Author Archives: Rob

F-35A Snorting it Up at Abbotsford

I saw the USAF F-35A demo at SeaFair in 2022 and it was impressive but, unfortunately, a bit distant over the lake.  Abbotsford in 2023 was my first chance to see the performance closer in and that combined with the evening show to give good lighting conditions.  I was not disappointed.  The demo was a great routine, and it really tore up the skies as the pilot wrung the jet out for our entertainment.  The honking great engine means it is never quiet and, while it might not be as agile as an F-16, there is plenty of control authority for some rapid changes of direction.  The evening light made the airframe look even better.  These are some of my favorite shots from the display.

Look Both Ways When Crossing the Road

While parked up at East 90 and watching the birds hunt, I glanced behind me – always a wise plan – and saw a northern harrier coming in my general direction.  It flew low across the field and over the road before finding a perch.  As I looked through the images afterwards, I found it funny to see the bird crossing what seemed to be not far behind a vehicle.  I hope it had been taught how to cross the road.

A little while later, the same process was followed by a bald eagle.  The shot makes it look like it was actually coming along the road but I think that is just compression of perspective.  It was probably this side of the road.  It also safely made its way across without having any conflict with passing vehicles.  Maybe the local birds have copies of the Green Cross Code (for those of you of a certain age that grew up in the UK).

Alaska Air Cargo’s Newest Freighter – Finally!

Alaska Air Cargo has a bunch of converted 737-700s that it uses to run freight around Alaska and down to Seattle.  The -700 is not a popular freighter conversion with the -800 being the basis for most NG freighters around the world.  Alaska must have decided that they too need the additional capacity and are converting a pair of their passenger jets.  The first returned from Kelowna, where the conversion was undertaken, and entered service.  I went out one weekend to catch it heading north.  I waited a long time as its departure time slipped and slipped before it eventually canceled.  It then flew to Oklahoma City for some work of some sort.  It did return but then went back to OKC so something was clearly not right.

Recently, it finally returned to Seattle.  The weather was not great but it was a weekend and I had some time so I decided to catch it coming in from Ketchikan and then heading back the same way.  With the cargo door in the front fuselage and the Air Cargo markings added, it looks pretty good.  It hasn’t been used hard yet, so the paint is in good shape.  Let’s hope its teething troubles are behind it and I might catch it in nicer conditions.  Its sister ship is in conversion currently, so we should have a pair of them before too long.

This Valley is Pretty Green!

I may have lived in the Pacific Northwest for a number of years, now, but I am still amazed at times by the moss that grows on so many surfaces here.  The shaded and damp conditions are ideal for moss growth, and it surely shows.  The special thing is how the light will pick up the surface of the moss in the gloomy areas of shade and make it seem like it is glowing.  It really is something special and something that I find hard to show effectively with photos.

Still, I continue to try.  These shots are all taken in the valley at Granite Falls.  No lack of moisture down there, I can confirm!  Looking at the branches of almost all the trees (and plenty of exposed rock surfaces for that matter), you will see moss everywhere.  Looking up towards the light, it really does seem to get highlighted.  I shall continue my quest to get the right photo of moss indefinitely!

Omni 777 Takes the Band to Houston

The appearance of UW in the national championship game meant a lot of people flying from Seattle to Houston.  That included the band and I believe they were the ones to fly in an Omni Air International 777-200ER.  We get plenty of Omni’s 767s at Boeing Field but a 777 was an interesting change.  I hung around quite a while one Saturday waiting for them to depart.  As with so many charters, they went late.  (Late enough to mean I got stuck on I-5 heading back for lunch when a protest closed down the interstate.)  I took a chance by going with a long prime rather than a zoom and, fortunately, they rotated just early enough for that to work out for me.  I was rather pleased with the tighter shots of them getting airborne.

Morning Tahoma

An early morning flight was needed for a trip that I needed to take for work, and it was taking me south.  The departure time was before the sun was due up, but I hoped that I might get a view of Mt Rainier (also known as Tahoma) as we headed south so I had selected a seat on the left side of the plane.  The plan was a good one even if the quality of the window of the jet was not.  I have not seen such a scruffy window on an airliner in ages!  Some random repositioning of the lens to try different parts of the window resulted in some reasonable shots.  Nothing special but nice to get when you have to be up early anyway.

Playing With an Old CRJ Moon Shot

For some reason, I recently came back to an old photo I took of a Delta Connection CRJ900 as it climbed out of O’Hare.  It had climbed right by the moon as it was rising in the eastern sky towards the end of the day.  I had liked the photo at the time but now I was thinking about how to do a better job of editing it.  Now I have been using the masking tools in Lightroom a lot more, I figured I could take different approaches for the jet and the background.  The results were a lot better than my original efforts and I quite like how it now looks.

Rowing Near the Locks

A cold but sunny winter’s day at the locks in Ballard did not make me think that being on the water would be fun.  However, someone clearly had a different idea.  While I was walking around looking at the boats and the wildlife, a guy was out sculling in his boat.  He came quite close to the overflow from the sluice gates and had to work to position himself with the flow and turbulence from the water as it headed towards the sound.  It seemed like a very cold time to be out there, but I guess he was enjoying himself?

Lockheed 12 Heading East

Airport roads can sometimes throw up interesting surprises.  I was driving around Paine Field one weekend and came upon this fuselage sitting on a trailer.  I had a chat with the guys loading it up.  It is a Lockheed 12 and was heading to Minnesota for restoration to flight.  They suggested a lot of work was needed and it would be a while before it was flying again.  However, I was just taken to see it sitting beside the road as I happened to pass by.

Trumpeter Swans Along the Road

The snow geese are famous visitors to Skagit County in the winter, but they are not the only large birds to show up in big numbers.  The trumpeter swans also appear and, while they might not be in the large flocks of the snow geese, there are still loads of them around.  They also don’t seem to mind being close to the humans.  I had seen a bunch of them as I was driving around and pulled off the road at one point as so many were in the adjacent field.

The fun thing about photographing swans is getting them taking off.  Two or more of them flying at low level as they build speed is pretty cool.  You might normally wait for ages for this to happen but, with so many of them around, it seems as if there is almost always a take off occurring.  Consequently, while some might seem distant, you know another will be closer in before too long.  (I do like the head on look but that does require getting to more inaccessible spots usually.)

After shooting at the same spot for a while, I continued south.  I was getting back to an area south of Mt Vernon when I came across even more swans sitting right by a side road.  They were ridiculously close to the road and, when I pulled up and stopped, they did start to drift away a little.  I guess even swans can be slightly circumspect when it comes to humans arriving.  However, they quickly got used to me and I got some shots of them too!