EP-3 Aries

P-3 hunting was part of the plan when Paul and I headed to NAS Whidbey Island.  We had some success.  There was a nice bit of icing on the cake for us.  An EP-3E showed up too.  The EP-3 has a nice selection of large radomes added to the airframe to cover the wide variety of sensors that this type has to fulfill its role of listening to transmissions around the world.  I don’t know how long the EP-3 has once the P-3s are gone from fleet service so getting one was a definite plus.

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It’s a Cluster of Cormorants!

This was an evening that I was out hunting planes.  I did have some success, but I got a lot more shots of birds than planes.  The cormorants were out in numbers and they obviously know I like them.  Log Boom Park in Kenmore has a concrete pier that goes well out into the lake.  At the end of the pier are pilings from a previous version of the pier.  They provide a nice spot for birds to rest and the cormorants had taken over the place.

The light was not in a good place for getting a photo but it was still worthy of a shot or two.  Some of the cormorants were stretching their wings to dry out.  They have a prehistoric look about them at the best of times but when they stretch the wings out, they really do look like a pterodactyl.  The concentrated group of cormorants were in a bad spot for the light but, fortunately, one of them was feeling antisocial and was on a different post.  The light was a lot better for this guy!

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Qantas Dreamliner Delivery

Delivery flights from Paine Field are good news because the jets are going to be a bit heavier and will use more of the runway.  This brings them closer to where you can be to photograph them.  Qantas were taking their second Dreamliner and it was delivering early in the afternoon of a winter Saturday.  The winter light is just so good when the clouds have parted.  No harsh shadows and a low sun angle are great conditions to be shooting in.  I hope the crew had a good flight.  It was long enough!

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US Courthouse in Tacoma

The US Courthouse building is an impressive structure that started out its life as Union Station.  It still carries the name on the side of the structure which is dominated by a large dome.  However, the station was moved to a nearby location in the 80s and the building abandoned.  It was eventually restored and converted for use as the Courthouse and that is what it continues as today.  We had lunch across the street from the building and, while I didn’t have my main camera to hand at the time, I grabbed a few shots with my phone which I could stitch together.  I did take some other shots later from the other side.  A cool looking building.

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My Approach to Shooting and Processing on Crappy Weather Days

This is the finished image. This is pretty much what it looked like to the naked eye (through the viewfinder) when I took the shot given how dark the sky was.

A rare arrival was due on a day that was not good from a weather perspective.  It was dull and rainy and so not what you would hope for.  Conditions like this mean I try to exploit some of the features of the camera and the processing options available.  First, how to set up the camera?  With the light being bad and variable, I went to a pretty high ISO level.  I shot in aperture priority mode and added a lot of exposure compensation.

In my experience, the metering is pretty good when shooting against the sky in clear weather but, when there is a lot of cloud, the camera tends to treat the clouds as too bright and it underexposes the subject too much.  I use a lot of exposure compensation in this case with a setting of +2.0 being used on this day.  The reason I do this is that, aside from the exposure question mark, there is a lot more information available in the lighter end of the exposure curve.  Shooting in RAW gives you options.

This is how the camera recorded the image. This is the in camera JPEG that I extracted from the RAW file using Instant Raw From JPEG.

If you were to look at the aircraft at the time, you would see a dark and menacing sky but you would see plenty of detail on the plane.  The camera does not see that for the original shot.  The aircraft would be very dark.  When processing, this dark area would give you something to work with but the variation in data would be more limited.  Shoot overexposed and you get more to work with.

This approach will only work well if you are shooting RAW.  If you are using JPEG, too much of the usable data will be discarded during the processing in the camera.  To show you what I mean, here are two images.  These are both from the same shot.  One is the RAW file as it showed up when imported in to Lightroom and the other is the embedded JPEG that you can extract from the RAW file and which can be seen when the file is first imported before the rendering is undertaken.  As you can see, the JPEG is over exposed but the RAW rendering seems even more so.

There is way more data in the RAW file though.  Immediately, as I bring the exposure slider back down, the clouds go from being white to quite dark – just as they appeared on the day.  Meanwhile, the fuselage of the aircraft has a lot of the data intact and maintains a lot of the brightness that you could see at the time.  Very little needs to be done with the blacks and they are almost in the right spot by the time the exposure is good for the clouds.  The fuselage might be a bit too dark though.  A small tweak of the blacks and a little boost in the shadows to compensate for too much darkening with the exposure slider and suddenly the shot is looking a lot more like it did when I saw it develop.

My RAW processing baseline always results in a slightly more overexposed shot the embedded JPEG includes. When you first open the image, the embedded image you see in the previous shot initially shows up and then it renders the RAW file. This was the initial RAW rendering prior to any adjustments.

One advantage of shooting on such a crummy day is that the sky is a giant softbox – in this case a very soft one!  The result is that the light is a lot more even than on a sunny day.  The darker look can actually make the colors look a bit more intense than if they were losing out to the whites when the sun is right on them.  While there was only one plane I was specifically there for, playing around with these other shots and working on the technique was a nice extra benefit.

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Atlanta Marriott Marquis Architecture

I was in Atlanta on work for a few days and the Marriott Marquis hotel was the center of a lot of the events I was involved with.  I had not been to this hotel before and I had no idea what it looked like. Externally, it looks a little different but not particularly interesting.  However, the interior is a very different story.  For a while when I was first in there, I didn’t realize just how dramatic it is.  Then I looked up!

The atrium runs the height of the hotel and the floors gradually taper in towards the top.  The curved patterns of the floors look like the ribs of an animal.  From the ground looking up, it is amazing.  There is an area in the lobby with a small roof so you can be under there and have no idea.  Then you step out and have a “wow” moment.  From the top floors, looking down is just as incredible.  If, like me, you are not partial to heights, it is rather scary.  I did have to look though.


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AirEuropa to the Sun

This example is not going to get me to the sun from Seattle.  It will head to Europe before it starts transporting passengers.  I saw it during test flying activities as it flew approaches to Paine Field.  The sun was out but the skies were stormy so it made quite a dramatic sight as it bashed the pattern at Everett.

They even were kind enough to fly a missed approach the first time to get a different view of the jet.  Then it was around the pattern and back in for a second approach, this time landing.  The dark sky background was only in the direction of the approach so the roll out shots were far less dramatic.


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Fin Park

A little too much celebration of Thanksgiving meant I needed to burn off a few extra calories.  I figured a bike ride would be a good option and decided to check out the Burke Gilman Trail.  This runs around Lake Washington on the alignment of an old railroad.  Not too many hills to deal with then!  I wasn’t sure how far I would go but I headed towards Magnuson Park.  This sits on the eastern shore of Lake Washington on the site of a former naval base.  It was once a Naval Air Station but was progressively pared back until it was deactivated and returned to the city.

One of the things I was curious to see in the park is a sculpture installation called the Fin project.  This takes a bunch of fins from decommissioned nuclear subs and arranges them in patterns that are reminiscent of the fins of pods of orcas.  The Navy donated the fins and private subscriptions paid for the rest of the installation.  The result is an interesting exhibit with varying sizes of fin at different positions and angles.

The meaning of the sculpture varies depending on who is checking it out.  It represents the naval station and the service of those based there, it draws parallels with the wildlife in the area, it represents recycling of material and it has a swords to plowshares aspect to it too.  Each fin has a plaque that notes the vessel it came from, the name of an orca from a local pod and the names of those who donated to fund the installation.

I was there on a pretty overcast day and only had my phone with me to get shots.  I think that the cloudy sky was actually a pretty appropriate backdrop as the darkness of the fins and the hint of their life in the deep would be a little offset on a bright and sunny day.

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Westjet Charter Arrival

Mark and I were on the south side of Vancouver when a Westjet plane came in.  No big deal there but this flight was a charter operation so, instead of heading to the main terminal area, it came straight to us.  They taxied straight to us where the passengers were quickly dropped off.  The crew then turned the jet around promptly and taxied back out for departure.  It was an efficient delivery and a slightly different location to see an airliner being operated.

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Harley and Sidecar Combination

Alongside the depot in Skykomish where the volunteers for the miniature railway were gathered was a parking lot.  In this lot was a Harley Davidson bike with a sidecar fitted.  While it was clearly an old vintage of bike, it seemed to be in excellent condition and lovingly maintained.

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