Tri-Valley Haven 5k/10k

A shelter program in the Tri-Valley area held a fund raising run a little while back. A few of our friends had decided to participate so I headed along to get some shots of them running. There was both a 5k and a 10k to choose from. The 10k was the first to head out. This meant they could get away rather than conflict with the 5k runners and would hopefully avoid any 5k runners being directed off on the longer route by mistake.

A few minutes later, the 5k participants lined up and were sent on their way. They headed through the park and off to the trail that would be their out and back route. They needed to cross a road so the volunteers were out to manage the traffic and allow the runners to cross without having to stop. (Most drivers managed to handle this concept but I saw one dope that didn’t seem to think the stop signs meant anything.)

Everyone seemed to be having a good time when they headed out. The return meant some of them looked a little less perky but they had done well and supported a good cause. Well done everyone.

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777 Freighters at O’Hare

Nothing terribly timely about this post.  These shots were taken quite a while ago during a visit to Chicago.  (At least they are so old that they are from when I lived there.)  There was a time when the 747 was the freighter of choice.  There are still missions for which the 747 is still required but few loads require the nose loading and the most versatile of the big freighters these days is the 777.  (It seems that the 777 is taking over everything that the 747 used to do.)

One afternoon at O’Hare included a couple of 777 freighters.  AeroLogic had one of theirs in town.  I saw it coming in and also got so see it head out again.  I don’t know where it was coming from or going to.  Meanwhile, Air France also had one of their freighters making an appearance.  It’s a shame that the 747 is not so prevalent anymore.  It is a cooler looking jet and the 777 freighter is barely distinguishable from the multitude of 777s on passenger duty.  However, that is the way it is these days.

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New Locomotives 

The acquisition of new locomotives for the state of California is something I have been working on for a while. A little time back I posted about some testing from the cab that we did in Colorado. Since then the first locos for the state have been delivered to Oakland. We had to do a bunch of testing with local equipment and to carry out trials out on the corridors that the trains operate. I managed to get a few shots of the locos during these tests (as well as some in Colorado that used locos that will go to Illinois).

Now that the testing is wrapped up and the locos belong to the state and, if they haven’t already, will shortly be showing up in regular service, it is okay to post some shots of the vehicles. They are Charger diesel locos built by Siemens in Sacramento California. These locos are powerful and fast. They are designed for 125mph although they won’t be used at high speeds in California due to track limitations. However, hopefully they will provide modern, efficient and cleaner traction for the state. I am proud to have been involved in the program and enjoyed working with the team.

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It is Dark at Nellis During the Night Launch

On previous trips to Red Flag I have taken pictures of the departing B-1Bs as they fly overhead.  The burners are really impressive and definitely worth getting a shot of from below.  However, having done this a few times, I wanted to try something different.  The fighter get out of burner very quickly after they get airborne.  They are in mil power for ages before they get to you on the centerline.  I wanted to see what you could get from the side a lot closer in so Paul agreed to try something different.

We ended up shooting a lot of side on stuff of departures for the night launch.  Unfortunately, we didn’t appreciate just how dark it is at Nellis at night.  We had a good moon so we were hopeful that there might be some residual light.  It turns out that this is not the case.  Even close in, the fighters are out of burner.  The tankers and the E-7 went out and I got some shots but they were a struggle, event making use of the best high ISO capabilities of the cameras.  The B-1s did show up okay but I still didn’t do as well as I thought I should have.

I learned a bit about the performance of the cameras.  I was shooting at super high ISO settings with the camera wide open.  However, as I review the shots, I realize the camera was behaving in a way that I had not anticipated.  I was shooting in aperture priority with some negative exposure compensation dialed in.  As I look through the shots I see that the camera would start out with a dark shot, gradually boost the exposure and then go dark again.  I would review the shots and see one that was looking good but know that the next would be dark.

When shooting in such limited light, the shutter speeds are very low and the number of lost shots is high.  Therefore, you can’t afford to have the exposure be bad.  I don’t know how many shots I lost since they may not have been sharp anyway but I cut down on my opportunities.  In future, I need to have all of the exposures be acceptable in order to maximize my opportunities.  Therefore, I think I shall have to go fully manual on everything for these shots.  Set ISO up high and then go to manual aperture and shutter speed.  I will still lose a lot of shots but at least I can focus on dealing with my handholding technique rather than worrying about how the camera is metering a dark night.  It’s not too reasonable to expect the camera to get that right every time.  It is a pretty extreme case!

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Rocky Point Restaurant

A favorite of ours for a while has been the Rocky Point Restaurant.  Located on Pacific Coast Highway, it is not the greatest restaurant but it is so well located, you can forgive it many things.  On our trip this time, we just stopped off for a drink rather than a meal.  This proved to be a great idea because we we could wander down to the lower terrace to enjoy our drinks and watch the whales swim past.  We first came here years ago when I was taken on a corporate event which included dinner here.  Once we knew about it, we came back on a few occasions.  These shots just show what a great place it is to hang out.

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Air China A330

Boring paint schemes are far too common these days on airliners.  The all white plane with just a hint of color is a little too much of a feature of things these days.  A few airlines break the mold but not enough.  One of the boring ones is Air China.  They are not at all interesting for most of their fleet.  However, some of their Airbus A330s are painted in a livery that is a bit more interesting.  Sadly, I had never seen one.  They fly in to San Jose but almost always they bring a jet in plain white.  However, they changed it on a day when we were going to San Jose for some shopping so I added a small diversion.

This scheme is not the most dramatic and shooting it in the middle of the day is not going to emphasize it in the best way but I wasn’t going to miss the chance.  San Jose provides a great location for getting close to the jets.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one interested in it coming.  A few people showed up just before arrival and left straight afterwards.  I just wish more airlines would adopt interesting colors.  The planes are not very varied so the liveries are all that is left to mix it up.

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Time for Another Big Change

Things are about to get different for us.  We moved to California in 2013 as a result of work changes for me.  Some of the things we had planned worked out well but a few others did not go as expected.  Nothing unusual in that.  However, we started to consider some other options for what to do.  I have now been given a new opportunity which involves a move to Seattle.  Consequently, we are making another move.  We are heading to the Pacific Northwest.

I have no idea what this is going to bring.  Certainly there will be plenty of new things for us to explore.  We have visited the area before but living there will be a while new thing.  The area is full of aviation activities, many of which have been the subject of previous blog posts.  Consequently, I expect a lot of things will be fun to check out.  We will leave behind friends and hopefully make new ones.  The blog will show off a lot of those things as they happen.  Strap in for the ride!

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Blue Angels at Oceana (And High ISO)

I have only been to the Oceana show once.  I headed down there with my friends Ben and Simon.  We weren’t terribly lucky with the weather.  There was flying during the show but things were overcast and deteriorated as the show went on.  The finale of the show was, naturally for a big Navy base, the Blue Angels.  I was shooting with a 1D Mk IIN in those days and that was a camera that was not happy at high ISO settings.

The problem was, the light was not good and the ISO needed to be cranked up a bit.  Amusingly, if you were shooting today, the ISO levels would not be anything that caused concern.  Current cameras can shoot at ISO levels without any noise levels that would have been unthinkable back then.  However, I did learn something very important with this shoot.  The shot above is one that I got as one of the solo jets got airborne.  I used it as a test for processing.

I processed two versions of the image, one with a lot of noise reduction dialed in and one with everything zeroed out.  I think combined them in one Photoshop image and used a layer mask to show one version in one half of the image and the other for the second half.  When I viewed the final image on the screen, the noise in one half was awfully apparent.  It was a clear problem.  However, I then printed the image.  When I did so, things were very different.  If you looked closely, you could see a little difference.  However, when you looked from normal viewing distances, there was no obvious difference between the two.

My takeaway from this is that viewing images on screens has really affected our approach to images.  We get very fixated on the finest detail while the image as a whole is something we forget.  We print less and less these days and the screen is a harsh tool for viewing.

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Abstract Earth Erosion

Driving south on the Pacific Coast Highway, I was quite taken by the patterns in the earth resulting from erosion by the rain.  The soil is obviously soft and so has worn in patterns that are quite striking.  I think we were driving south when the light was best for the patterns.  The shadows were very pronounced.  On the way back I stopped to take some shots.  They were interesting but the light had moved to be more head on so the contrast was not as pronounced.  However, I still think the shapes made some interesting abstract patterns.

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Some Spare Oxygen – Just in Case

There have been quite a few Raptor posts recently.  I guess seeing a bunch of them at Nellis triggered a few things of interest to me.  One was as I looked at the jets after they had passed me by on their approach.  A few years ago, the F-22 fleet was grounded by some issues with the oxygen system.  Like most modern jets, the F-22 doesn’t carry bottled oxygen but instead generates it onboard for the pilot.  There were some issues with the oxygen being generated that resulted in pilots feeling unwell and, potentially, losing awareness of what they were doing.  As you can image, this is not a good thing in a fast jet and was believed to have contributed to loss of an aircraft with its pilot!

A backup oxygen system was implemented to provide the pilots with something in the event that they felt symptoms of the problem recurring.  Not so much of a solution as a fallback plan.  As I looked at the jets, I saw green tanks behind the ejection seat.  These are pretty big tanks and seem rather unsubtle in the way that something that has been added after the fact often is.  I wonder whether these are the spare tanks for the pilots to breathe should the onboard generation system cease to be reliable.

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