Having made our first stop at Lake Wenatchee State Park, we continued on in the direction of Leavenworth. The highway takes you down a river valley with the Wenatchee River at its core. This is a pretty drive at any time of year and the many pull offs are often filled with people stopping off the enjoy the view. A colder fall day meant it was slightly less busy but it also meant deeper shadows. Still, there were plenty of people enjoying the scenery, even if they weren’t getting out of the cars for too long.
Having written about whether HDR is still worthwhile in a recent post, the shaded valley was something that I figured was still possibly needing a technique that could handle a wide dynamic range. Other spots were still in open light and were an easier bet. The difficulty of a valley like this is communicating the feeling within the rocky walls. Wider lenses allow you to show more of the scene but they also diminish the scale and I find it hard to give the impression you get when actually there. I actually spent some time with a longer lens picking out details of the scenes rather than the whole thing but I wasn’t going to give up on that completely.
When we still lived in Lancashire, we made a trip to Shropshire to visit my uncle and his family. As part of the visit, we went to Ironbridge. For those not familiar with industrial architecture, this is a significant place for the bridge made of iron (you’d never have guessed) that was a major innovation at the time. There is a great museum nearby which has old buildings and forging/casting techniques still practiced. Here is a view of the bridge itself and the steeply sided river valley that required it. Maybe we will get back there at some point on a future trip. We have friends that aren’t so far away!
I thought tulips came in one shape. I was wrong. Walking around the gardens at RoozenGaarde in Mt Vernon, I got to see so many varieties of tulip and I was amazed at the different shapes and sizes. Color varieties was something I expected but I didn’t realize just how large some blooms were and I was even more surprised at some plants that, had I not been told that they were tulips, I would never have known. Fringing of the petals, curvatures that were totally different to the norm and all sorts of variations in between were eye opening. I guess tulips are a complex subject!
The Skagit Valley sits about an hour north of Seattle and is home to a lot of tulip farms. The spring is the time for the tulip festival. Unfortunately, the beginning of the festival was not a great time for us to get up there with other things going on. However, as things calmed down for us, we were able to get up there towards the end of things. We may have missed the peak time but there was still some impressive stuff to see (and hopefully quite a few less people!).
The fields were absolutely full of tulips. They filled your field of view and you quickly became blasé about the vibrance of color around you. Finding a way to try and convey the sight was a little trickier. The thing I did find particularly visually appealing was the way that people would be walking along the paths between the flowers but appear to be afloat in a sea of flowers. They were all busy photographing themselves in amongst the tulips so were not aware that they were the subject of more than one photo.
We took a quick tour around the Grgich Hills winery when not on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I was surprised to learn that the name is a combination of a Mr. Grgich (of course) and a Mr. Hills (not so obvious). It was a relatively short tour but still informative. We also sampled some of the wine. I won’t tell you much about the wine making but here are some shots of the winery as we went around.
With Dad and Jan visiting, it was a chance to get out and see some of what the area has to offer. Dad likes trains and is also quite partial to wine so what better trip to make than a visit to the Napa Valley Wine Train. For those who are not familiar with it, the service runs from the town of Napa up through the Napa Valley. It pretty much parallels the main road (or you might argue the road parallels the rail line) and passes by many of the vineyards and wineries as it goes.
We took the trip that included the tour of the Grgich hills winery as well. Lunch was served on the train shortly after we departed Napa and we ate as we gently rumbled through the countryside. Since it was a rather damp day, being inside and watching everything outside while eating seemed to be a good plan. When we reached the winery, the train stopped to drop us off. It then continued up to the end of the line where they ran the locos around to pull them back down the route.
Once we had finished our tour of the winery, the train reappeared to pick us up. At this point, we boarded a different car. This one was a lounge car where we were served our desserts. Sitting inside facing seats eating dessert while watching the vineyards roll past was a great way to wrap up the trip. They ran a second trip later in the day with dinner served on board but, since it is dark so early at this time of year, I think our time was a far better one for the trip.
Sonoma Valley airport (Schellville) is surrounded by fields and there is wildlife in those fields. I saw a coyote come wandering out of the field and head for the runway. An aircraft had just landed and was taxiing in at the same time. The two of them met on the runway although with more separation than the photograph suggests. I was particularly impressed by the way the coyote seemed totally unfazed by the whole thing. It stared at the plane for a while and showed no interest in getting out of the way. However, it obviously had other things it wanted to do and eventually turned and trotted off. I’ve no idea what the occupants of the plane made of the whole thing!
I was on a flight back home recently and our course took us almost directly over the top of Yosemite. I was on the right hand side of the plane which happened to be the side with the view of the valley. I only had my phone with me but here are some shots anyway of a view you don’t normally get. I could clearly see El Capitan. Interestingly, the most famous view of the valley is Half Dome but, from this angle, you were behind it and it wasn’t very obvious at all.
My buddy Paul was in town and we had a day of shooting and exploring planned. However, we wanted to have a go at star trails in the evening as well. Consequently, we set up at Schellville as the sun went down to shoot the trails around the Douglas DST parked on the field. I set up two cameras at different angles and with different lenses to try and maximize what I got. The sun was still going down when I started so the exposure was varying a bit more than I was prepared for but a little tweaking in post got things back together. We also did some light painting on the airframe in a couple of frames to make the scene pop a bit more.
The biggest thing I learned during this was to start when it is darker and to take mosquito protection. I got badly bitten during the early part of the shoot and the bites reacted quite severely! Also, doing this in the winter so you don’t have to wait so late for it to get dark might also be a good plan. However, it went reasonably well and I have a few things I will know to do differently next time. I might also try a trail on one camera and a time lapse on the other.
There are many vintage aircraft that I have had the chance to photograph over the years. However, I have not had many opportunities to photograph a genuine First World War era aircraft. That was something that I was recently able to address. Sonoma Valley in Schellville has a variety of interesting aircraft as I have mentioned in the past. One of these is Frank’s beautiful Jenny. It is in pristine condition. I had previously been around when it was due to fly but a fuel leak in a line had curtailed activities that day.
This time the plan was to fly a couple of people in the aircraft. Eric Presten was the pilot for these flights and he needed to run a quick air test before taking anyone up so three flights appeared to be on the cards. I arrived at Schellville in the morning to be ready. Unfortunately, the weather was not looking too cooperative. There was a little mist and the cloud base was pretty low with the surrounding hills having their tops obscured. We got the aircraft ready as we waited for the cloud to lift which it progressively did.
Eric was soon able to get up for the air test. While the conditions were better for flying, they still weren’t great for photography. However, while he was up, the cloud was burning off more and more. The result was, by the time the two flights for the guest took place, conditions were ideal. For the second ride, Eric put in an overflight of the field allowing me to get something other than ground running shots, tail end departures or head on landings. The latter two were subject to a lot of heat haze so it was great to get something a little closer in.
She truly is a lovely looking aircraft and an example of something very rare to see. I will enjoy seeing her flying again. What will be even better is getting a chance to shoot her air to air. If the opportunity for that should come up, I will be a very happy boy. In the mean time, I am very grateful to Frank and Eric for including me in this. Great guys and a great plane!