Worked example: the making of "O for Oboe takes a hit". 460 Squadron RAAF Lancaster ND968, AR-O lurches violently into a downward spiral after being hit over Alsace by another Lanc, which falls away to its doom.
Along with other bombers, this crew had climbed above their briefed altitude to escape thick cloud and bad turbulence on their way to attack Munich on 7 January 1945.
The picture was commissioned for a BBMF journal. The finished version is available to purchase as prints and canvases.
I also already had a Lancaster photograph at just the sort of angle I wanted, from the starboard rear quarter and a little below. What took the time was figuring out how to take this splendid machine and rip it open.
I worked on the ailerons and flaps first, creating just enough of the internal mechanism in Photoshop to enable it to be seen through torn fabric and metal, then using what is known as the warp tool to twist it out of alignment, and using the built-in brushes to rip the edges of the metal. While awful to contemplate in real life, this was rather enjoyable to do on screen.
The last time I visited the BBMF at RAF Coningsby I had taken a couple of photographs of the interior of their Lancaster, PA474. So I knew what it looked like – but from the wrong angle to use in my compilation.
Happily I was able to get their publications editor, Clive Rowley, who had commissioned the picture, to go and stick his camera in from the rear crew door to give me a better idea of the required perspective.
Once I had it clearer in my mind's eye, I then basically built the various pieces of equipment either by adapting the pictures to hand or simply creating elements from scratch - such as the outer and inner parts of the H2S radome, the ribs that frame the aircraft, and the pipework, wires, ammo boxes and runs.
During this whole process I realised that the damage must have gone through the main joint between the centre and rear sections of the aircraft, which forms a ring just aft of the mid-upper turret. No wonder the tail was swaying.
The "G" suffix that ND968's serial number at the time was a security symbol: it carried the secret AGLT radar equipment on the rear turret, codenamed "Village Inn".
From my point of view this presented essentially another, smaller radome and mounting brackets, and I simply painted these on between and below the spent ammunition chutes on the FN-121 turret with its four Browning .303 machine guns. I made a point of checking that "Oboe" did not have the later, Rose turret with its two heavier weapons.
And then – it was night time. With these wartime operation pictures there just is no satisfactorily realistic way to portray a black aircraft at night so that you can see anything.
Before starting work I had checked that my Artistic Licence permit was still current so, under the pretext that there was quite a lot of moonlight, I splashed light onto the airframe in such a way as to highlight key aspects of the outline.
My rationale for being able to see the interior at all, having done so much work to create it, was that the moonbeams were coming in through the dinghy hatches and gun turret on the top of the fuselage.
Ironically, when the publication's art director got hold of it, they boosted the light quite dramatically, as you can see:
Click here for the final caption and for information on prints.