Power Boat Photography with RAF High Speed Launch 102

September 20, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Power Boat Photography

I have always had a passion for Power Boat Photography and jumped at the opportunity to photograph RAF High Speed Launch 102 on the Solent this September.  In my younger years, I built and raced sea going radio controlled model power boats.  One of these models was a RAF Launch similar to HSL 102, so now I had the chance to see the real thing in action.  

RAF High Speed Launch 102

HSL 102, was commissioned in 1936 and is the only boat of the 100 class to survive. Capable of speeds up to 40 knots and initially powered by three Napier Sealand engines. Currently, HSL 102 is powered by two 1200 hp diesel engines. Length 64 ft, Beam 14 ft, Draught 3.5 ft with a displacement of 13.5 tons.  The design was inspired by Hubert Scott-Paine, racing boat designer along with Aircraftsman T E Shaw (better known as Lawrence of Arabia). HSL 102 is owned and operated by the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust.

Power Boat Photography in Action

The weather for the morning shoot was dull and grey and as we all know in these conditions the sky is grey, the sea is grey, not the most appealing setting.  However, I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted to come away with, which is the launch travelling at speed generating lots of spray. Some of the cloud formations looked very dark and ominous presenting a moody scene.  I am quite happy with these cloud formations as with a bit of post processing dramatic images can be achieved.

I took the pictures from another boat that accompanied HSL 102 into the Solent.  HSL 102 made several high speed passes across the stern and on both sides presenting many aspects of the launch to photograph. The water was sufficiently choppy and with our launch also running fast, hanging on and composing the shot proved most challenging.  This is one of those occasions where a high percentage of my images find their way into the trash can!  During the shoot the weather conditions changed presenting a backdrop of soft warm lighting plus a blue sky mixed with white clouds.

I came away with a great sense of satisfaction and pretty sure I had got the images I wanted.  I must admit the sight of RAF High Speed Launch 102 speeding towards me throwing up lots of spray and at times disappearing from view was a 'WOW' factor moment which I shall remember for some time.

Organisation

This is the only place you can photograph RAF High Speed Launch 102 at a reasonable cost plus the prospect of producing good action images.  The event was organised by Neil Cave of Time Line Events, who, apart from this outing, organises many other heritage events.  I suggest you have a look at Neil's website which offers something for photographers of all levels.  The event was well organised and I look forward to attending more of Neil's photo shoots.

Equipment Used

I used both of my Nikon D4 camera bodies with Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 afs and 70-200 f2.8 afs VR lenses.  Shutter speed all at 1/800 sec, aperture f5 and f8 as required with ISO ranging from 125-500.  I shot all images in RAW.  There is one image I shot with my Nikkor 300 f2.8 VR, No. 2295, but stability of the boat/lens combination was too challenging, so I discarded this setup.  The focal length of lenses used was quite sufficient for this event.

Results

A selection of images are shown below.  Further images can be seen here on my website.

RAF Launch HSL 102 in the Solent. 1557RAF High Speed Launch 102 forging through the stormy waters in the Solent, off Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK

RAF HSL 102 image No. 1557

RAF High Speed Launch 102 in the Solent. 0140RAF High Speed Launch 102 crashing through the rough seas in the Solent

RAF  HSL 102 image No.0140

RAF Launch HSL 102 in the Solent. 0216RAF High Speed Launch 102 forging through the stormy waters in the Solent, off Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK

RAF HSL 102 image No. 0216​

Close up shot of RAF Launch HSL 102 in the Solent. 2295Close up shot of RAF High Speed Launch 102 in the Solent, Portsmouth, UK

Close up shot of RAF102 image No. 2295

RAF Launch HSL 102 in the Solent. 0176RAF High Speed Launch 102 highlighted against a warm sky whilst cruising in the Solent RAF HSL 102 image No. 0176

RAF Launch HSL 102 at full speed in the Solent. 3204RAF High Speed Launch 102 passes by one of the forts in the Solent, Portsmouth, UK RAF HSL 102 image No. 3204

RAF Launch HSL 102 in the Solent. 0353RAF High Speed Launch 102 crashing through the rough seas in the Solent, Portsmouth, UK

RAF HSL 102 image No. 0353

RAF Launch HSL 102 in the SolentRAF High Speed Launch 102 in the Solent crashing through a choppy sea RAF HSL 102 image No. 0137


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