation and Newcastle domestic airport.
My day of spotting was to be full of action at the air base, as a fortunate guest of the Royal Australian Air Force and their media unit. A feast of exciting aircraft being flown how they were built to be flown. Hours and hours of action on a beautiful spring day.
This opportunity was the fruit borne of weeks and months of effort to arrange access to the best view of the flying. Perseverance was rewarded with a place on the airfield with the media for a long afternoon spotting.
But there was more to this day. It was one of the most unique and privileged spotting opportunities I have experienced, and an opportunity which will probably never be repeated.
On this particular morning I was heading not for the air base, but for Tomaree Headland at the entrance to the waters of nearby Port Stephens, about 20 minutes drive from Williamtown.
On arrival at the car park I hoisted my gear onto my back and tackled the short and steep path to the top of the headland. Once at the top I was met with a magnificent view of the bay entrance, and out over the Pacific Ocean.
This spot is known as a place to view the migration of whales along the East Coast of Australia. It is also home to many species of birds. And I was soon joined by a few tourists and nature spotters.
But on this morning, a completely different display was about to appear.
I had a tip that the effort to get to the top of Tomaree Headland would be well rewarded. And rewarded I was.
A silver glint in the corner of my vision hinted at the arrival of what I had come here for. Focussing my lens revealed the familiar outline of a pair of vintage jet fighters, slipping between the headlands to the freedom of the coastal airspace.
Moments later whales, birds and nice views were all but forgotten among the small group of spectators, as a Meteor f.8 and CAC Avon Sabre turned in on our viewpoint for twenty minutes of smooth and graceful display practice with a background of beaches, steep headlands and glistening ocean.
I was very familiar with these two jets. I had been watching and photographing them for a couple of years, as they are stars in the collection of Temora Aviation Museum, in the Central West region of New South Wales.
Amazing as that collection and these two jets are, this was a special moment. The opportunity to photograph these aircraft away from their home base is rare, but routine enough in an Airshow setting. However the chance to see and photograph a Meteor and Sabre from a viewpoint like this and against such a magnificent backdrop is unlikely to be repeated.
I feel blessed to have made this unique record, seen by only a handful of nature watchers, and captured by me alone. And I am grateful to have the chance to share it in these pages. Enjoy!
Peter Chrismas is a life-long photographer and aviation enthusiast. He lives in the Blue Mountains, Australia.
Equipment used to make these pictures was Nikon D700 with an early model 300mm f2.8 AF Nikkor lens.
The photographer would like to acknowledge the generous assistance and encouragement by the flyers, staff and volunteers at Temora Aviation Museum, as well as the gracious help of the RAAF media unit.