It might be sometimes, but this was probably not one of them. The forecast was for wind and rain which was suggesting that SFO would be using reversed operations to normal. I thought it might be worth a shot. The rain was obviously a concern but I was hopeful, as I have been in the past, that it might make for some interesting shots. I had underestimated just how wet it was though.
The cloud base was very low. The jets landing on 19 were barely visible until they rolled out. The ones taking off were also heavily obscured. The rain was really making things difficult to see and a lot of adjustment in post is necessary to get anything. Only one jet seemed to perform well for me. The Singapore A350 must have gone in a gap in the conditions and it seemed to be the one that was cleanest when I looked at the shots. I won’t give up on things like this but I know the odds are not great.
We were heading out of Hilo and starting back in the direction of where we were staying but our route took us almost directly past the Rainbow Falls. Having already seen some good falls on this day, we were curious but not determined to see these falls. Moreover, it was looking a bit overcast as we drove up. This was the beginning though. As we pulled into the parking lot, the heavens opened. It was hammering down. Having got there, I figured I would take a look anyway although Nancy was quite happy to wait in the dry. Your intrepid photographer had to bear witness though.
Rainbows require two ingredients. Water vapor and sunlight. Without the sunlight, there was not going to be a hint of a rainbow. The falls were pretty cool looking though. I bounced around the perimeter checking them out from various angles while getting progressively wetter. It wasn’t just wet, though. The wind was really picking up so combine and damp and cold guy in some low light with a lot of wind blowing and getting the shots was beginning to be tricky. Instead, I took a good look at the falls and then admitted defeat. Back to the car to peel off the wet jacket and try to dry off on the drive back across the island.
Standing on the shore watching the waves roll in is a very calming place to be. I can spend hours watching the sea if the opportunity arises. While patterns may emerge, every wave is different and the way they move and interact fascinates me. I have written on this blog about some features of waves that I like such as the even colors when the light shines through the wave just before it breaks. Another feature that can be totally cool is if the wind is blowing offshore.
As the waves come in and start to break, the wind is rushing up the front side of the wave. The spray that comes off the top of the wave as it breaks gets picked up by this wind and thrown back up and over the wave in the direction from which it has just come. This is a very dynamic effect and watching it is easier than showing it in still form. However, it is still worth a shot and some of these shots give you an idea of the cool spray patterns that result.
The winter brings days with clear skies and nice light angles. That is not all it brings, though. It can mean strong winds. One of my visits to SFO last year coincided with some very strong winds. The wind was gusting over 40kts on a regular basis. This was far to strong to allow operations on all of the runways. With the wind almost directly down the 28s, those runways were in use for arrivals and departures.
The wind might have been strong but the conditions weren’t bad for photography. The sun was actually out and the light on the planes was pretty nice. However, using a long lens was a bit more tricky with the wind since it tended to blow the lens around a lot. I spent a lot of time trying to stay in the lee of a tree to shield myself from the worst of the gusts.
Consolidation of all operations on the two runways meant that things could get pretty congested near the thresholds. Plenty of jets were lined up ready for departure in between the arrivals. Having so many jets up there is relatively unusual. It is a bit problematic for some shots though. The arriving jets are behind those awaiting departure slots. The waiting jets produce a lot of distortion from the heat of their engine exhausts. This can be quite frustrating since the number of jets means that clear space for a shot is limited.
There are more benefits of course. Having very strong winds straight down the runway means the departing jets have a big advantage. Nearly 40kts on your ASI while standing still means a lot less ground roll is needed to get airborne. The narrow bodies were jumping into the air long before they got off peninsula extending the runways out into the bay. The same was true for the wide bodies. The heavy 747s always have a longer roll but they were getting up before the cross runways. The big twins were getting up very quickly. I had a pretty good view of the 777s as they departed and got what is probably my clearest view yet of the truck rotation on the 777-300ERs – a quest familiar to the regular readers.
Fighting the wind made for a tiring day. I decided I would wait around until the Virgin 787-9 showed up and then call it quits. This was due to be one of the last big arrivals prior to the sun disappearing. When it came in, the light was very nice. I got some good shots and then packed up to go. Going back through the shots since, it was quite clear that the wind was a big factor in my shooting. The sharpness of some shots suffered but the bigger issue was tracking accurately. Far to many extremities of planes got chopped off. Despite, that, the opportunities a day like that offers made it well worth doing and I would be back in a heartbeat if the conditions come together.
San Francisco Bay is a large body of water and you can get some interesting weather effects that will develop. I was down by the bay when the wind was whipping around. It was causing some little columns of spray to form out in the open water. Rather than a real waterspout, they were more like a dust devil – just water instead of dust! They would form up and then disappear. However, it would not be long before a replacement would form. These are funny looking effects and it would have been nice to be a bit closer to see them in more detail.