So there I was, late September 2018. I did a final check of my gear, stuffed it all in my carrying bag and there I went, to the south of France.
Not the most ideal time of the year to visit the region, but with a bit of luck I could catch a nice overcast which would be perfect for the subject I was planning to shoot.
I got invited by Air France to take some shots of their restored and fully flinging Douglas DC3. Built in 1943 at Long Beach, California, with United States Army Air Force serial 42-23310.
A brief history of this particular plane:
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, towing a glider, she crossed the English Channel towards France. In the glider are paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division that would land around Sainte Mère-Église. During this mission she was hit by German fire (the impacts are still visible today). Throughout the Battle of Normandy, she provides numerous logistic flights from improvised airstrips and returned to the United Kingdom with wounded troops.
In late July 1944, she joined the Allied Forces North of Rome via Gibraltar, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Sardinia. On 15 August 1944, she supports the allied landing in the Provence. Again she is trailing a glider that lands near Draguignan. The following day she re-supplies the airborne troops behind the enemy lines when she makes parachute droppings of arms and ammunition.
Back in Britain she is deployed in Operation Market Garden on September 17, 1944, where she dropped elements of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. The next day she brings in a glider and on September 20, she performs airdrops to supply the troops on the ground.
It always feels special to view and feel a part of history. This is why I like old cities so much.
After I’d landed on Charles de Gaulle I decided to go for a cappuccino, as I had to wait for another our to meet my appointment.
As I looked through the panoramic airport Windows overviewing the airstrip, I noticed some clouds had gathered. Perfect for the shoot!
I decided to go for a vintage black and white or silver taint as it woud justify the mechanical feel of the DC3.
Somewhere behind me, I suddenly hear the vage sound of an alarm going off.
As I flash my eyes I find myself at home, in bed, on a normal work day. No France, no fancy shoot… Just a plane old every day Monday.
The reason I described the story is this: Not all photo’s have a cool story behind them. Nor do you need to get invited to a fancy location. No, for me it was just a standard Monday.
By Standard I mean a regular Monday at work, without any camera gear on me besides my iPhone X. Which, granted, I just got a couple of days before. The opportunity of the DC3 shoot was one of pure luck, during my lunchbreak at work, as we did our daily leg-stretching 3km walk.
So, this is what really happend:
On my drive to work, I pass the airstrip of Kempen Airport in Budel. The company where I work is located right next to it.
The road I drive passes the southern tip of the runway and provides an outlook over the entire airfield. It isn’t that big. The planes that fly there ar mostly single engined propellor crafts, some helicopter and a gyrocopter. The latter we see flying on a regular basis during our lunch walks. Presuming it’s for flying lessons or something rather.
Looking over the airstrip this time, however, next to one of the hangars I see a rather large plane (for Kempen Airport). It’s a Tail dragger with two engines. Could it be a DC3 I wonder? How cool would that be. I made up my mind to go check it out during lunch, hoping it would still be there by that time.
Talking to my colleague’s I notice I wasn’t the only one who spotted the plane. We all agree it has to be a DC3. We also agree on the fact that this is indeed a cool plane, and a rare sight besides that.
Some hours pass, and it’s finally lunch time
For some reason, instead of the usual group, I end up going for a walk with just one other colleague.
He, like me, also has a high interest in the DC3, so we decide to go straight to the airports parking lot to see if we can get a glimpse of the aircraft.
Where in luck because she happens to be parked just a couple of meters from the fence!
As we start shooting as much pictures as we can, from all the angles that are possible with a fence right in front of us, we start to discuss wether or not we should go inside and ask if we can get a closer look. Since our company holds seminars in the cafeteria of the airport on a regular basis, our company name well known there. With this in mind we decide to go for it.
As we enter the airport, we decide to go to the flight forum. The lady at the counter agrees on walking around the plane as long as we don’t touch anything. Allright!!
We look at the clock, lunch break will last another 20 minutes.. Time to get cracking.
As we start moving around the aircraft trying different angles to get the perfect shot, a French gentleman pops his head out of the read door of the DC3. In his best English, he asks if we want to come aboard and take some pictures of the cock pit.
1 second later we are standing inside the DC3, which, as a surprise to me looks more modern than I’d expected.
Inside, some people are in the couple of seats available. One of them looks like a pilot, there are some lady’s and an other gentlemen. They look up, and greet us with a short nod, and continue their conversation.
As I learn later from the French gentleman, the DC3 got refitted a couple of times over the years. The one thing that was still as it started out, is the cockpit.
We point at the cockpit and ask the French gentleman if it’s ok to enter. “Oui, Oui,.. Yes!” He replies. He follows us into the cockpit and points at the production shield, showing the aircrafts serial number and build date. “She flew market Garden” I hear the Frenchman say with some proudness in his voice. Thats impressive! I reply. We truly are inside a piece of history.
As it’s a small place to stand and get everything on camera, me and my colleague take turns on taking pictures. We make sure we get all the gauges, and a “pilot’s view” out of those famous windows. As we both decide we got all angles covered, me and my colleague decide it’s time to go back to the office and leave this remarkable plane behind.
On our way out, we thank everybody onboard for this amazing opportunity and greet the French gentlemen in particular. He smiles and bids us a farewell.
Once outside the plane, we take some final pictures before walking back to the flightforum. We wave at the personnel on duty, head through the main entrance and over the parking lot. Looking once more to our right towards the hangar parking grounds and take a finale glance at the DC3.
Back at the office, we share our experience with our colleagues.
So there you have it. What started out as a normal Monday turned out to be a memory of a lifetime. I’m almost sure this won’t happen to me ever again.
As the sherry on the pie, I got some amazing pictures out of it.
The lesson I learned from that day? Carpe Diem 🙂
Until the next opportunity!