I have taken a lot of photos of Seattle since we moved here. The city has a lot of development which shows itself clearly in both the downtown area and the South Lake Union area. The downtown core is not massively different but the spread out from the center is noticeable, as is the change in stadiums. My first visit to Seattle was in 1992. Things were very different then. I recently took a look at some photos I scanned from that trip including a view from the top of the Space Needle. I also have some shots from the mid 2000s in the mix.
The following shots are combinations of shots from 92 and current shots along with some taken from one of our trips here in around 2005 when I had a work visit that we extended to include some time in the city. The city already had some big towers in 92 but there has been a lot of development since then. South Lake Union is a different story. During my first visit, there was not a lot going on in the area. Now things are heavily in the area with Amazon having led the investment but the Gates Foundation also having a big site. Things have really changed a lot!
On our floatplane trip to the San Juans, our return leg was supposed to include a landing on Lake Union to pick up another passenger. However, they had already got their ride so we didn’t need to stop. However, our pilot thought a trip downtown would be a good way to end our trip so we did a quick run through. The approach to the lake involves a close pass of the Space Needle. We did the same thing and were really close to the visitors checking out the view. It was quite something to see so close up. Looking at the detail of the photos, I can see all of the people staring back at us!
The top of the Space Needle is a good place to watch the floatplane traffic in to Lake Union. They tend to fly really close by. Shooting through the glass is not ideal but the passing Otters are too good to pass up. If you can, getting to the gaps between the glass is a good idea but it is hard to do this and get a good angle on the planes as they pass. Boeing also helped out with an Oman Air 737 Max taking off from Boeing Field and coming our way.
With some visitors in town recently, I made another trip up the Space Needle. They have finally finished to refurbishment of the area at the top of the tower and it is a pretty cool job that they have done. The glazing around the balcony area is finished as is the floor area inside. There is also now a stairwell to take you down to the next level. This has been refurbished to create a glass floor for a ring around the whole floor. This glass floor rotates. I imagine this is where the restaurant was when the Space Needle first opened. It gradually cranks around and it gives you a fantastic view downwards.
Apparently there will be a refurbished restaurant next year which, I assume, will be in the section a third of the way up the tower (since I can’t see where else it would go). The new floor is really cool though. Having been up a couple of times recently, I thought I wouldn’t have much new to see, but the addition of this element really gave me lots of new things to look at.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer was one of Seattle’s newspapers before we moved here. I used to read some of their work on the aviation business but they sadly went out of business a few years ago. We were watching a program about Seattle on TV and they showed this building near the water with a globe on the roof. This was the old building for the paper. When we were up the Space Needle, it was easy to pick the building out. I think it will have to be visited at ground level before too long!
While the Space Needle is a great place to view the city of Seattle, it is also good for seeing floatplanes. Lake Union is a base for many floatplane operations and the routes take the planes close to the Needle. On the day we were there, the wind was quite strong from the south so the planes were water taxiing to the other end of the lake before taking off. We had quite a procession with a stream takeoff from a couple of them.
Once airborne, the commenced a turn towards Elliott Bay which took them just north of us and pretty close. I wasn’t well set up to get shots but I managed to get a few. I tried my best to shoot through the gaps between the glass panels but sometimes I shot through the glass which was surprisingly good. You get the feeling of being air to air, even while standing on something solid.
At some point last year I was driving downtown in Seattle and I realized that the Space Needle had changed. A scaffolding arrangement had gone up around the saucer at the top of the needle and it seemed to be fully enclosed. I figured that a rehab program was underway but I guess I don’t see enough of the local news to have found out how much they were updating. With my mum coming to visit, I was hoping that they would have concluded the project before she came since a Space Needle visit was going to be on the cards.
Memorial Day must have been the target for getting things ready because, shortly before she arrived, things started getting opened up around the top. Part of the scaffolding was still there but it was getting a lot more open. I thought we would be in good shape. It turns out we were but they are certainly not yet finished. The wire fencing at the deck level has been replaced with glass screens. These lean out so you can look straight down. There are glass benches which means you can lean back on the glass – something that certainly seems to upset a few visitors.
Meanwhile, construction work continues. The level inside the viewing deck is still undergoing a lot of work. The restaurant downstairs is not yet open but I assume these will all get sorted out as summer progresses. I was a little worried that the glass screens would impede photography. The old wire fence provided clear access. However, there are gaps between the panels that you can shoot through. A big lens might not fit but my mirrorless did fine. We shall have more visitors so I will get to see how the whole thing looks when it is finished I suspect.
My brief trip to the UK was concluded by a flight back to Seattle from London. I ended up in a seat on the right side of the plane and, as we came across the city, I had a good view of the downtown. The seat was rather low compared to the window but LiveView came into its own and I could hold them camera above me pointing down and frame the shot using the rear screen. Technology is a wonderful thing. The Space Needle and the football and baseball stadiums both stand out from above.