“What is that noise?” I asked myself as I headed towards the patio. I knew it was an airplane, but what could be flying so close and at low altitude? Thankfully I had my camera on the table with the 70-300mm lens as I realized there were two low flying aircraft, and flying right in my direction. They were moving pretty fast and I didn’t have much time but with ISO set to 100 and aperture of f/9.0, I hoped I might be able to snap something decent.
I really wasn’t sure what the two planes were but we later figured out that they were Canadair CL-215s – owned by the Hellenic (Greek) Fire Service. These are water bombers and are used to fight the fires that can be catastrophic in Greece during the summer months.
I was pretty happy with how most of the photos turned out, although they still could be improved. I had been losing confidence in my zoom lenses with the Nikon D7000 as many of the images I’ve taken lately have not been sharp and crisp. But, I’m now realizing that this could be issues with haze and humidity; many of those images that have disappointed have included shooting various sailing vessels on the sea, about a km away as the crow flies.
The lucky timing of these planes flying overhead gave me something else to try to target with the camera, and much better and encouraging results.
For those who learning a bit more, the Canadair CL-125 was produced in Canada by Canadair and then later, Bombardier. It is an amphibious aircraft nicknamed “Scooper” as it is capable of scooping up water from lakes and other large bodies of water (here in Greece, the sea is used) and then waterbombing forest fires.
Production began in 1969 and ended in 1990.
After I got the shots of the underside of the plane as it approached, they disappeared – but later circled back around the Island of Makronisos and headed back in this general direction but west of where I was. I tried a few more shots and got this – not as crisp and clear but a side view of one of the planes:
So now that I know the camera and lens are capable of some crisp photos at closer ranges than a kilometer or so away, I’ll experiment a little more with other closer subjects and figure out what can be done to deal with haze on the sea.
Update – June 1st, 2022
A little more research on these planes used in Greece – according to this article in Greek from Popaganda.gr, the CL-215’s used by the Greeks are generally stationed at Elefsina. However, if you do some searches, you can find them at other Greek airports including at Samos and Thessaloniki.
They are not only used for firefighting, but also for search and rescue as well as a transport plane. They first arrived in Greece in 1974, and then added some upgraded versions of the amphibious plane – the Bombardier CL-415. One of the ways to differentiate between the CL-215 and the CL-415 are the addition of winglets and finlets on the CL-415.
Although their maximum speed is 235 mph (377 km/hr), they generally are kept at cruising speeds between 120-140 mph (193-225 km/hr) in order to reduce engine wear and tear. Other than that and recommended maintenance, it’s said that these aircraft have no limit on their lifespan.
In Greece, they are owned by the Air Force but are under the control of the Greece Fire Fighting Services.