I’m Glad He’s Waving Because the Alternative…

I was directly under the flightpath of an HH-60 Pave Hawk as it headed out on a mission.  Looking up at the helo as it passed over, it was possible to see the feet of the crewman/gunner.  What I didn’t realize until I looked at the photos afterwards was that he was waving at me!  I wish I had waved back.  Given the large weapon mounted to the side of the airframe that he uses in action, I am glad that waving is what he chose to do!

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Amtrak Over the River

Having watched a guy walking across a narrow railroad bridge over the Alameda Creek in Fremont as you can read about here, a train was now coming across the bridge.  The train was a Capital Corridor service heading to San Jose.  I am currently working on a project to acquire new locomotives for Caltrans that will see service on the Capital Corridor and will replace borrowed Amtrak locomotives.  This train was being hauled by one of these Amtrak locomotives.  All being well, this will soon no longer be a regular sight.

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Puffy Cloud Backdrops

My personal preference is to shoot planes tight.  I like to see the detail up close and usually strive to get that in my shots.  However, sometimes I remember that there is more to it than that and there is something interesting about the context of the shot.  It doesn’t have to be a detailed shot of the plane.  It can be a wider shot when no one is looking at the plane expecting to see the intricacies of its structure.

Having some nice clouds to play with is an important part of the story.  Going wide when the sky is blue is not really going to add any drama.  However, some nice puffy clouds will certainly be appreciated in this situation.  In this case I was with some friends at O’Hare shortly after a storm had passed through.  Things had cleared up nicely but there was still plenty of evidence in the air of what had been dumping water on us a short while before.

I doubt closer shots would have been much use anyway.  With the amount of moisture in the air and the warmth that was quickly coming back now that the sun was out, heat haze would have destroyed an detail with a longer lens.  Going wider was probably the only option.  It was certainly worth it though.  The texture of the clouds after the storm was there to see and to be emphasized in the shots.  The plane provides a focal point to explore the image from but is not too important itself.  You can’t just do this but, from time to time, it is good to fight your normal style.

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Avaya Stadium for a Pre-Season Game

I was down in San Jose and I ended up getting some lunch next to the Avaya Stadium.  This is the home of the San Jose Earthquakes, a Major League Soccer side.  They were having a pre-season game and a steady stream of people was showing up.  The stands didn’t look like they were filling up to much.  I don’t know whether the Quakes get a good attendance or not or whether being a pre-season game made a difference.  Either way, some of the fans up at the top of the stand were certainly making their presence felt.  I decided to shoot a pano sequence of the stadium for fun.  Blending it proved a little difficult because of the constant movement of vehicles and people in the foreground but most of the odd artifacts will probably not be too obvious.

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Lots of “Daves” to See

If you ask Nancy about a name that I think has good comic potential, it is Dave.  It is not that the name Dave is strange in any way but, if you asked me to name something, my first choice would be Dave.  It has something that just works for being offbeat.  Apparently, I am not alone in this (which will come as a great disappointment to Nancy who will now know I am not alone and will never stop).  The online forum for aerospace, PPRUNE, has apparently decided to call the F-35 Lightning II the Dave.  Tornados are Tonkas, F-16s are Vipers and now F-35s are Daves.  I love it!

Red Flag 17-1 was the first of the Red Flag exercises to which the USAF brought the F-35A.  The Marine Corps had brought the F-35B previously but they tended to go out in pairs.  This time the Air Force took the jets out in significant numbers.  Consequently, I was able to get lots of shots of the jets.  Whether it was groups returning as four ships, individual jets departing or odd Daves in formation with other jets, there were plenty of options.  They also turned in really nicely on approach for the spot I had chosen so some nice close top sides were also possible.

I won’t yet say that I have grown to like the look of the jet but I am certainly starting to thaw.  Since they are all new and spotlessly clean, the colors (is that right given how variations of gray are what we are talking about) really come out nicely in the low light.  There are some nice lines to the jet.  It may be a bit chunky but it doesn’t have the same problems as the F-22 with angles at which it looks positively uncomfortable.  Hopefully, the time will come when the operators are able to move away from the purely gray and adopt some nice colors on the jets.  We shall see.

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Holocaust Memorial

After our trip around the Legion of Honor, we took a stroll around the grounds by the museum.  The majority of the land is taken up with a golf course – a sad use for some great open space in the city – but, as we walked around the sidewalk, there was a sign for a holocaust memorial.  We figured we would take a look.  We were anticipating some sort of plaque or a wall.  We weren’t prepared for what was actually there.

Tucked behind a wall was a sculpture that really made you stop.  A solitary figure stood behind a barbed wire fence while many bodies lay on the ground behind him.  It was striking.  I know I had been anticipating something straightforward so the contrast was marked but, even so, the effect when I first saw the memorial was dramatic.  It really struck you hard.  I hope the pictures provide even a hint of how effective the memorial was.

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Before There Were 400s

The 747-400 has been around for so long now and has sold so well that it is by far the dominant version of the jet in service.  However, before the late 80s, there were previous versions of the 747.  The 100 series through to the 300 series and the SP.  The 400 series is the one you see now but, before the 400 took over, the earlier models were the ones that were everywhere.  Since I wasn’t taking a lot of photos in those days, I have a lot less photos of the earlier models but I do have some.

Pan Am operated the 100 Series jets and I saw them at Heathrow in the 80s.  200 Series freighters were built in some numbers and many are still around or were until relatively recently.  I think the only 300 Series jet I ever photographed was a Saudia example at Heathrow.  These shots are some of the ones I have come across in my time.  With the 400 Series jets now starting to disappear, it is no surprise that these earlier jets are mainly a thing of the past.

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Are These for Gauging the Flood?

This post is a question for whoever might be able to help me out.  I was walking along Alameda Creek and I saw various sets of these devices along the levee banks at different locations.  I was curious as to what they could be.  They looked like they would float so I wondered whether they are designed to start at the bottom of the track and then float up as the water levels rises.  Perhaps this then reports back to some control location so everyone knows the level of the creek?  However, that is just a guess.  Does anyone know the real story?

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Will the Scooters Beat Me Again?

My previous effort at photographing the Draken A-4s at Red Flag had not gone well.  I got shots of them but the conditions were far from ideal.  I had hoped for better and been a bit frustrated.  When I went back for Red Flag 17-1, the Draken team had become fully integrated into the aggressor program and were launching on all of the missions we saw.  I was optimistic about getting some better shots.  However, while the first day was a cracking day for us. One disappointment was that the A-4s went left and away from us on recovery.

Launch was a bit better.  I had some close encounters with the jets as they flexed towards us during the departures.  However, launch does not give great light so, while the angles were good, the shots were t as good as I would have liked.  Our second day did better on the recoveries though.  Some of the A-4s came our way and we got some good angles on their turn to final approach.  I was a happy boy.  The light had finally been good and the angles were nice.  Hurrah!  The special jet or a two seater would have been even better but I am not complaining.  I got both the Kiwi jets and the Israeli jets so it went well.

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Shovelers Doing Their Thing

The shoreline of San Francisco Bay has a bunch of ducks.  Of the ones I see a lot of, there are two main species.  The Mallards are a duck you will see almost anywhere.  The others are the Shovelers.  As the name suggests, Shovelers like to shovel around in the murk at the bottom of the water to see what they can find.  Their bill is shaped to help with rooting around in this mud.  The result can be that their heads are no longer the color of the feathers but are, instead, covered in mud.

There is plenty of muddy shallow water along the shore so the ducks will often take off and head to different feeding grounds.  It’s fun to try and get them in mid-flight.  If things are closer, they will save energy and paddle to their next spot.  The best shots are when they come up covered in mud.  They look almost surprised by what a mess they are!

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