Author Archives: Rob

Moffett Field Airship Hangars

When we lived in the Bay Area, I wrote an article on a search and rescue exercise the the 129th Rescue Wing was holding at Moffett Field.  I got to spend a good chunk of one day on base while the exercise was underway.  During some of the down time between launch and recovery, we were taken in to the airship hangars.  Hangar One is the famous hangar which has had its surface removed as a prelude to its eventual refurbishment.

On the other side of the field are the other two hangars and it was one of these that we got to check out.  The structure of these hangars is wooden as opposed to the metal framework of Hangar One.  The condition of the structure was deteriorating and, while we could go in to one hangar, I seem to recall that the other one was considered more hazardous.

The wooden framing was something to see.  Pictures really don’t do anything to convey just how big these buildings are.  A P-2 Neptune was in storage at the time.  After this, it was moved across the field to join the P-3 Orion on display.  Wherever you were on the ramp, the hangars dominated the view.  As we watched the Pave Hawks and Hercs launching, the hangars were always there in the background.

Wrong Settings on a Vintage Car, But…

While hiking through Moran State Park, we came up to a road.  As we got there a vintage car of some sort was coming towards us.  Annoyingly, I had changed the camera to its base ISO to photograph some waterfalls and hadn’t reset it to auto ISO.  It was dark in there so, when I shot the passing vehicle, the shutter speed was way too low.  It means the shots were blurred but it actually wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

EMS Bell 407

A non floatplane visitor to the Splash In at Clear Lake one year was a Bell 407 that was used for EMS work.  It flew in and landed in the parking lot next to the area where the planes were parked after coming out of the water.  At some point, early in the day, I heard it firing up.  Apparently it had been called out on a mission.  Off it went, sadly not to return for the rest of the day.

Metal Silos

Driving through Bellingham, we took a turn passed a building called the Granary.  It took us in to an area that looks like it is planned for some significant redevelopment but for which, not much has yet started.  In the center of the area was a line of silos of some type.  The metal looked like it had been refinished and the textures of the construction really caught the eye in the soft fall light.  It would have been rude not to take a few shots.  There was also a wooden silo of some sort that looked like it had been refinished but I didn’t get any shots of that for reasons that escape me now!

Red Flag Night Launches

Adobe periodically updates the processing algorithms that are used by Lightroom and Photoshop. Each update provides some improvements in how raw files are processed and it can be good to go back to older shots and to see how the newer process versions handle the images.  I find this particularly useful for images shot in low light and with high ISO.

I have some standard process settings I use but have also experimented with modified settings for use with high ISOs and the higher noise levels that come with them.  I got to some night launch shots from an old Red Flag exercise and had a play with the images.  The E-3 launch was actually as the light was going down but it still had some illumination so it didn’t need much work.

The KC-135 and B-1B shots were a different story and were at high ISOs and with very little light.  I was able to update the process version and apply some new settings I had worked out since the original processing and it resulted in some pretty reasonable outputs considering how little light there was to work with.

San Juan Ferry and Barge

The Washington State Ferries service is the main way of getting between the San Juan Islands but it isn’t the only one.  On a previous trip to the islands, I had posted about an operator of a small ferry.  That post is here.  The operator is San Juan Ferry and Barge.  The boat in the original post is the Henry Island but they have a second, similar boat.  This is the Nordland II.

The Nordland II came past us while we were staying in Orcas a couple of times.  It had a truck with what looked like propane on board.  I imagine moving from place to place with a hazardous cargo is easier when you charter the boat yourself.  The front ramp means they can load and unload at any number of launching ramps around the islands which makes them super flexible.

They are based at Friday Harbor and, while we were walking around the waterfront, I saw them in the marina.  The Nordland II was making a trip out so I got a shot as they pulled out (along with a friendly wave from the crew!).  The Henry Island was still moored up so I grabbed some shots of it while I could.

Widgeons at the Splash In

I found myself looking through some old photos (as I have done a lot in the last ten months) and came to the Clear Lake Splash In that takes place in California.  I only made one trip up to this event and, while I was told that it was a quieter year than previous events, it was still a pretty cool thing to experience.  Three Grumman Widgeons showed up at the event.  The classic Grumman amphibian look was cool to see in action.

They landed on the lake and then dropped the undercarriage to allow them to power up the steel plate ramp that had been laid to provide access to the parking field.  The three of them were parked together over near the trees.  One went out to do some flying during the course of the day and then they all headed home when things wrapped up.

Watching something of this size transition from the water to the land was most impressive.  Similarly, the trip back down the ramp and in to the water was cool to witness.  The Widgeon sits pretty low in the water when it is not at speed but, once it is up on the step, it is a very different beast.  Since they were operating parallel to the shore, it was possible for them to be quite close while they were at speed which was great.

Sunlight Through the Mist

Moran State Park was a damp and shady place for a hike.  As we got closer to Cascades Lake, we got to an area that was a bit misty.  With the sun peaking through the trees, the moisture in the air picked up the shafts of sunlight picking through the branches.  I had not photographed this before and I was interested how to expose to get the effect to show up properly.

I wasn’t sure whether to underexpose or go with the base settings so I played around with it a bit.  Since it was the mirrorless M6 I was using, you get a bit of a preview in the viewfinder of what you will get but my experience of that camera is that the viewfinder can be a little off compared to what you get when working on the desktop.  A little tweaking and I was pretty pleased with the results.  I did also try some HDR just in case but I don’t think it was necessary.

MC-130 on Exercise

In this previous post about the hangars at Moffett Field, I mentioned that I was there to cover an exercise.  The MC-130s were a big part of the exercise.  They were loading up and launching down to remote landing strips on the California coast.  The holds were full of equipment including off road vehicles.  Loading these up was a tight fit.  While the crews spent time getting everything ready to go, I was reasonably free to wander around the airframe and get some shots.

Here are some that I got that day.  These were some of the oldest Combat Shadow (and maybe Hercules) airframes around at the time and I suspect that they have been replaced by now, I think by Combat King J models.

Experimenting With Night Shots of Ferries

With the ferries coming and going to the terminal at Orcas, I was able to have plenty of chances to take photos.  I did get standard shots of the boats in low light conditions.  They are not easy to shoot since they are constantly moving.  No long exposures at low ISOs are possible so it is high ISO and the associated noise.  However, I did decide to experiment with some long exposures and blending of shots.  The boats make a curving approach to the terminal.  I thought this might make a nice long exposure.  It worked okay but the curve is a bit disguised by being too low down to really appreciate it.  However, it was fun to try.