If you live in the Seattle to Tacoma area, you get familiar with the phrase “the mountain is out” or “in”. This refers to Mt Rainier which can be shrouded in cloud or out in the sun. As a 14,000’ mountain, it is the most obvious landmark around here. It also drives its own weather systems so the clouds on the mountain are always worth a look. Not so long ago, I was quite taken by the cloud development over the mountain which was a bit different to what I am used to seeing. The boat in the front was not helpful but I wanted to get a shot of the mountain so went for it.
Hayman and I were shooting at Anza Fisherman’s Park. As the name suggests, this is a popular spot for fishing and this seems to attract the attention of a lot of gulls. There was a steady breeze which allowed the gulls to hover close above us and sometimes alongside us. We didn’t have anything of interest for them but it took them a while to work that out.
I got some shots of them as they hung around us. The background of a few was disturbed a little by the fishing poles that were propped up but the long lens wide open managed to isolate them from most of the background. They were a bit like photographing aircraft in formation but they didn’t necessarily respond to the directions I had for the shots I was after. Not the best formation pilots for photo work I guess.
Returning jets from the Red Flag missions often come back with the other jets from their units. However, you do occasionally get a mixed formation or two as a straggler joins up with some other jets for the run in and break. This time, it might have been my imagination, but there seemed to be more mixed formations than normal. We discussed whether, with the F-35s taking part in larger numbers, other pilots were kind of keen to get in formation with them and check them out from closer quarters. Whether that was the case or not, whether there was another reason or perhaps it was just coincidence. Whatever the reason, we got a few mixed groups and not always just with the Daves!
Paul and my second full day at Red Flag was also the one where we both had to fly home. We knew that the timing would mean leaving before the last of the big aircraft came home but we should get most of the recovery. We set a time and started packing up. We had done well so no complaints. We hopped in the car and drove towards the turn to take us out to the freeway. Just as we got there, a pair of B-1s came running in to the break in formation. Surely we couldn’t let them go. A rapid stop at the side of the road, grab cameras from the trunk and start shooting.
They flew by in formation and broke downwind. Each of them turned in reasonably tight for their approach and it was possible to get some nice topside views as the curved around to final. We could have been a bit closer and probably would have chosen different lenses if we had been able to choose but we got the shots. Then it was time to repack the bags and get going. We only lost about five minutes and everything worked out fin getting back so it was totally worth it. There was no waiting for whatever followed them though.
I like having more than one airliner in one shot as you have probably figured by now if you read the blog a lot. Since SFO has parallel approaches, getting this type of shot is not a rarity although you do appreciate it when it works out. In this case a Skywest Embraer E175 (operating for United Express) and a Southwest 737 were lined up on the approach. They were offset a bit so their relative position from my viewpoint changed during the approach which provided a nice variety of compositions.
A trip to Mammoth Lakes for a long weekend had us exploring some of the local areas of interest. One that our guidebook recommended was The Devil’s Postpile. This was described as an outcrop of basalt formed during the volcanic activity the area experienced quite a while back. We decided to give it a go. I like geologic features and having grown up with pictures of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, I knew what basalt could look like.
We weren’t the only ones with this idea. The valley in which the Postpile is located is accessed by a steep, narrow, winding road. Consequently, traffic is very restricted and most visitors use the shuttle bus. This was a lot of people the day we were there and the line for the bus was long and slow. At one point we contemplated bagging the whole thing. We set some time thresholds to be on the bus and we were just inside these when we finally got on board.
It is a short walk from the bus drop off point to the rocks. They are certainly very cool. It is always hard to believe that rocks should form in these hexagonal columns naturally. In this case they are not only vertical but some sections have distorted in different ways so it is a mix of patterns. The harsh shadows of the middle of the day actually helped to emphasize the interesting patterns.
There was a lot of fallen rock in front of the hill which gave some interesting perspective on the size of the columns. When some of the pieces had been split, it was good to see how black the interior was unbleached by years of sun.
However, the best was yet to come. I was wandering behind the trees to see a view of the hills behind us and to get away from the crowds for a moment. I ended up on top of a ridge overlooking the San Joaquin River. The view was beautiful. It was quite funny to think that so many people were wandering along the trail a short distance away and had no idea that they were missing out on a beautiful location. Of course, if they had realized, a part of the beauty would have been gone.
On the walk back to the bus, I made an effort to check out the side trails to see what was here too and got to share some of the lovely views with the others who had stepped off the main path. It always pays to poke around a bit.