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SHARP LOOP


Maybe the name Mark Jayne doesn´t sound familiar to you but if one mentions MJAviation, Mach Loop will immediately cross your mind. Like no one else before him, Mark Jayne contributed to the popularity of Mach Loop, not only through his spectacular photographs but also through detailed information on how and where to obtain these kinds of photographs for anyone who is interested.

Mach Loop is probably the most popular low-level training area for the military aircrafts in the world. The region is located within the Low Flying Area LFA 7, Cad West. This place is known as a “must see” for the spotters, and if you decide to go, you will need an excellent photography equipment and good physical shape.

For those like me, who haven´t seen Mach Loop, it is difficult to imagine the high speed jets combing the grass, the sound raising with increasing G´s and the condensation trails left in the air. My friend, Daniel Guerra, who went there a few months ago, told me that Mach Loop it´s a paradise of silence and nature until the first jet appears.

The popularity of Mach Loop in the world of Spotting is proportional with the progress of digital photography and social networks. There are thousands of photos that offer us a glimpse of this world but very few that give us a real feel of the action. Mark Jayne has the outstanding ability to place the viewer in the scene. Through his detailed photographs one can sense the concentration, the adrenaline and the steady hands of the pilots… well, just the pilot’s because the copilot is usually sightseeing and taking his own photographs.

Photographers from all over the world pilgrimage to Wales to take pictures of a Tornado veiling in a layer of condensation with the perplexed sheep in the background. These are photographs of high impact which harmoniously combine the calm scenery with the immense power of these large machines.

In my opinion Marks´ work stands out through his 600 mm close-ups. The 600 mm shots achieved with the Nikon D800E are excellent. I must mention the sharpness of his photographs and the high level of detail showing even the smallest screw. I enjoyed Daniel´s comment on a photo of Mark´s saying “that´s not spotting, that´s spying!!”… of course, after seeing the photograph, it seemed accurate.

It is not an easy job. The jets fly low and allow attractive but unusual angles to be photographed. The speeds go up to 800 km/h and this requires nerves of steel and promptness, otherwise all the photos will end up in the trash, even with a good pivoted support like Mark´s Gimbal.

Unfortunately spotters turned up late to document the Mach Loop trainings. The trainings peaked during the Cold war when over 80 fighters flew daily. Nowadays the numbers have been reduced to 20 per day. The great prize would have been the F-4 Phantom, F-111, or the Vulcan meandering through the valleys. Currently it is common to see Tornados, Typhoons, F15s, Hercules, Hawks, A10s, Chinooks, Lynx, Apache, Alphas… we shall see how the A400M and the F35 will perform in the future.

The circuit lasts no more than three minutes. On top of being a photographical show it is a method for RAF and his ally to train to achieve radar invisibility. Since the fall of U-2 from 60.000 feet due to a Russian rocket, the strategy had to be radically changed given that the untouchability of Vulcan could no longer be guaranteed. The new strategy involves flying as low as possible. The Mach Loop trainings are now limited to 250 feet (75 meters! a 20-storey building!)

I recommend a tour on Mark´s website, http://www.mjaviation.co.uk/. It will not be boring: the information is well structured and you are going to find not only pictures of Mach Loop but also photographs of civil aviation air shows in UK which are the envy of Europe, and bases like Lakenheath, Cottersmore, Cosford… you can also follow Mark on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube.

Now it is time to see my selection of his photographs:


↑ Panavia Tornado GR4 at the Bwlch Exit 7/10/10. Shot using a Nikon D3 dSLR & 600mm f4 VR. 1/1250th @ f6.3 ISO250
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ 2 Squadron Tornado GR4. Bwlch, Mach Loop. Nikon D800E & 600mm f4 VR lens.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Royal Air Force – Tornado GR4. Bwlch, Mach Loop. Nikon D800E & 600mm f4 VR lens.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Finnish Air Force – Hawk Mk51. Bwlch, Mach Loop. Nikon D800E & 600mm f4 VR lens.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Rock Horns’ – A WSO of a Tornado GR4 enjoying his ride by the looks of it. Nikon D800E & 600mm/f4 VR
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Panavia Tornado GR4 heads in for Cad West, HDR processed using Photomatix Pro 3.2
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Royal Saudi Air Force – Eurofighter Typhoon. Bluebell, Mach Loop. Nikon D800E & 600mm f4 VR lens.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ 41 Squadron Tornado GR4. Shot from the Snakepit (Mach Loop) using a Nikon D800E & 600mm f4 VR lens.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ ’30 Year Special Tail’ Tornado GR4 (ZA401) at the Bwlch Exit (Mach Loop). Shot using a Nikon D3 dSLR & 600mm f4 VR.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Army Air Corps Apache AH-64 Gunship – Cad West 25/5/12. Nikon D3 & 600mm f4 VR.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ USAF Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawks – LFA7 (Not Mach Loop) 24/5/12. Nikon D3 & 300mm f2.8 VR.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ USAF F15E Strike Eagle at Cad West. Shot using a Nikon D3 dSLR, 300mm f2.8 VR & x1.4tc teleconverter. 1/1000th @ f4.5 ISO200
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Harrier GR9 – Cad West (Mach Loop) – Nikon D3 & 600mm f4 VR.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Eurofighter Typhoon – Bluebell (Mach Loop) 27/3/12. Nikon D3 & 600mm f4 VR.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Fairchild A10C Thunderbolt II from 81st Fighter Squadron. Cad West 15/8/11. Shot with a Nikon D3 & 600mm f4 VR lens.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Hercules C-130 at Cad West 9/6/11. Shot with a Nikon D3 & 600mm f4 VR lens. 1/100th @ f18 ISO250
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ BAe Harrier GR9. Shot with a Nikon D3 & 600mm f4 VR lens. 1/640th @ f9 ISO400
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ An American Air Force F15E Strike Eagle LN-605 heads in for Corris Corner.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Eurofighter Typhoon @ Cad West. Shot using a Nikon D300 & 300mm f2.8 VR lens. 1/1250 @ f5.6 ISO200
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ USAF F-15E Strike Eagle. Low down in the Valleys of North Wales. Nikon D800E & 600mm/f4 VR.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Tornado GR4. Theres life in the old dog yet. Cad West/Mach Loop. Nikon D800E & 300mm/f2.8 VR.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Hercules C-130. Cad East/Mach Loop.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ USAF F-15E crew. Mach Loop.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Nikon D800E & 600/f4 VR.
Mark Jayne (c)


↑ Tornado GR4 pulling out of low level.
Mark Jayne (c)

Thank you Mark for allowing me to post your photographs on my website and carry on increasing this selection of great spotters. I hope you like it.

Keep Calm and Shoot!!!


Comments (2)

  1. Jean Christophe

    Fantastic photos !!! Travelling to Mach loop would be a dream come true for me 🙂
    Keep up your great work !
    Best regards from France 🙂
    Jean Christophe

    Reply