Return of a P-8 Test Flight From Above

The first decent sized arrival I got on my BFI visit was a US Navy P-8 Poseidon returning from a test flight.  It gave me a chance to get the hang of picking the arriving planes up against the background and working out their positions as the are on final.  Things are pretty cluttered in the background which doesn’t help make a photo look interesting but, once they are over the airfield itself, the background is a lot cleaner and the plane stands out more.

Once over the runway, everything is unobstructed so you get a good view of the touchdown and roll out.  The runway wasn’t too damp so not much in the way of spray from reverse thrust but a good amount of tire smoke as the mains hit the ground.  Heat haze was not too much of a problem as the conditions were not too sunny but you still had to be pretty close in before the shots were sharp enough to look at closely.

Where It All Began for Gulfstream

Everyone always associates the Gulfstream brand with business jets.  These days that is all that they make but it started out with a turboprop.  The first Gulfstream was a straight winged plane with a low set tailplane and a pair of Rolls Royce Dart turboprops for power.  If you look at the airframe, it is not hard to see how it was married to a new wing, power plants and empennage to create the G-II,  However, the turboprop is the original.  I remember seeing Ford’s aircraft operating from Stansted to their European bases.  However, I have rarely shot one of the originals.

I have two that were operating at different locations but, judging by the registrations, they are probably from the same operator.  Not much diversity there.  I also have shots of an old NASA airframe stored as part of the Pima Air Museum’s collection.  Not sure whether it has been reassembled at this point or not but, hopefully, one of the locals there can let me know.  This was the beginning of a long line of top of the range bizjets.

Cascades Lake

Orcas Island is the location for Moran State Park.  It includes Cascades Lake which makes for a nice hike.  We extended the hike slightly to include some waterfalls but they will get a post of their own (or two).  In the low winter light, the lake looks really beautiful.  The trail brings you out in little bays but you are never too far from the water.  The trail is not along the shore and the terrain is a little steeper than you might expect but it is still a pretty simple hike.  Meanwhile, you get to enjoy the lovely views so it doesn’t feel like too much exertion at all.

Spanish Hercules Retirement

I understand that the Spanish Air Force is retiring (or has retired) their C-130 fleet.  I guess with the A400Ms coming into service, the Hercs were done.  I have not had much interaction with Spanish C-130s but here are a couple of shots to mark their end of service.

A Spanish Air Force KC-130 Hercules launches out of Nellis AFB to provide refueling support to a Red Flag mission.

Is HDR Necessary Anymore?

I was taking some shots for work recently where the sky had some nice cloud detail and the foreground was in a lot of shade.  Since the pictures were needed for a project, I was covering my bases and shot some brackets to allow me to do some processing in HDR later.  Some people hate HDR but I have always been looking to use it to get a shot that reflects more the human eye’s ability to deal with extremes of contrast.  With a wide range of light levels in a shot, HDR can give you a more usable image.

However, when I was processing the shots, I was struck by how I could use the middle exposure alone and, with some helpful adjustment of exposure, shadows and highlights, I was able to get much the same sort of result as the HDR image provided.  The raw files seem to have enough latitude for processing that going to the bother of taking and processing the HDR image hardly seemed worth it.  There are still situations where the range of exposure is so wide – outdoor sunlight and shady interiors – that it is still probably necessary to bracket and process later.  However, for a lot of the situations I used to use HDR for, there seems little point.  How many of you still shoot HDR?

New Location to Shoot at KBFI

A while back I took a drive around some streets on the hill overlooking Boeing Field.  I was looking for a good location to get a shot of the field and, since you have a lot of elevation, to see whether you could get a look down on arriving and departing traffic.  At the time, I didn’t find much.  There is a lot of tree growth up there where there aren’t buildings and I thought I was out of luck.

More recently, I was looking at some photos posted by local photographers and saw exactly what I had previously been looking for.  I took a look at the backgrounds to the shots and tried to triangulate where the photographer might have been.  I focused on an area that looked like it would be right and then took a closer look on Google Maps.  There appeared to be a pathway through the bushes to an open area so I figured an exploration was in order.

The path was there if a little overgrown.  There was some crap at the entrance which made me wonder whether this was somewhere I really wanted to go but I walked in sans kit to see what it was like.  Turned out to be a pretty good spot.  A great view over the airfield looking down on the ramp but the terminal and the Boeing ramp on the opposite side.  It is a morning location ideally because, at this time of year, the light has moved around by late morning.  However, while I was late, it was still an option.  If things get cloudy, it helps a lot.

You are quite a way from the action.  It was time for the longest lenses and, even then, a bit of cropping is required for some angles.  Also, you get some cluttered backgrounds against which the smaller planes can be lost making the shots of little value.  It does provide for a different view and, unlike the other spots I shoot at BFI, you can get arrivals and departures.  I did try a second visit one morning but it was foggy and the field was shut down!  However, I shall given the location another visit at some point soon.  The light would last longer in the summer but I suspect heat haze will be a real problem by then.

New Mukilteo Terminal

Washington State Ferries have opened their first new terminal in 40 years.  Calling it a new terminal is a bit deceptive – it is a replacement for an existing terminal – but it is definitely a new place for the ferries to come in.  It is the new Mukilteo terminal and it is located about a third of a mile from the previous terminal.  That one was right at the end of Mukilteo Speedway next to the lighthouse.  The new location is east along the shore near the old Air Force tank farm location.

The construction has been underway for a while and the switch over happened on December 29, 2020.  The ferries didn’t run for much of that day as they moved some key equipment across from the old location.  Additionally, the crews took the opportunity to get practice with berthing in the new facility.  The transition was done ahead of the holiday to make sure that the surge in traffic over New Year wasn’t affected.

I took a walk along the shore on two days later to see what it all looked like.  The weather was hardly delightful but it was December in the Pacific Northwest so no great shock there.  Additionally, not everything was complete.  The main facilities are open but they have yet to install the passenger footbridge.  That will go in around February/March time.  For now, passenger walk across the road access (not while cars are there, of course!).

That also means some of the construction equipment is still in place.  A large floating crane is still there and will be, I assume, until the footbridge is completed.  They are also tidying up some of the other elements but they should be done pretty soon.

There is a new toll plaza on the entrance to the holding lots.  I didn’t go up to take a look at that but I did get some photos from a distance.  The demand for service was really high on this day with everyone heading home for their New Year celebrations.  Despite the large holding lanes, it was full and traffic was waiting beyond the plaza and up the hill.

The main building is a really elegant structure.  Lots of wood construction and styled on a native long house, it contains an information center, a ticket office and some other facilities.  There is lots of native art decorating it both inside and out including a cool boat hanging from the roof.  The building is elevated over the road access.  The ramp for loading comes straight in to the shore and leads directly under the building.  It means you have a nice elevated view of the boats as the come and go.

There is a waterfront trail that runs from up near the lighthouse to a park further to the east so you can walk along the shore to see the facilities and watch the boats.  Near the terminal, there are many information boards giving some history of the region and these are quite educational.  On a sunnier day, I can imagine there will be plenty of people enjoying this part of the shoreline and checking out the ferry traffic.

P-8 Tries to Trick Me

The afternoon lighting was looking good and, when I saw a P-8 was up, I was tempted to get some shots.  When I saw the Dornier was also coming in, it helped make up my mind.  Even better, it spared me from a fruitless trip.  The P-8 was out of Boeing Field and was scheduled to make approaches at Everett before returning to base.  I would have been tempted to shoot it up there but, with the 328Jet in the mix, I figured Boeing Field was it.

As it turned out, the flight plan for Everett was a distraction.  I watched the jet heading back up from Oregon and it looked like it was coming direct to Boeing Field.  That was indeed the case.  No approach to Everett.  If I had been up there, I would have been pretty annoyed.  As it was, I got the arrival, even if the conditions were nowhere near as nice as they had been when I first headed out.  This one was a US Navy example.

Rock Texture on the Shore

Some of the rocks along the shore in Larrabee State Park had worn in to interesting shapes under the relentless pressure of the sea.  The coastal rocks are all shaped by the wave action but I thought these looked a little different to normal.  I wonder whether the rocks are a softer type than I am more familiar with because the curves and cracks seemed to be a lot smoother than is usual.  Some of the rocks also had pitting in them, presumably from the eddies in the water flowing across them gradually eroding deeper into the surface of the rock.