Born in Aldershot, England in 1963, I have been deeply interested in both aviation and photography for as long as I can remember. My first aviation memory is from the late 1960s. I can remember watching a formation of Royal Navy Sea Vixens and Buccaneers flying over our garden as they participated in the Farnborough Airshow. Also around this time, I often saw Concorde flying over on test flights, usually with a Canberra chase plane close by. My education was regularly interrupted whenever a Hawker Hunter, English Electric Canberra, Sepecat Jaguar etc either took- off or landed at Farnborough, and I was chastised daily by my teachers for looking out of the window instead of concentrating on the subject being taught.
I bought my first SLR Camera, a totally manual Praktica MTL-3, with my very first paycheck in 1979 and, like most photographers, have been ‘upgrading ‘ ever since.
Always the enthusiastic amateur, my big break came in the early ’90s while working for a local flying club. I was ‘flying the desk’ one morning when a magazine editor named Mr Tim Callaway came into the office to carry out an interview with one of our female students. After chatting for a while I eventually mentioned that I had a pretty comprehensive collection of photographs and if he was interested I’d be happy to show them to him. Luckily for me he agreed and the rest, so they say, is history. We’ve been working together ever since.
The first project I was involved with was an annual magazine called the Airshow Guide. This publication carried details and photographs of many of the aircraft expected to perform at airshows throughout the year, as well as a very comprehensive calendar giving dates of airshows and events around the world.
With the explosion of the internet in the mid 90s it wasn’t long before the company moved ‘online’ and we ended up producing websites for a number of high profile customers including:
- The Royal Air Force
- The Red Arrows
- The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
- The Blue Eagles
- The Army Air Corps Historic Flight
- Airbus Military
During this time I was tasked with taking photographs all over the United Kingdom as well as RAF deployments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cyprus. While working for these military customers I was fortunate enough to fly in many different aircraft types including RAF tanker aircraft on refueling sorties, RAF search and rescue squadrons on both training and real rescues, and actually flew in a few airshows, strapped into the back of a Westland Lynx with the Blue Eagles. Taking pictures while being inverted in a helicopter is both the strangest and exciting sensations I’ve ever experienced!!
While putting together pages for these various websites I discovered that photography wasn’t my only talent. I started using a program called Paintshop Pro and found that I could use it to produce side view drawings of aircraft. We quickly started incorporating these graphics into the sites using them to illustrate aircraft that we did not have photographs of. The most important being drawings of the A400M in proposed customer color schemes. At that time, this aircraft was nothing more than a concept.
As with all things, nothing stays the same for long and customers came and went. With huge budget constraints our military customers decided that it would be more efficient to bring website design in-house. This has led to me coming full circle and I now work for a bi-monthly magazine called ‘Aviation Classics ‘. I produce all of the side-view drawings and many of the photographs used. I also produce stories for ‘Aviation Classics’ website news page. I have posted photographs on Flikr for many years now, my username is rightstuffphotography, and have recently discovered Twitter, (username keithdraycott) using it to publicize my work and achievements.
I hope to continue working in the industry for many years to come, and my recent move from England to Seattle, Washington has placed me in the ideal location to focus on activities at the many Boeing facilities and wonderful museums in this beautiful part of the United States.
A project that I have just been asked to contribute is an iphone ‘app’ which, though I can’t give details of at this time, sounds like it may turn into yet another rewarding experience. Stay tuned to my Twitter feed for updates.