The Growlers weren’t the only things flying at Coupeville while I was there. A bunch of bald eagles were also flying in the vicinity. They were crossing the approach path for the FCLP training which had me a little concerned. I thought they would get lost when the jets showed up but they clearly weren’t very concerned and were used the the jets. They might have got close but they seemed to stay just far enough away to avoid any conflict. A bird strike with a bald eagle would probably be messy for all concerned.
My trip to Coupeville to shoot Growlers undertaking FCLP worked out well as described in this post. What I didn’t emphasize in that post is just how close the road is to the north end of the runway. While southerly flow is not normal, when that is happening, you are very close to the action. The pano at the top of the post is the view you get of the runway from the road and plenty of people will show up to watch the jets bouncing.
The fields around the runway need to be looked after. There was a tractor cutting the grass while the jets were bouncing and you can see what a good view the driver probably had of the jets. I assume he had good hearing protection on while he was working in those fields. I also include a shot of a jet coming low over the field. Hopefully that shows just ow close everything is to the road.
One of the fun things about shooting the FCLP proactive at Coupeville when they are on a southerly flow is that you can stand on the centerline a shot distance from the threshold. The jets are passing very low over the road as they head for the runway so you get a very up close and personal feeling. Hearing protection is definitely worth having.
I experimented with a variety of shots. Looking head on at the jets as they turn on to final is good. They come right over you so you can get a very close up shot head on or, if you want, go to a wider angle lens and have the view right up as they come over you.
You also get to look down the runway once the jets have passed over you. You do have loads of heat distortion as a result of the jetwash behind the jets but that is a small price to pay. You don’t get anything sharp from that angle but it is an interesting view and the jelly air gives a hint to what it is like being behind the jets as they pass overhead.
I’ve made a few trips to Coupeville to watch the Growlers undertaking FCLP training on the field there. My first trip was lucky with the flow to the south and good light. Sadly, I didn’t get to see much activity. More recent trips have had plenty of traffic but they were flying to the north which doesn’t work so well for photography. However, with a forecast for nice weather and a southerly wind so, having been stuck at home for ages, I was keen to get out and shoot some planes while staying a safe distance from everyone.
I got there a little early because I needed to take a work call before things were supposed to get moving. The lighting was at the other end of the field so I was a little concerned that I might be out of luck but shortly after getting there, a pickup truck hooked up to the light trailer and pulled it to the north end of the field. Result!
The jets showed up relatively soon thereafter and really didn’t go away for the next three hours. There were jets arriving and leaving throughout this time but it was rare to not have a jet in the pattern at some point. This gave me plenty of opportunity to walk along the road to try out different angles. I also had enough opportunity to try shooting a bunch of video too. That will show up in another post. There was a fair bit of cloud initially but things cleared up to be very sunny as the afternoon wore on. Here are a bunch of shots of the jets bouncing around the pattern.
The sun was forecast, I had some time to spare and there was even suggestion of southerly winds so I took a day off and headed to Whidbey Island. Coupeville was planned for some FCLP training for the Growlers from Ault Field so I went up to see what I could see. With winter light, the sun is way to the south. It cross the centerline of the runway by late morning and, unfortunately, the first flight to arrive came after this time. They only had one meatball on the field and it was set up at the south end. The wind was southerly but not strong so they clearly decided a small tailwind was easier than dragging the lights to the other end and aligning them. Crap!
I spent some time on the sunny side which is far from the touchdown zone. I shot some stills and some video. The jets only get close when they are well airborne but it was possible to get a few shots that were okay. When they had finished the practice you knew it was the case because the jets cleaned up and powered away. I headed down to the water to have some lunch.
It wasn’t long before I heard the sound of jets again. I saw a couple of them turning over the bay and descending to the field so headed back up. While the light was on the wrong side, I figured I would just try something new since the alternative was just more of what I already had shot. It even was the same jets as the earlier session. I shot some backlit landings near the touchdown zone (and I was not alone – plenty of people stopped their cars to watch). With a bunch of shots and video done, I figured it was time to head home.
This hydroplane was due to compete at Oak Harbor. They pulled off the jetty and headed towards the track but, for some reason, they broke down. They were left drifting just outside the jetty for a while. The driver climbed out of the cockpit and was left to wait for a tow to come along. It took a while for a boat to come to their aid. They weren’t drifting fast but they were slowly heading away from the shore and towards the course. They were taken care of long before they got anywhere risky, though.
It’s been a long time since I watched any hydroplane racing. The Kankakee event in Illinois was a fun one to attend, not least because the constraints of the river meant it was possible to get really close to the action. Racing is quite popular in the Pacific Northwest and one event was scheduled for Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. I decided to head along and see what it was like.
I was quite surprised how easy it was to attend. I found parking conveniently close and got a waterfront spot to set up with ease. Plenty of people came and went during the time I was there but it never felt terribly busy. The racing took place in the harbor and it was a bit distant for all of the spectators. The good spot to watch from would have been across the harbor but that was within the naval facility so out of bounds for the rest of us.
The course provided for some good angles on the boats as they made the first turn. The second turn was rather distant. The PA system was well away from me and the program seemed to be only vaguely related to what was happening so most of the time I was oblivious to the classes that were racing at any one time. The more powerful boats were staging from the pits near the crowd but many of the smaller boats would appear on course from the marina across the harbor. I would just watch them going around and try and figure things out from the flags on the course boats.
It was a sunny day so sitting next to the water and watching the occasional race was pleasant. Not knowing what was going on was a bit harder and the random feeling of when a race would occur left me a bit confused but I got to watch racing and get some photos so hardly a bad was to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Walking through the woods at Meerkerk Gardens, we came across a tree that had fallen across the trail. Sitting on the log was a squirrel. This squirrel was happily munching on its food. We weren’t going to continue down the trail so were not likely to get in the squirrel’s way but we figured our very arrival would spook it. We were wrong. While it was clearly aware we were there, it did not seem to see any need to interrupt lunch just because of us.
Strolling along a trail on Whidbey Island I saw a slight movement off to one side. I stopped to see what it was and it took a moment to realize it was a snake. I don’t know much about snake species but a conversation with someone later and a look online told us it was a garter snake. It froze when I saw it so we had a standoff to see who would move first. Gradually it moved around a bit until I could get the briefest of views of its head. Having tried to get a picture of it, I left it in peace to do whatever it was doing.