Two rescue helicopters were on show at Heli Fest. The 129RQW from Moffett Field had brought along one of their Pave Hawk helicopters while head the other way up the peninsula and you get the Coast Guard based at SFO with their MH-65 Dolphins. If you find yourself in need of helicopter based assistance in the Bay Area, one of these units will probably be sent to help you. The Coast Guard unit will be the first to respond. However, if you are further offshore, the Pave Hawk may be the one tasked. If they are training nearby, they may just be the easiest ones to send.
Whichever unit and aircraft it is, you will, no doubt, be really pleased to see them. Both helicopters were popular with the visitors. They had long lines of people waiting to take a look and talk to the crews. I was chatting with the Coast Guard guys about their planned departure time. They were way too optimistic. The line of people was still big when they originally planned to go. Eventually, they had to put someone in place to mark the end of the line. They were still turning people away but they needed to clean up, check the airframe and get going at some point!
The Pave Hawk did a nice job of taxiing out of the confined space in which it had been parked. Both of them made nice passes prior to heading off. The Dolphin is a sleek looking airframe so it looked pretty cool as it made its pass. Good job by both crews for having dealt with so many visitors during the day.
I have been on a few whale watching trips in the past. We took one out of Provincetown on Cape Cod that had a whale guarantee. No whales and you get a free second trip. 95% success rate. Guess what day we went on. No chance to go back and take the free trip. We did a trip in a RIB when staying on Pender Island and had more success on that occasion including a pretty close encounter with a humpback. Other than that it was a pretty quiet trip.
Consequently, I was cautious when we went on our trip out in Monterey Bay. This is an area with an abundance of marine life, particularly at this time of year. Dolphins, humpbacks, orcas and even blue whales have been about a lot recently. However, we went on a trip that had a lot better chances. It was an all day excursion. It was listed as eight hours but we ended up being gone for eleven. The map above shows where I took shots so you can see we went a long way up the coast. It is easy to see why they don’t let children under 13 or pregnant women on. Boredom or urgent needs are not realistic!
The day was very productive. Be ready for a stream of posts of aquatic wildlife!
A sunny Sunday is a great time to go to the coast. We took a drive along the Pacific from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay. We had bought some food before leaving Santa Cruz so picked a spot along the way to stop and eat our lunch. Sitting and watching the ocean while eating is very tranquil. While we were there, I thought I saw someone swimming. Then I saw another one and realized that it was a group of dolphins making their way along the shore. No sooner had they gone but, coming the other way, I spotted a pair of whales, presumably a mother and calf. Neither the dolphins nor the whales were terribly conspicuous since they are almost always underwater and hard to get a shot of when they break surface before they disappear again but here is what I did get.
My flight over LAX was intended to get lots of shots of airliners. We did also get a little benefit. For the time being, the Coast Guard have a base at LAX. They will be moving soon but, until that point, operations continue as normal. One of their MH-65 Dolphins returned to base while we were airborne. ATC vectored them behind us and around to land on their pad. We managed to yaw around to provide an angle on them as they came in.
Shooting the Dolphin was a bit harder than some of the other aircraft. I was using a 100-400 lens which was fine for the jets when I could keep the shutter speed up high to compensate for any motion or vibration. However, dropping the shutter speed for the rotors, even if I didn’t take it too low, meant a very high failure rate on the shots. Even then, we were still a reasonable distance away which didn’t help. A few of the shots are passable. However, they won’t handle too much scrutiny. I’m glad we got them though since they will be gone if I go back for another shoot.
My zoo membership was recently renewed so a trip to Brookfield was in order. We included a visit to the underwater viewing gallery for the dolphins. This can be a bit hit and miss depending on where the dolphins are and how much they want to show themselves. This time turned out to be a bit different.
One of the dolphins seemed a lot less interested in swimming around and far more fascinated by us. It was up at the end of the gallery hanging out by the window. I thought moving up would be the trigger for it moving off but went anyway. I was wrong. Instead, I ended up having a pretty amazing interaction with the dolphin. It seemed to enjoy having its picture taken and kept coming up to the window, resting its blowhole against the glass, blowing some bubbles and making lots of clicking sounds.
No point in overestimating these things but I really felt like it was talking to me. I was captivated and it seemed to have no boredom for this so we spent a lot of time like this. It was very cool. The pictures may not be the most technically accurate. Shooting through thick glass into water is problematic and the focus on the eye is not always there but, frankly, I don’t care. This dolphin was looking straight at me for ages and these images remind me of just how cool that was.