A quick trip to Dallas for work was necessary and I took the little camera along for the trip. As we came in towards Love Field, we flew over ares that are in the process of being built up or have recently been so. Seeing plots of land with the street layout showing but the plots not yet built up showed what had been there before in the areas that were now populated. A closer look showed that the houses did have a variety of styles but, from above, the roofs all seemed to be very similar and they were close together. It was almost like someone had grabbed a bunch of houses from a Monopoly set and lined them up next to each other. On the ground it probably looks nice but from above it was very uniform.
I’m always on the lookout for the place I might move to when I decide to lay off the whole sordid business of working for a living. We took a trip to Bainbridge Island which, if you asked Nancy, was a chance to check out some of our new area or, if you asked me, was a house hunting trip. The place I was looking at was called Bloedel Reserve. They may tell you that it is an estate that is now open to visitors but clearly they are keeping it ready for me. A nice little house with some delightful gardens.
The house is not necessarily my style but I’m sure I could find a way to make it work. The grounds do look like they might need a reasonable amount of effort. I suppose I could buy a little mower to ride around on but that does sound a bit like hard work. I suppose I could get some help. I wonder whether Nancy would like a little John Deere?
Growing up in the UK, there is no shortage of big houses and gardens to visit. Over the years, countless old families have had to give up their estates, often as a result of death duties, with the result that they end up in the hands of the National Trust or English Heritage. I was surprised to see that there was a similar organization in the US. Filoli is one of their properties. It is on the peninsula south of San Francisco.
The estate was in the hands of two families prior to its current status. It is a classic old house with plenty of rooms, a ballroom, large kitchens and servant facilities, a library and enough space to deal with any number of social situations. Normally when we visit places, checking out the house is not a priority. We tend to prefer the gardens. However, this time we did take a look around.
The house was really quite pleasant inside. Because it was a 20th century creation, it is a product of that time. No big efforts at replicating older times although it does pick from a variety of styles. The furnishings all seem suitable for the era and apparently that makes it a popular filming location. The exterior is not so great in my opinion. The brick finish is rather uninspired and I think it has a bit of the look of a government building. It is well taken care of though.
The strangest thing about it is the relationship between the house and the gardens. The gardens will get a post of their own. However, they are mainly offset from the house itself. When in the house, you are not looking out across the gardens. I thought the whole point was to be able to look out and observe the beauty of the gardens. Oh well, it’s not like I am living there so I guess I don’t have to worry about it too much.
Ex-military installations that I have visited have a feature in common and that is the quarters for the senior officers. Some grand looking houses are the home for the higher levels of staff and, the older the installation is, the grander the accommodations appear to be. Putting together this post has reminded me of another place I visited a few years ago and I shall have to write about that too at some point. However, the location today is Mare Island. As a naval facility, the officer commanding required a sizeable house. We got to take a look around the place.
In actuality, it isn’t the largest home you will see on a military base. Take a trip to the Presidio in San Francisco and you will see plenty of big houses. Even so, this one is quite an impressive place. There is plenty of space for a family to live in this house and it looks very nice from the outside. It is also a short walk to the main administration block. Not the worst commute anyone would have. The staff areas are naturally a little more spartan and there is a buzzer system to allow the occupants to summon those staff when required. It isn’t hard to imagine officers with cigars around the table after dinner.
While Donald Trump might be well known now for putting his name all over his buildings, he certainly isn’t the first to do so. Head back to the Elizabethan period and you can find another example of someone who wanted you to know who they were. Bess of Hardwick had an interesting life that led her to be one of the more powerful people in England. Indeed her daughter could conceivably have been queen. That wasn’t to be but Bess acquired a substantial estate and built an impressive house on it.
Hardwick Hall is just outside Chesterfield (home to a church with a twisted spire that is worthy of a post of its own if I had only got close enough to get a shot of it). There is a new Hall and an old Hall. The new hall is only new in relative terms but it is a grand affair. For fans of the Harry Potter movies, it is Malfoy Manor although a certain amount of CGI added elements to the actual structure. You approach along a road that loops around the back of the house and gives you plenty of time to appreciate its grandeur. Once you are closer, you walk through a small enclosure of estate buildings and past the ruins of the old hall. They were both used at the same time but the old hall fell out of use and has deteriorated accordingly.
We only briefly looked inside but there was a great introductory talk about the history of Bess and the hall which was well worthwhile. We also got to look around the grounds and also appreciate the view over the valley below. Until the M1 was built, I imagine the view was pretty unspoiled! The building itself has an inordinate amount of window space for its time. This was a statement of how important Bess thought herself to be and if you look to the roofline, her initials are all along the tops of the walls. I guess she wasn’t a shy person.
As we left the house at Chatsworth, we walked along the river that led back to where we had started our walk from. It is a pretty large river and has a strong flow including a cool weir. Shortly before we got back to the car, we came across an old mill house. I am not sure whether the river has realigned over time or whether there was a strong flow down from above that is no longer in place but there was once a working mill in this location.
The stone walls of the building are still in good shape. The roof and any other wooden elements have pretty much gone at this point. Inside the building you can still see some of the iron work and the remnants of the axle of the waterwheel. There are gaps in the walls that show where other parts of the building were once located. The entrances are closed off so it isn’t possible to get in to the building. The wildlife obviously finds a way in. A sheep was quietly using the walls as shelter while we were there.
When we first started planning the trip to the UK, I decided to try and schedule a shoot with the lifeboat crew in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. The boat house is at Lane End in Bembridge. I had shot a launch there from the shore a few years ago and wanted to plan something a little more involved. I talked with the RNLI team there about getting something together and it looked like it might work out. Unfortunately, a number of issues cropped up shortly before the visit and the whole thing was scrubbed.
While this was disappointing, it did free up some time during the visit to do other things. Even so, I did take a walk from our hotel down to Lane End one early evening. The lifeboat is kept in a boathouse at the end of a pier. This allows it to launch clear of the rocky ledges in the area. The boat house is a relatively new building. The old pier and house were demolished and replaced when they upgraded the lifeboat.
The new pier is a cool structure and the whole thing fits well with what was there already. I got there after the house had closed to visitors for the day but I did walk out on the pier and look through the windows at the boat. It was a lovely evening to be out at the water and certainly made me feel pretty relaxed on my vacation. A couple of days later, I was able to get some aerial shots of the boathouse when we flew by too which was pretty cool.
Big airshows can be fun. However, the confined nature of things and the number of people involved can also make them a little less enjoyable. Small events at local airfields do not provide the same level of activity but they can prove to be every bit as fun. Such is the case with the Sonoma Skypark’s Family Fun Day. This is one of those opportunities for a local airfield to invite people from the area to come and see what happens at the field. It is a good way to build relations with the local community.
I may not be “local” but I wasn’t going to miss the chance to join in. I arrived relatively early and some of the setting up was still in progress. A selection of the most interesting (read old) planes based at Skypark were being lined up on display. Some vintage cars were also being added to the lineup. Meanwhile, some of the stands were getting set up for local societies and offering food and drink.
There was no flying display taking place. However, there were some movements covering pleasure flights and some sky diving flights. The airport was shut for the main part of the event although one pilot didn’t seem to notice that. Another arrived and managed to leave the runway and ground loop in the grass. I missed this as I was watching a parachutist landing from the opposite direction. All ended up fine with no significant damage incurred.
Entry to the event included free lunch. There was a steady line of people taking advantage of the food that was being cooked and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Rides on a trailer pulled by a tractor seemed to keep the smaller visitors amused and there were competitions for paper airplanes as well. A lot of people showed up during the day and, hopefully, the bond between the airport and the community got a little bit stronger. I had a great time!
Being up at Twin Peaks, there were plenty of interesting things to look at. San Francisco is a city with such great terrain which is obvious when you are moving around the city but which gets lost as you view things from a distance. The view from the top of the hills includes the various rocky outcrops but you do lose a little perspective on the steepness of things. However, as I looked around, I could see various locations where the houses were climbing the available ground and finding their spot, however precarious. I used a longer focal length to try and show just how they were stacked up on each other and the terrain. The odd rock face right behind them or the house immediately below looked fascinating to me. I suspect this is something I will be seeing a lot more in time.
Coming home to Chicago recently, we were landing just after some snow had blown through the area. We made a slightly unusual approach to Midway and did some maneuvering pretty low over the suburbs near the airport. I love this sort of thing since I find the rows of houses really fascinating from above. I managed to snap a few shots out of the window as we came in. These were grabbed with the camera on my phone so the control was a little limited but it was better than missing it altogether.