Category Archives: aircraft

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

NetJets Gets the Good Conditions

In this previous post, I mentioned the good light I was hoping would be available for a Dornier 328Jet.  While that didn’t work out, I did get a NetJets Latitude arriving at that time.  NetJets colors are certainly not very exciting so they are a bland subject normally (and a Latitude is hardly the most exciting looking bizjet either.  However, with the right lighting, even this can look pretty dramatic!

First JASDF KC-46 Pegasus

The Japanese (JASDF) were a customer for the tanker version of the Boeing 767 when Boeing was offering it in the early days.  Japan and Italy were the only customers that I am aware of for that aircraft.  Therefore, it was not a massive surprise that Japan ordered the KC-46 when Boeing developed it for the USAF.  The first aircraft is now being completed and has been parked on the ramp up at Everett recently.  Here it is undergoing some testing.  Hopefully we shall get to see it flying soon.

Turbine Beaver

There is no shortage of DHC Beavers in the PNW, even of the turbine variety.  Plenty of them are on floats, too, so even that doesn’t make it particularly special.  However, when you haven’t been able to shoot much aviation for a long time, one is a welcome sight.  Even better when it switches to the closer runway when on approach.

F-15E Strike Eagle

A recent anniversary of the first flight of the F-15E Strike Eagle was commemorated on a Facebook group and it got me looking through a variety of old shots I have of the jet.  Having found a bunch of them that I liked, I figured I might share a few of them on the blog too.  Here are a few of my favorites from over the years.