I had not heard of Blue Air prior to seeing this Max on test. It is a nice thing about living near Boeing’s production facilities that you see jets that will be heading somewhere you don’t go. In this case, I read not long afterwards that this jet was the first delivery of a Max to Blue Air and that they are a low cost carrier in Belarus. I guess I now know about another airline that I previously was unaware of. Looked quite nice in these colors (when you consider how bland airline colors can be there days).
Just as I arrived at Steilacoom, a small passenger ferry boat was heading in to the docks. I had no idea what it was for at the time. While I was waiting around, I looked across and saw a large building on the island across from where I was standing. Wandering down to the docks, there was a sign for the McNeil Island Commitment Center. I had no idea what this was but figured I could look it up later.
Turns out this island used to be a prison. For a long time, it was a federal prison. The feds then turned it over to the state which continued to operate it as a prison for a while longer before its high cost of operations meant they closed it down. However, the state has maintained a facility for offenders that are considered to remain a risk to the community after their sentence is complete and this is the Commitment Center. Only people visiting or associated with this place have a need to go to the island so I guess it is not somewhere I shall be visiting – at least I hope not!
The Bell 206 JetRanger was an immensely successful single turbine helicopter and was ubiquitous for decades. However, the type was dated and more modern helicopters had come along and taken market share. Bell needed to come up with a solution and that was the Bell 505 which has since become branded as the Jet Ranger X. The project was not as smooth as intended but it has now entered more widespread service.
That didn’t mean I had actually seen one, though, until recently when I got to photograph one at Boeing Field. At this point, trouble has reached the program again with fatigue failures in the controls for the right seat meaning you aren’t supposed to fly one solo from that seat until a redesigned control is fitted. This will get addressed, of course, but it is another issue for the type. The example I saw was marked as Experimental so I wonder what purpose it was being used for. According to the FAA, it is registered to Bell but what it is doing is anybody’s guess. Putting aside its technical issues, my biggest problem with the 505 is that I think it doesn’t look very good. It reminds me of a tadpole and seems to have a slight feel of a toy design compared to the other types in this class (or the original JetRanger). That is not going to make or break it of course – just a personal observation.
When out looking for wildlife, it pays to keep your head swiveling. There are the things you are expecting to see but also the odd one you weren’t. It was close to high tide as I walked far out on the boardwalk at Nisqually but the tide had turned and the water was starting to flow out. As I glanced across, I saw three shapes in the water. Some seals were drifting out with the tide. Two of them were swimming along but one had stopped close to me and was staring directly at me. Consequently, he got photographed. We stared at each other for about a minute and then he disappeared under the surface and I didn’t see him again. The other two were long gone so I assume he was chasing to catch up with them.
The most recent update for Adobe Photoshop includes a function called Super Resolution. Many of the third party plugins and stand alone image processing tools come with tools to increase the resolution of images. In Photoshop you used to have a basic way to increase resolution but it wasn’t that clever and could introduce odd artifacts. I had been advised to use it in small increments rather than one big increase to reduce the problems but I hardly ever used it.
The new addition to Photoshop is apparently based from machine learning. If the PR is to be believed, they took loads of high res images and low res versions of the same image and the machine learning came to recognize what might be there in the small shot from what it knew was in the large shot. I don’t know what the other packages aim to achieve but this new tool in Photoshop has been doubling the resolution of the shots I have played with. You end up with a file four times the size as a result of this doubling of dimensions.
I have tried it out on a couple of different shots where the resolution was okay but not terribly large and where a higher res shot might prove useful. So far the tool is available through Camera Raw in Photoshop – not Lightroom. You need to update Lightroom in order to import the DNG files it produces. There is a suggestion that Lightroom will get this capability in time which would be more user friendly from my perspective.
My computer is not cutting edge so it takes a little while to process the images. It forecasts five minutes but seemed to complete the task way faster than that. In the examples here, I attach a 200% version of the original shot and a 100% version of the new file. There seems to be a definite benefit to the output file. I wouldn’t describe this as earth shattering but it is useful if the original file is sharp enough and I might have a need for this for a few items over time.
When walking along the shore at Mukilteo, I will often see one or two Murrelets diving for food in the shallows along the edge of Puget Sound. They are not rare but nor are they particularly abundant. Consequently, I was rather surprised when at the new ferry terminal to see a large number of them swimming in the water around the new pier structures. There was a constant stream of them diving down and surfacing again.
I can only assume that something is growing on the surface of the steel posts that support the new loading spans. The birds would swim up to the posts, dive straight down for a while – presumably as they grabbed the food – and then surface at an oblique angle. The result was a cycle of birds going down and back up again. It looked really strange and seemed like something that would stop but there must be plenty to eat as they just kept going. I figured video was the best way to show what was happening so below is a short clip of them feeding away!
I have posted a fair few things from an evening spent at Paine Field after work. Ironically, the reason for actually being there is the last topic to get a post from that visit. Boeing continues to build 777s ahead of the introduction to service (eventually) of the 777X. Almost all deliveries are of the 777-300ER. Its sister ship was the 777-200LR, a lower capacity plane with longer range to meet the need of extreme range operations.
None of these have been built for a while but one more was on order. (The 777F is a variant of the 200LR and it continues to sell well.). This final 200LR was order by Turkmenistan. Getting the last of the type was of some interest but an aircraft from Turkmenistan was more unusual so I wanted to see it. Turned out it was on a test flight in the afternoon when the weather was nice and it was due back at the end of the day.
I thought it was going to mess with me. When it showed up approaching the field, instead of lining up on approach, it flew across the approach path to the west. However, this was just a feint and it then came back and flew an approach. Not the most exciting of colors for an aircraft but the last of the line and an unusual country made it worth going – besides, it was a lovely evening so being out was worth it anyway!
Railroads can be used to move unusual loads. In my work I have often had discussions about clearances along tracks to allow the Department of Defense to move outsized loads by rail – presumably tanks! However, most things I have seen have been within the normal clearance diagrams. As I was driving down to the waterfront park at Mukilteo, I passed a train sitting in a siding that was the widest thing I have ever seen on a train. It was two containers side by side. Both of them were hanging over the edge of the car. I assume that it was a single container for moving outsized loads and, given where it was staged, it might have been something to do with Boeing.
As I drove past it, I figured I would walk back and get a photo. However, some locomotives showed up and they started switching everything around. I didn’t get a chance to get a shot from close up. I did take some pictures from a distance and they then staged the vehicles out on the pier where Mukilteo becomes Everett. If anyone knows anything about this load, do let me know. I assume it needs special clearance to move since it must impinge on the adjacent tracks which would make passing other trains an issue!
Seeing a KC-46 at Boeing Field is not necessarily such a surprise. However, seeing one parked up at the FBO was more unusual. I am not sure whether the aircraft had been accepted and was ready for delivery or had actually come across country for a visit. Either way, a USAF crew was about to fly it back across the country. The size of the taxiways meant that it had to cross the runway to taxi up to the departure end where it could line up and head off on its way east. Was it a delivery? Who knows?
My lockdown interest in different ferry operations continues unabated. Since I was down at Nisqually checking out the wildlife refuge, I figured I was close to Steilacoom which is the home of a ferry service provided by Pierce County. This one operates across to Anderson Island – a location where some friends of ours have a place. It occasionally stops at a smaller island too but that is not a frequent service.
There were two ferries tied up at the dock when I got there. One was the Christine Anderson and it was the one in use. The other was called Steilacoom II and I wonder whether that is an older ferry that is kept in reserve. Not long after I arrived, the ferry departed. I hadn’t positioned well to catch it but it turned immediately and headed south so was soon visible away from the other dock vessels. I got myself some lunch while I waited for it to return. The sun was out and the conditions were lovely as it made its way back to Steilacoom. However, a big cloud bank rolled in at just the wrong time and, as it got close to its destination, it was suddenly in shade that did not make for good photos. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the background was still bathed in good light though. One more ferry to add to the tally!