Guarding the Gate That Doesn’t Exist Anymore

Over the years, many military installations have been closed down.  In what form they get handed back to the local community varies.  Close to us is Alameda.  This was once a big base for the Navy with many ships based there and an airfield that was home to many operational aircraft.  The whole thing is now closed with the runway having garnered most attention as the location for many a stunt by the Mythbusters.  The layout of the base is still much as it was beforehand though.  The hangars are still there now being home to local businesses.

The aviation theme shows itself in some relics of the past.  Gate guardians are common at air bases and Alameda has a few.  Drive into the old base along one main road and you go around a grassy circle which has an A-7 mounted on a plinth in the middle.  It is loaded up and looks pretty dramatic.  Another gate near the water has an A-4 Skyhawk mounted just inside.  It has the name of some local dignitaries painted on the side.

Another Skyhawk is not far away.  This one is not on the base itself.  Instead it is mounted outside a local school.  The Jet is not as dramatically painted as the others but it is still a pretty cool thing to have outside your school if you are an aviation nut like me.  It actually looks like it could do with a repaint before too long.  It’s good to see that they are still on guard duty, even if the thing they were guarding is no more.

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USS San Francisco Memorial

Walk around the headland from Sutro Baths and you come to a great view looking across towards the Golden Gate Bridge.  Here is located the memorial to the USS San Francisco.  The ship was engaged in a vicious battle during the Second World War at Guadalcanal in which her senior officers were killed.  The ship survived albeit heavily damaged.  When she was scrapped after the war, the wings from the bridge were kept and placed as part of the memorial.  They still bear the scars of the rounds that hit the ship during the engagement with the steel holed and twisted in many places.

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Getting WOW in Better Light

My first encounter with a WOW A330 was towards the end of the day when the jet was a little backlit.  I hadn’t had another chance to shoot one since them and wanted to try and do a little better.  The deep color of the purple scheme should look more vibrant than the slightly washed out version I had managed before.  The timing of the flights is such that they depart in the late morning.  Since the jet is not too heavy, they go off the 01 runways which means they have a nice light on them during the lower winter sun.  Unfortunately, they seem to like using 01L rather than 01R which puts them a little further away and a little more susceptible to heat haze.  However, I got lucky this time and the conditions were okay.

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Akaka Falls

I am like many tourists in that I am a sucker for waterfalls.  I suspect as I go through the many posts on this blog that I will find plenty of waterfall shots.  Today I shall be adding one more.  Akaka Falls on Big Island are a popular spot.  Tour parties seemed to be a feature the day we were there.  We saw so many people wearing badges defining which group they were in and you could see the group number change as you walked around and obviously came across a different part of their schedule.  However, they were not what we were there to see.

You can take a short walk to the falls from the parking lot.  What is nicer is to take the longer loop.  You actually get a view of some other falls early on in the loop although they are across a valley and so a little less dramatic.  The area is rain forest like in its conditions so you get to see plenty of cool plants and wildlife as you go, some of which has already made its way on to this blog.  Near the end of the loop, you come down a slope and the Akaka Falls are in front of you.

They are some pretty high falls.  The volume of water rushing over them was substantial and you could see smaller streams of water around the opening.  Sadly, the viewing area was such that it was hard to get a good view of the bottom of the falls and the surrounding water so everything felt a little isolated when trying to frame it.  I’m sure with more time and persistence, I might have found a better way to get some shots.  The blog is most suited to landscape format shots but these falls were stretching the wide angle nature of the lens I was using so portrait was often the best option.  They are snapshots of a tourist spot but they make me remember a really cool waterfall.

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I’m Sure They’re Not Looking at Me

B11I1953.jpgWhat does it say about having a guilty conscience that you immediately wonder whether you are the person being watched?  Police helicopters come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are hand me downs from the military.  Others are old civil types.  Some departments have the budget for modern types.  It varies wildly.  I was out shooting in Las Vegas when this helicopter came heading straight for me.  Admittedly, he was coming from a long way off and I was really just in his path but, as I pointed the camera up at him, I couldn’t help but think that he was looking at me looking at him.  Did I do anything wrong?  I don’t think so.  He kept going so I was probably okay.

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Sutro Baths

A once popular attraction for San Francisco residents was Sutro Baths.  Located on the shore looking out into the pacific, the baths were fed by sea water and covered a large area that was enclosed by a glass and iron structure.  A railway brought visitors around the cliffs from the city for their day out.  Landslides eventually did away with the railway while other entertainment took visitors away and a fire eventually dealt with what was left.  However, the underlying structures of the pools are still there.

The water is not recirculated as it would have been in the days of operation so some of the pools have a decidedly murky quality to them.  The concrete dividers between the pools are still mostly intact so you can walk along them to check the place out.  If you aren’t confident with your balance or are likely to be freaked out by having to pass someone coming the opposite way, this might not be for you.  If you do lose your footing, you will be damp!

There is a tunnel under the cliffs that comes out amongst the rocks where the waves are crashing up.  Halfway along the tunnel is another hole to the shore and, as the waves rush in, you feel the air pressure change briefly.  It is certainly cool and damp in there.  Given how derelict the place is, it is hugely popular with visitors.  Cars circled the lot looking for spaces all the time we were there.  The opportunity to hurt yourself was certainly available but, despite the current risk aversion of locations, this one seems remarkably open to allow you to explore and (if you are not careful) do yourself some harm!  It’s like being a kid again.

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Is Shooting in the Rain a Good Idea?

It might be sometimes, but this was probably not one of them.  The forecast was for wind and rain which was suggesting that SFO would be using reversed operations to normal.  I thought it might be worth a shot.  The rain was obviously a concern but I was hopeful, as I have been in the past, that it might make for some interesting shots.  I had underestimated just how wet it was though.

The cloud base was very low.  The jets landing on 19 were barely visible until they rolled out.  The ones taking off were also heavily obscured.  The rain was really making things difficult to see and a lot of adjustment in post is necessary to get anything.  Only one jet seemed to perform well for me.  The Singapore A350 must have gone in a gap in the conditions and it seemed to be the one that was cleanest when I looked at the shots.  I won’t give up on things like this but I know the odds are not great.

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To See This You Can Hike a Long Way or…

Big Island is not short of waterfalls.  The most well-known ones attract tourists like us who will drive to see them.  However, so much of the island is not close to the roads and there are rivers and falls all through this area.  Our pilot was a keen hiker and he showed us his favorite falls.  Apparently this trip will be a full day hike to get you in and out again.  I assume this includes some time to hang out and enjoy the falls once you get there.

If you are slightly less energetic, flying over the falls in a helicopter is a lot quicker to do and certainly doesn’t tire you out as much.  The location certainly looked cool though and, from above, you get less of an immersive feeling.  Judging by the river we saw on our way to the falls, there are plenty of cool sights to see on the way as well.  You do need to be well prepared though.  Forget cell phone coverage.  You are on your own out there!

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Get Those Shock Waves Showing

The Fleet Week air show in San Francisco is wrapped up by the Blue Angels.  The sneak passes made by the pair are an opportunity to try and get something interesting.  Since they display over the bay and the city is known for having high relative humidity, I am always hoping to get some good vapor shots.  This time out, that wasn’t to be.  The air seemed to be pretty dry and there was not a lot of vapor on show.  However, the fast pass from left to right takes the jet in front of the hills and Alcatraz which provides some detail to show up the distortion caused by the shock-waves.  The large number of boats and associated masts meant a clean shot was tricky but I got a couple I was pleased with.

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Sutro Heights

A weekend day had us over in San Francisco having a mooch around some places we haven’t visited before.  I had been reading something online about Sutro Heights and wanted to check the place out.  This is an overlook up on the cliffs that had been the home of a guy called (unsurprisingly) Sutro.  He had built a large house on this land and added gardens around it that included statues and artworks that were available for people to visit.

The house is long demolished but the gardens have become a city park.  We stopped off to look around, enjoy the view and use the place as somewhere to have our lunch.  The view down to the beach below, while rather hazy when we were there, was still rather nice.  You could see plenty of people having fun down on the sands.  The gardens themselves were rather relaxing.  You could climb up onto the area where the house had once stood and try to imagine what it had been like.  A few signs included images of how things had been laid out.  Given how close we were to the Cliff House, the baths and the trails, it was a little surprising how few people were there.  However, it isn’t heavily signed so maybe it is easily missed.  If I hadn’t read about it, we would probably never have known either.

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