Tag Archives: 737

More on the Stored Southwest Jets

When the pandemic first hit in a big way, I wasn’t going anywhere to shoot but, once it was okay to make trips without interfacing with other people too much, I did got to Paine Field to see the stored Southwest 737s and I wrote about it in this post.  I was back up there recently and, while they have been cycling jets in and out, there are still a lot of their 737s parked there – predominantly but not only, 737-700s.

Some of them are up near the old cross runway and lined up in a good spot for a shot when the morning light is on them.  I was a little later than ideal but I still managed to get something.  Many of them are around near the FHCAM facility – still sadly closed and with no idea what the future might hold.  I had brought some steps which meant I could shoot over the fence.  The planes are really tight in there so I may a lot of use of panos to get decent coverage of the planes.  I did also get some of the planes further away.

The coverings on the openings on the airframes were pretty comprehensive.  Everything that is exposed has been taped over to prevent moisture or creatures getting in and causing harm.  There have been various stories coming out of the issues affecting planes that have been in storage for a long time so, while this prep is good, there will still be much to do when these planes are returned to service.  Meanwhile, Southwest is now taking delivery of its Max jets so it will be interesting to see how many of these planes do have a future.

Renton Flight Line

The flight line near the runway at Renton is always worth a look.  The majority of the planes (when production is normal) will be airliners but one spot at the south end is likely to have a P-8 Poseidon in place.  Such was the case this morning with a US Navy example heading the line.

Down By the Lake at Love Field

Bachman Lake sits at one end of Dallas Love Field.  Early one morning, I decided to see whether the trail alongside the lake made for a good spot to get some shots.  The traffic at Love Field is heavily skewed towards Southwest 737s so I wasn’t expecting a lot of variety but instead wanted to see what angles I could get.  It also would be nice to have a stroll along the lake in the morning light.

There are two runways at Love Field so you have a bit of a guess as to which one will be used at any one time but that is fine.  The view across the lake as the jets come to the northerly runway provides a nice wider view of things.  The near runway allows getting together front quarter shots or to go right underneath for a different perspective.  While most arrivals were Southwest jets, I did see a couple of corporate jets while I was there so there was a bit of variety.

Pretty Mountain Backdrop

My effort to shoot an arriving A350 at SeaTac provided a secondary benefit.  The majority of arriving aircraft land on the outer runway.  This is further away and also has a threshold further up the field.  This means the aircraft are higher up on the approach.  On a clear winter’s day, the planes have the backdrop of the snow covered Olympic mountain range.  They were a bit far away but did provide a rather scenic view.

Lightroom 8.2 Detail Enhancer

Updates to Lightroom come along relatively regularly and they tend to include new features along with fixes and performance tweaks.  The latest update, Lightroom 8.2, includes a new addition called Detail Enhancer.  This is a feature that is designed to provide some better small-scale detail as part of the raw conversion process.  It creates a new DNG file based on a more complex calculation of the demosaicing of the sensor data.

I saw some videos about it and figured it wasn’t going to be of much use for the type of thing I am working on.  However, it did trigger one possible area of interest.  The algorithms are supposed to be designed to make better calculations around the different color pixels that sensors have.  Sensors are set up in a Bayer Pattern where different color sensitive sensors occupy different pixel spaces.  They each record in one color and then software interpolates between them to create colors for each pixel irrespective of which color was originally recorded at that location.

In a post from a while back, I mused on the way in which the colors of the Southwest Livery and the registration clashed and seemed to provide a distorted image even when everything around them was sharp.  I was pondering whether this was artifacting caused by the different colors and the way the sensor was recording the data.  If this was the case, maybe this new functionality would change the way things were rendered.  I dug out a few of the shots that had previously demonstrated this effect and ran the process on them.  These shots show the wide shot, the original rendering of the close up and the revised rendering using Detail Enhancer.

As you can see from the comparisons, Detail Enhancer does not suddenly render a perfect registration for the aircraft.  However, to my eye at least, it does appear as if the results are noticeably better then they were with the original rendering.  For completeness, the original rendering is done with the latest process version of Adobe’s raw converter to make things as fair as possible.  It does appear to make a difference.  This makes me think my theory about whiny things looked wrong might have some merit, even if this update has not fully resolved things.

Air Do

Haneda introduced me to a new airline.  Air Do.  They had a lot of traffic coming through Haneda, both narrowbody and widebody.  In fact, one of their 767s took off in great light as I was walking to the viewing terrace which was a touch frustrating.  It was a long time before another one took off but at least the evening light improved so the wait was worthwhile.  Meanwhile, the 737s were busy and some 767s taxied past after landing so I got to see a few of them in action.

Exodus of Southwest Jets

The failure of an engine on a Southwest 737 that sadly resulted in the death of a passenger caused a major review of the fleet of 737s.  Inspections were identified for the engines in the affected range and everyone was scrambling to find facilities in which to carry out the checks.  ATS at Paine Field is one of Southwest’s suppliers and they took in a number of the jets.  Towards the end of the fly day that Paine Field was having, three Southwest jets emerged from ATS’s facility.  They were towed to the north end of the field.

Here they were started up and they took it in turns to taxi down to where we were and then depart.  One of the jets was an 800 series and may not have bee affected by the inspection but could have been at ATS for other work.  The 700s were quite possibly part of the inspection process.  After a day of light traffic and warbirds, the appearance of three Southwest 737s and their subsequent departures made for a change of pace.

Eyebrow Windows Still Exist?

The 737 fuselage is closely tied to the previous generations of Boeing jets like the 707 and 727.  It inherited the eyebrow windows above the main cockpit windows.  These days, the controlled airspace has made the need for these while maneuvering a lot less.  Current jets are built without them and many airlines have reduced maintenance costs by plugging them.  I had assumed that they had gone away for most operators.  Apparently not for Alaska!  Walking through the terminal, I saw one jet with the eyebrows and was surprised.  However, then I saw a bunch more so clearly this is still something Alaska see as valuable.

Two More 737s Heading to Renton

At various times I have seen the fuselages for new Boeing 737s heading by on the trains through Seattle.  Usually I am a distance away from them and I get a shot that is a bit hazy and less than distinct.  Recently I was working in a yard alongside the main tracks as some equipment was being loaded.  I had my camera to hand to record the loading process as a train came by behind us.  Initially I figured it was just another freight train so didn’t pay attention.  Then, I caught the color of the fuselages out of the corner of my eye and realized a couple of new jets were onboard.  Before it got too much further, I was able to grab a couple of shots.


My Approach to Shooting and Processing on Crappy Weather Days

This is the finished image. This is pretty much what it looked like to the naked eye (through the viewfinder) when I took the shot given how dark the sky was.

A rare arrival was due on a day that was not good from a weather perspective.  It was dull and rainy and so not what you would hope for.  Conditions like this mean I try to exploit some of the features of the camera and the processing options available.  First, how to set up the camera?  With the light being bad and variable, I went to a pretty high ISO level.  I shot in aperture priority mode and added a lot of exposure compensation.

In my experience, the metering is pretty good when shooting against the sky in clear weather but, when there is a lot of cloud, the camera tends to treat the clouds as too bright and it underexposes the subject too much.  I use a lot of exposure compensation in this case with a setting of +2.0 being used on this day.  The reason I do this is that, aside from the exposure question mark, there is a lot more information available in the lighter end of the exposure curve.  Shooting in RAW gives you options.

This is how the camera recorded the image. This is the in camera JPEG that I extracted from the RAW file using Instant Raw From JPEG.

If you were to look at the aircraft at the time, you would see a dark and menacing sky but you would see plenty of detail on the plane.  The camera does not see that for the original shot.  The aircraft would be very dark.  When processing, this dark area would give you something to work with but the variation in data would be more limited.  Shoot overexposed and you get more to work with.

This approach will only work well if you are shooting RAW.  If you are using JPEG, too much of the usable data will be discarded during the processing in the camera.  To show you what I mean, here are two images.  These are both from the same shot.  One is the RAW file as it showed up when imported in to Lightroom and the other is the embedded JPEG that you can extract from the RAW file and which can be seen when the file is first imported before the rendering is undertaken.  As you can see, the JPEG is over exposed but the RAW rendering seems even more so.

There is way more data in the RAW file though.  Immediately, as I bring the exposure slider back down, the clouds go from being white to quite dark – just as they appeared on the day.  Meanwhile, the fuselage of the aircraft has a lot of the data intact and maintains a lot of the brightness that you could see at the time.  Very little needs to be done with the blacks and they are almost in the right spot by the time the exposure is good for the clouds.  The fuselage might be a bit too dark though.  A small tweak of the blacks and a little boost in the shadows to compensate for too much darkening with the exposure slider and suddenly the shot is looking a lot more like it did when I saw it develop.

My RAW processing baseline always results in a slightly more overexposed shot the embedded JPEG includes. When you first open the image, the embedded image you see in the previous shot initially shows up and then it renders the RAW file. This was the initial RAW rendering prior to any adjustments.

One advantage of shooting on such a crummy day is that the sky is a giant softbox – in this case a very soft one!  The result is that the light is a lot more even than on a sunny day.  The darker look can actually make the colors look a bit more intense than if they were losing out to the whites when the sun is right on them.  While there was only one plane I was specifically there for, playing around with these other shots and working on the technique was a nice extra benefit.