Walking through the old parts of the city of Portsmouth took us by the cathedral. In the grounds there was a memorial to the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Known more commonly as the Wrens, this was the branch of the Navy for the women before everything became more integrated. The top of the memorial is the various types of hats that Wrens wore in service. My gran was a Wren in the war and made friends in the service that stayed with her for the rest of her life. She would go to many reunions.
I think HMS Warrior has shown up in the blog before. During our trip to Portsmouth last year, I got a different perspective on it from previous visits because I went up the Spinnaker Tower. I did also take a look from ground level too, though. There were some people up in the rigging working on the ship. I don’t have a great time with heights so that would not be a good thing for me I suspect. An open door of a plane is fine but that is different.
The view from above is a great way to see the ship (or anything for that matter). It also gives you the background of the historic royal dockyard. Having a 60,000 ton aircraft carrier as a backdrop just goes to show how things have changed over the years. At one point, this would have been the pinnacle of warship design but now it is considered archaic. How things move on.
When I was a lot younger, I watched wildlife programs on the BBC. There was a film maker that was on my local BBC region called Simon King. He graduated to working in the Maasai Mara where he was on with another photographer and film maker who had been there for many years. His name is Jonathan Scott. He still lives in Kenya and, with his wife Angela who is also a photographer, can be seen out and about in the Mara covering the animals. I was really pleased when we came across the pair of them. He was driving their Land Rover with his wife in the back shooting out the side. He had a camera mounted close but too. I waved at him at one point and he smiled and waved back. Had a bit of a fanboy moment!
We came upon a few filming crews while we were in the Maasai Mara. There were professional photographers but more of the video teams. National Geographic had a crew out working and there were others filming too. You would sometimes find vehicles that were scouting crews for the filming. The thing I found funny was that they often had signs saying that they were filming crews and not to follow them. I might never have paid attention to them until I knew that they were filming crews and might well have good intel about where animals were!
Modified vehicles which allow the camera operator to sit outside the vehicle and shoot looked like just the sort of thing I would like to have. They weren’t always in use, though. I did see one operator sitting inside the vehicle with his feet up while checking stuff on his phone. Looking at the very pricey lenses attached to the camera rigs was almost as fun as looking at the animals. Nat Geo also had a vehicle with a gimbal mount out on the front of the vehicle. It would have been fun to see that in use!
One thing that occurred to me as I watched these teams at work was the volume of material that they would collect that would be culled down to make a TV show. Sure, this would be a vast amount of data to store and sort but how different this must be from the days of wet film. Those crews shooting things like the early Big Cat Diaries must have been carrying a ton of stock and then had to manage all of it through processing and cataloging. That must have been a very time consuming and expensive proposition.
Our return flight home included a layover in London. Our flight in arrived before sunrise and brought us up from the south over to the east end and then back across Docklands, south of Westminster and in to Heathrow. I fortunately had a window seat although I was a bit far from the window itself so there was a certain amount of shooting while reaching across. Trying to pan appropriately for the movement of the aircraft was a touch tricky but I managed to exploit the low light capabilities of the camera to get some okay shots.
We flew across Biggin Hill and I was able to shoot almost straight down on the runway and ramp areas. Then we came up towards Woolwich and I could see the ferries and London City Airport. From there it was not far to the Thames Barrier and then the O2 arena. The high rises of Docklands were next. On to Tower Bridge with the Shard and London Bridge Station. Next stop was The Palace of Westminster with the London Eye and Waterloo alongside. Last was Buckingham Palace and Knightsbridge. Some fun sights to see. In daylight, I can navigate this area easily but, when it is dark, you have to work from key references.
Since Breeze started service in the US, I have not had much of a chance to see its aircraft. They don’t provide service to our part of the world yet. I have seen some of the Embraer fleet it operates when those jets have come to Boeing Field. This was of interest but slightly disappointing to me since the fleet is going to be made up of A220-300s and the Embraers were an interim fleet. Of course, that might make them the most interesting jets in due course. I did want to see the A220s, though.
I had to make a work trip to Orlando in October. My flight arrived in MCO at midnight and, as we pulled on to the gate, I see a Breeze A220 parked next to us. I got a shot of it with my phone but it was dark and the lighting from the terminal was definitely not good for the colors of the livery. The fact that they used that gate, though, gave me cause for optimism when I was due to return. I got to the airport with plenty of time and my flight was delayed. Consequently, I was able to watch another Breeze A220 as it pulled in from its flight and, then again, when it departed. The phone had to be the option again but I think it worked out okay – at least until I get a chance to get some more shots at some point in the future.
At the end of our first day in Amboseli, we came upon a bunch of vehicles that were sitting near some trees. There was nothing apparent to me about what was going on, but the word passed around that a cheetah had been seen near the trees. We sat and waited for a while. The sun was rapidly going down and that meant that any vehicles that weren’t staying in the park, had to be out by the deadline. They had to leave so the remaining vehicles were only those staying inside the park. There were still quite a few trucks but not too many.
Before too long, the cheetah came in to view. It was walking away from the trees but quite far away. Still, it was great to see it. Then a second appeared and the two of them started walking. At first, they seemed to be paralleling the road but soon it was clear that they were converging with it. We would drive a little way down and wait for them to come towards us and they were getting closer and closer. Occasionally they would stop and sit, almost in formation. Then they would start again. We would let them walk past us then drive a little further and wait again. Vehicles were leapfrogging each other as we all did the same thing.
The light was fading fast, and the ISO was really cranking up, but it is incredible what a modern mirrorless camera can do. Meanwhile, the two cheetahs were getting closer and closer to the road until they eventually decided to cross over the other side. Being so close to them was an incredible end to our first full day.
Our next cheetah encounter was a surprise. We drove out towards a tree in some open space (admittedly an area known for cheetahs). There was a truck near the tree but only as we got there did we realize that there was a mother cheetah and her cub sitting in the shade. They were quite relaxed with us there and the cub was sitting next to mum albeit with some long grass making a clear view a touch tricky.
We left them to it but, an hour or so later, as we came along a road, they were walking towards us along the road. Mum was in front with the cub trotting along behind. They went off the road into the grass to pass us but then resumed using the road once they had passed us. It was so cool to see them moving by as if we weren’t there.
Our last cheetah encounter was entirely down to Nancy. We were bouncing along a road at speed as the third of the three trucks. The side of the vehicle was covered in mud as a result of the heavy rains we had been experiencing. Somehow, through a tiny gap of clear window, Nancy spotted a cheetah and called out loudly. We ground to a halt and did a U turn. Sure enough, a cheetah was alongside the road eating what remained of a Thompson’s gazelle. The others turned around to join us as this animal finished its meal. The stomach was looking very full.
The cheetahs are just glorious looking animals. They are small and sleek compared to the larger leopards and the even larger lions. Speed is their thing, and they look so fast even as they are walking. The markings on their face are really interesting too and the cubs look almost sad with the facial lines. There were many high points on this trip, but they were definitely up there.
A combination of a travel image and the job stuff today. We were driving from Nairobi to Amboseli on our first full day in Kenya. The road we took initially is the main road to Mombasa which is the principal port for not only Kenya but some of its neighboring countries. Parallel with the road is a railway and, as we headed southeast, a train was coming the other way. A pair of diesel locomotives were pulling the train, and they had a message on the side about their role. I understand they were built by CRRC in China. One for the rail fans who read my blog, I think.
As we walked back towards the docks in Bristol after going up to see the Clifton Suspension bridge, we crossed over to the other side of the locks that are at the end of the harbor. There we came across another artifact of the industrial history of the city which I knew nothing of previously. Since it is Bristol, no great shock that it was something that Brunel created.
This was an old swing bridge that would span the locks. Apparently, it was in use for many years before being withdrawn when a modern bridge was built to supersede it in 1968. It was close to being scrapped at that point but thankfully wasn’t. Now it is sitting on the side of the lock while waiting to undergo restoration. It certainly needs some work at this point, and it is strange to think that it was the main route across the locks for decades.
Kenya and Tanzania have many small airstrips scattered around the countryside including in the national parks. These provide quick transfers between locations if you are willing or able to pay and don’t want the long and bumpy road trips. There are a variety of types that are used for these services and I shall show some others in upcoming posts. However, one type does dominate.
The Cessna Grand Caravan is everywhere in the region. It has the right size for many of the trips, it has sufficient capacity for luggage with the baggage pod beneath he fuselage, it is fine with the rough surface strips that are in most places and it is PT-6 powered so very reliable. We saw tons of them during the trip and also got to experience a flight on one. I was surprised to find it was a 1×2 configuration. I had assumed that they were 1×1 but not in this case. It got a lot of us in there but getting in and out was not an easy process. The aisle was minimal!
I have no idea how many Grand Caravans there are in use in rural Africa but I imagine that Cessna has delivered a ton of aircraft from Wichita to the region. I suspect that the best replacement is another Caravan. The Islander might once have been this sort of workhorse but the efficiency and reliability of the Caravan must be what has made it so ubiquitous.