Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
Bf 109G-6-III.JG1-Friedrich Eberle
Friedrich Eberle's Bf 109G-6, W.nr.160303, was one of the most colourfully-marked of the Bf 109's of the mid-war period. Although its basic camo was the rather dull pair of upper-surface greys, with the undersides and flanks in the greyish blue RLM76, its spinner was red with a tight white spiral, and the soffit cowling of the engine bay was painted yellow. The upper part of the fixed fin, and the whole rudder, were white, which at that time denoted a formation leader. The red RV band of JG1 was applied to the rear fuselage, and the port engine cowling had the JG1 crest.
It's no surprise, then, that Eberle's aircraft is a popular subject for modellers, and when I decided to make it the subject of an in-flight image, I was able to find a number of build reviews.
The Initial Image
This is a photo of a model by Jakub Nademlejnsky, and is one of twelve excellent images in his review. I picked this one because I liked the pose, although it's a view of the starboard side, and so the Geschwader crest can't be seen.
The image as downloaded is 1920x1280 pix, very generous, but the model is not very large within the frame, and looks a bit lost in a sea of blue. The model details are nice and clear, and I don't need to do much guesswork.
Treatment of the Image
There are two problem areas in the image from my point of view. The sideways-hingeing canopy obscures part of the fuselage, a familiar problem; but unfortunately also the leading edge of the port wing is almost hidden behind a prop blade, a less frequent embarrassment.
As I suspected, there were lots of areas where the rich blue colouring of the background had invaded the model's skinning. I don't know the answer for this – I think the background probably didn't look oversaturated to the photographer when he did the photoshoot. Maybe the best solution is to use a light grey background; white should be avoided, and dark greys can look very dark if you are unlucky.
I had few other headaches with the selection process. Once I reached the stage of clarifying details, I noticed that the bulge above the near MG is oddly modelled. Although its overall shape looks good, the highlights and shadows on it looked rather lop-sided. I couldn't figure out why that was, and I amended the shading to reduce the effect.
Later on, when I started to do trial pastings onto aerial backgrounds, I became aware that the part of the rear fuselage around and just ahead of the Balkenkreuz is a bit too washed-out for comfort, so I did some local darkening in that area.
By the way, I had the pitot tube on the near wing selected and stored before I realised it should really be on the other wing!
Eberle survived the war, with a final tally of 33 victories, but he was lucky to escape the fall-out from the Bodenplatte raid of 1. January 1945. The planning of this operation was pretty chaotic, and as usual the Top Brass went looking for scapegoats. Eberle was court martialled for cowardice, but eventually acquitted.