Hoh Rain Forest

B11I7961.jpgIt rained when we went to the rainforest.  What a shocker!  Of course, it really added to the atmosphere.  However, there is a limit to how much atmosphere you really need.  Most of the time, we were doing just fine though.  The Hoh Rain Forest is in the Olympics National Park and it is certainly worth the drive to get to.  The growth of the plants in such a damp environment is impressive.  Ferns that are huge, trees that dwarf everything, decaying material on the ground that is being recycled back into the ecosystem.  It is all there to see.  Seeing it when it is lush and damp is how it is supposed to be seen.

B11I7941.jpgYou do occasionally find yourself popping out of the vegetation and alongside a river.  This comes as something of a shock after being immersed in the forest.  The surrounding hills were shrouded in cloud since this is an area that takes a lot of the moisture out of the air coming off the ocean (and what results in the nice weather on the Gulf Islands that lie in its shadow).  The clouds really add to the sense of the place.

B11I7880.jpgWe headed back into the forest and took a loop trail through the Hall of Mosses.  The title might not be one that immediately makes you think you have to see this but I assure you it was quite a place to be.  Everything felt like it was glowing.  So much moss was hanging all over the forest and the dampness made the colors so much more vibrant.  It really did cause you to stop and stare.  Many people came through while we were there and they all seemed to have the same response.  It was quite something.  Shortly after this, the rain turned from steady into rather more persistent.  By the time we got back to the car, our coats had done their work but everything else was pretty saturated.  The drive back gave us plenty of time for the heater to do some drying!


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My First F-35B Jets

A USMC F-35B climbs out after takeoff from Nellis AFB on a Red Flag mission.

I have had a bunch of times when I have seen F-35 jets.  I got to shoot the first prototype at Fort Worth in its early days.  After that, I didn’t see any more for a long time.  As the production jets started to show up, I saw a number of them at Nellis AFB. Sadly, when we were on base we weren’t allowed to shoot them and when I was off base, I was always in a bad place to get shots of them.  As a result, I do not have many useful shots in my catalog.

A USMC F-35B turns on to final approach at Nellis AFB.

I had no shots of the B model.  This is the one being developed for the Marine Corps to replace their Harriers and Hornets.  It is also being acquired by the UK and Italy to use from their carriers.  Red Flag 16-3 was the first one that the Marines brought their jets to so I was pleased to get a chance to shoot them.  My timing was not great and there was limited flying while I was there.  However, the Marines did launch a pair while we were in place.  Nicely, both jets flexed on departure and came towards our position quite nicely.  Recovery was a different story.  For those that aren’t familiar with shooting at the Speedway, there is a constant debate about which gate is the best one to be at.  Some jets turn on to final very tightly and you need to be a inside Gate 4 to get a good shot.  Sadly, a lot of the jets turn long and they can be a long way off if you are at 4.  If there is a four ship, the later jets tend to turn later so, even if the first jet is good, the later ones can be a way off.

B11I0418.jpgIf the jets are Navy or Marines, you need to be on your toes.  They can be a lot more enthusiastic about keeping their patterns tight.  When the two F-35s returned, we soon realized everyone else knew something we needed to know.  They were all grabbing their cameras and running down the street.  I took a while to catch on.  The first jet turned very tightly.  Even as I ran, I could only get a head on shots as he turned inside me.  I then got moving again and was just about in a reasonable option for the second jet.

A USMC F-35B climbs out after takeoff from Nellis AFB on a Red Flag mission.

The second day we were there, timing was again not in our favor.  Just as the 35s were returning, a pair of Growlers were launching to head home.  They were coming off the runway we needed the jets to land on to get good shots.  Instead, they were sent to the other runway.  They broke left towards the hills.  We did have some recovery though.  By the time they had run downwind, the Growlers were gone and the runway was clear.  They switched to land on our side.  We had lost the final turn but at least they came closer when on final.  At some point these jets will be very common but the first encounter is fun.

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KLM’s New Toy Comes West

B11I9877.jpgThe arrival of the Boeing 787-8 on the scene got a lot of attention.  It was a new generation of aircraft with a lot of new technologies.  It also was a major disaster for Boeing.  Years late, massively over budget and with a grounding, it did not go according to plan.  The next version was the 787-9 and, with this one, Boeing really got it right.  The -8 was not a bad plane but the -9 is so much better.  It carries more and goes further.  They also fixed a lot of production issues.  The result is a jet that Boeing is happy to sell and airlines want to buy.  Boeing does not like building the -8 anymore and you will notice that not many have been sold recently.  The -9 is going to be the core product and the -10 stretch will be the second option.

B11I9871.jpgAirlines have been adding the -9 to their fleets in good numbers.  Entry of airlines that didn’t order the -8 did pick the -9 and KLM is one of them.  They have started spreading them out on services across the world.  The demise of the MD-11 in their fleet meant that the 777-300ER and the A330 were their staples.  Now the 787 is becoming a big deal and the SFO run is one that they have started using the jet on.  I was pleased to see it show up.  They still send 747-400s to SFO but the 787 is part of the future.  The 747 will be gone before too long.  Meanwhile, I enjoy the novelty of the new jet.  Soon I shall be glad to see the 747 before it disappears.

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Scooters in the Overcast

B11I0208.jpgDraken International has been acquiring some of the best of the retired A-4 Skyhawks to add to their fleet.  Their goal is the provision of tactical training services to air forces.  Their jets have come from Israel and New Zealand and they have won a number of contracts.  I saw them at Nellis AFB where they were providing support services to the USAF.  They had a number of jets there working on Red Flag and weapons school projects.

AE7I4753.jpgWe didn’t get the best conditions to shoot them.  They were departing in the morning in conditions when they were rather backlit.  For the recoveries, we were struggling to be in the right place to get them.  Overall, I was not too happy with the results.  I will be back at some point though.  Hopefully I will get a better chance to shoot them.  Having missed the media day, I didn’t get to shoot them on base which would have been a lot better.  Sadly, the twin seater was lost shortly after my visit.  Fortunately, the pilot banged out okay.

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Shots from the Flightpath Museum

C59F2382.jpgOn the south side of Los Angeles International Airport is the Flightpath Museum.  Charting the history of the airport, it has many artifacts that show how the airport and the airlines that serve it have developed.  It also has a terrace area.  You can’t be out there without someone being aware of you and what you are doing because you have access to a live ramp area but you can get some good views of the operations in the southern runway complex.  Whether it is the arriving aircraft or those taking off, it is a great spot to be to watch what is going on.

C59F2572.jpgThere is plenty to see.  Off to one side is the freight ramp.  You can see some of the freighters loading and unloading before they continue on their way.  The arriving jets land a bit away from you but you have a good view of them as they roll out.  The departing jets get airborne very close to or a little before you.  This provides a different perspective on the aircraft to that you can normally achieve.  No fencing in the way.  Not too much distance.  It is definitely something to check out if you are visiting LAX.

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iPad Kneepad – Sudoku in an A-10?

B11I4999.jpgGetting up close with the jets gives you an opportunity to see right into the cockpit while the planes are flying.  As the A-10s pull hard off the target on the range they come right towards you.  Consequently you can find yourself looking right in through the top of the cockpit.  Looking through my shots I could see this view of the pilots.  They have a notepad of some sort strapped to one their legs.  I assume it is for flight planning purposes but I can’t help but think about the slower transit speed of the A-10.  They have a fair bit of time when making their way from DM to the range and back again.  Maybe a game of Sudoku or a crossword is a good way to pass the time?

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I Never Expected a Sabreliner

B11I0878.jpgCorporate jets show up at SFO on a regular basis.  They will be the usual Gulfstreams or Bombardier jets.  However, every once in a while something really unusual will show up.  I would love to say that it was part of my planning that this worked out but I was very lucky.  I saw on Flightaware that something unusual was coming but I didn’t recognize what it was.  I am glad I didn’t because the surprise was more fun.  A Sabreliner showed up.  I didn’t realize anyone was still flying them.  Great stuff.


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Are New Tires That Expensive?

B11I3641.jpgI was skimming through some shots from Tucson to thin out the shots that I got from that day.  I looked at one of the shots because I thought that there was something wrong with the shot.  When I checked a few of the surrounding shots, I realized that there was nothing wrong.  The shot was real.  The F-16 had a tire that was looking very sad.  I know that budgets are tight but I think they need to change the tires on this jet.

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I Thought I Wouldn’t See This Again

AE7I1603.jpgI have been figuring that the A340s would soon be gone.  The original versions are certainly not young jets anymore and there are plenty of newer options for airlines.  Consequently, they have been disappearing from service with many airlines.  That does not mean that they have all gone though.  Interestingly, the A340-300 is still actually a pretty efficient jet while the 600 series, while able to carry more and go further, are less efficient for many services.  Still, I see plenty of routes now using 777s that used to have A340s.

AE7I1628.jpgConsequently, I was quite surprised to see the return of the Philippines A340 on the SFO route.  The 777 is also on this route but they have a second rotation and the 340 is currently making this trip.  I was really glad to see it show up again.  It can’t be too long before these jets are on their way to the desert.  Since it is a summer trip, it isn’t a great time to shoot it but the later arrival does reduce the heat haze.  It will be cool if I get it again in better conditions but I am glad to have shot it already, just in case I don’t get another chance.

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Ah, So That Is What You Look Like When Not Squashed on the Highway

B11I1846.jpgWalking along the shore in Hayward with Nancy, I saw a tail moving in the brush.  It was black and white and look awfully like a skunk.  Despite the fact we had been chatting as we walked up, we didn’t seem to have spooked it.  We stopped and waited to see it come out.  Sure enough, it walked on to the trail.  However, the sound of the shutter as I took some shots made it jump and it turned right around and ran back into the brush.  Nancy commented that it was the first time she had seen a skunk moving around.  All of the others she has seen were on the highway.  It was definitely a first for me too.


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