The first decent sized arrival I got on my BFI visit was a US Navy P-8 Poseidon returning from a test flight. It gave me a chance to get the hang of picking the arriving planes up against the background and working out their positions as the are on final. Things are pretty cluttered in the background which doesn’t help make a photo look interesting but, once they are over the airfield itself, the background is a lot cleaner and the plane stands out more.
Once over the runway, everything is unobstructed so you get a good view of the touchdown and roll out. The runway wasn’t too damp so not much in the way of spray from reverse thrust but a good amount of tire smoke as the mains hit the ground. Heat haze was not too much of a problem as the conditions were not too sunny but you still had to be pretty close in before the shots were sharp enough to look at closely.
A while back I took a drive around some streets on the hill overlooking Boeing Field. I was looking for a good location to get a shot of the field and, since you have a lot of elevation, to see whether you could get a look down on arriving and departing traffic. At the time, I didn’t find much. There is a lot of tree growth up there where there aren’t buildings and I thought I was out of luck.
More recently, I was looking at some photos posted by local photographers and saw exactly what I had previously been looking for. I took a look at the backgrounds to the shots and tried to triangulate where the photographer might have been. I focused on an area that looked like it would be right and then took a closer look on Google Maps. There appeared to be a pathway through the bushes to an open area so I figured an exploration was in order.
The path was there if a little overgrown. There was some crap at the entrance which made me wonder whether this was somewhere I really wanted to go but I walked in sans kit to see what it was like. Turned out to be a pretty good spot. A great view over the airfield looking down on the ramp but the terminal and the Boeing ramp on the opposite side. It is a morning location ideally because, at this time of year, the light has moved around by late morning. However, while I was late, it was still an option. If things get cloudy, it helps a lot.
You are quite a way from the action. It was time for the longest lenses and, even then, a bit of cropping is required for some angles. Also, you get some cluttered backgrounds against which the smaller planes can be lost making the shots of little value. It does provide for a different view and, unlike the other spots I shoot at BFI, you can get arrivals and departures. I did try a second visit one morning but it was foggy and the field was shut down! However, I shall given the location another visit at some point soon. The light would last longer in the summer but I suspect heat haze will be a real problem by then.
The afternoon lighting was looking good and, when I saw a P-8 was up, I was tempted to get some shots. When I saw the Dornier was also coming in, it helped make up my mind. Even better, it spared me from a fruitless trip. The P-8 was out of Boeing Field and was scheduled to make approaches at Everett before returning to base. I would have been tempted to shoot it up there but, with the 328Jet in the mix, I figured Boeing Field was it.
As it turned out, the flight plan for Everett was a distraction. I watched the jet heading back up from Oregon and it looked like it was coming direct to Boeing Field. That was indeed the case. No approach to Everett. If I had been up there, I would have been pretty annoyed. As it was, I got the arrival, even if the conditions were nowhere near as nice as they had been when I first headed out. This one was a US Navy example.
In this previous post, I mentioned the good light I was hoping would be available for a Dornier 328Jet. While that didn’t work out, I did get a NetJets Latitude arriving at that time. NetJets colors are certainly not very exciting so they are a bland subject normally (and a Latitude is hardly the most exciting looking bizjet either. However, with the right lighting, even this can look pretty dramatic!
There is no shortage of DHC Beavers in the PNW, even of the turbine variety. Plenty of them are on floats, too, so even that doesn’t make it particularly special. However, when you haven’t been able to shoot much aviation for a long time, one is a welcome sight. Even better when it switches to the closer runway when on approach.
Boeing has been building and testing 737 Max jets throughout the grounding so having them flying is not a great surprise. However, with the grounding order lifted by the FAA, things are moving into a higher gear. United took delivery of a jet and American Airlines has indicated it will start service before the end of the year. Two jets were up on the same day which leads me to think that they have already undergone the mod programs and are being tested prior to delivery to the airline.
BNSF has a large maintenance yard in Seattle in the Interbay area. My bike ride took me past the yard and then up and over the tracks. On my return leg, I stopped to have a look at the facility. There is a space where a round house used to be which you can see on Google Maps. A couple of trains were on the lines and there were a bunch of locos elsewhere in the yard.
Late in the day in the PNW, you can get lucky with good lighting. It is not unusual to have a crappy day end with the sun, low on the horizon, cutting under the clouds and providing some briefly great conditions. With a Dornier 328Jet due in, I was hoping that the conditions might be just what I wanted. However, the plane was delayed from its planned time. At the scheduled arrival time, conditions were, in fact, rather good. I got something arriving then that looked pretty cool and will get its own post.
However, my 328Jet was running late. I kept my eye on the horizon, hoping the sun would make an appearance but the thick cloud layer hanging on the horizon told me that things were not going to work out. Sure enough, when the 328Jet showed up, the sky was decidedly dull. This was all the more annoying given that it had a really nice color scheme. They aren’t exactly rare but they are not common enough to ignore the chance to get one so this still counts as a plus for me.
Winter in the PNW does not mean reliable conditions for photographing planes. If the weather is bad, you might decide it isn’t worth going out. If it is raining and threatening to rain harder, there is a strong possibility you would skip a shot opportunity. However, 727s are getting pretty rare these days so that seems worthy of a trip out.
The weather was unpleasant when it made its approach but not as bad as it got a short while later. I went with my normal approach for shooting in really bad conditions by pushing the overexposure pretty high. I include a couple of edits. For the main image, I actually blended two different process versions in Photoshop to get the combination that most reflects how the shot looked through the view finder. The other edit is a straightforward Lightroom edit where the angle and the light suited it.
On one of my days off – taken in order to get my PTO balance down – I headed out for some aviation exploration. The weather on this day was not great but, since I had struck it lucky on some of my other days off, I guess the odds were bound to swing the other way at some point. While it was cloudy in Seattle, looking south to Mt Rainier, the sun was out on the mountain. That didn’t mean it was cloud free, though. There was a lot of cloud forming over the summit as the wind blew through so I shot a few images to make a pano of the mountain. It would have been a great day to fly around the mountain but sadly that wasn’t to be.