Checking Out Seattle from the Air When Coming Home

A previous post included some aerial photos that I got when coming back into Seattle courtesy of an Alaska Airlines 737.  They were of some of the islands in Puget Sound.  As we got back to the city, we turned back towards the approach with a nice view of the locks at Ballard and the waterways into Lake Union.  A close-up view of the north end of Lake Union with Gasworks Park in the foreground and the university campus in the background came next and then a view of the south side of the city and off towards the east side of Lake Washington before we were back on the ground.

My Quest for the Cormorants is Finally Successful

The AW101 is a helicopter I really like.  I saw the early development airframes when I was young and have photographed Merlins of the Royal Navy and the RAF as well as an Italian example.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have really wanted to photograph the Canadian CH-149 Cormorants.  I have a desk model of one that I bought in California and figured I would have seen one fly by now, but I have had rotten luck.  The Abbotsford show last year was another time when I didn’t see one fly despite it having been a principal reason for me going.

CFB Comox is a base for the Cormorant and their show this year, while interesting overall, really had me figuring they were bound to fly there.  If they had a serviceability issue, there would be a spare airframe.  If someone got called out, there would still be another airframe available.  Surely it had to work out.  Fortunately, yes, it did.

Early in the show, a Cormorant was launched and flew patterns around the airfield, initially quite high up.  I grabbed the long lens to get shots of it.  Gradually it got lower, and the shots got better.  If everything else went wrong, at least I now had a shot or two of one flying.  The show opened with a Cormorant flying in with the Canadian flag suspended beneath it (with a crew member hanging on the flag too).  Then there was a SAR demo which it was a major part of.

I shot so many images of this helicopter.  I really went overboard.  I did play around with slower shutter speeds since I was able to get lots of shots.  I tried getting down to 1/40th of a second shutter speeds and have discovered that the rotor speed of the 101 is really low.  Even at that shutter speed, the blades are pretty distinct.  Something I noticed as I was taking these shots was just how stable the Cormorant is in the hover.  I have seen plenty of rotorcraft operations and hover stability is usually pretty good for larger helicopters but the 101 really did seem to come to a halt and then sit immobile.  Very impressive.

So glad to finally have time to photograph this lovely looking airframe.  I even got the best of the sun from the day, so the yellow paint was popping.  A trip to Comox was well worthwhile.

Horseshoe Bay

Our trip to Nanaimo meant a ferry ride with BC Ferries.  Normally we end up going from Tsawwassen but, because reservations were already getting hard to find, we took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay.  It has been a while since I departed from there and I didn’t remember much about it.  The waiting area was rather busy and not the most relaxing spot to wait for a ferry.  However, once on the boat, we got a nice view of the bay and the surrounding coastline.  It was a rather picturesque spot.  Figured I would share some shots of it here.

Some P-8s But Not Many Markings

A trip to Whidbey Island at the end of last year resulted in some encounters with the local P-8 Poseidons.  The disappointment was that they weren’t exactly showing off loads of unit markings.  With one exception, they were rather anonymous.  I’m not sure whether they had been recently received and were later to get squadron emblems or not.  I hope so.  Fortunately, the light was nice at that time of year so I got some images I was pleased with.

Time for Our Regular Spring Visit to Meerkerk

Spring means rhododendrons and our favorite place to go looking for them is Meerkerk.  A sunny weekend forecast meant we made the trip over to Whidbey to see how things looked.  Visiting has always been a bit of a crapshoot for us.  Will we get there before they come into full bloom?  Will they already be passed their prime?  This time I think we hit it pretty spot on.

The bushes were full of color with blooms all over the place.  A few may have peaked, and some were, no doubt, still to come, but so much was looking great, I think we couldn’t have done better.  Aside for a family that had brought along a photographer to take images of their small son who seemed very uninterested in doing anything they wanted resulting in the photographer’s voice being audible across the gardens, things were very tranquil.  (They didn’t stay long, and it was so nice when I heard them say they were leaving – of course I heard them say that, you heard everything they said!). Will we be so lucky next time?  Who knows?

A Short Time Between Two Visions

It doesn’t take long for the weather to change in the Pacific Northwest.  One afternoon I got a couple of Cirrus Vision Jets into Boeing Field.  The weather was a bit overcast for one of them and then cleared up nicely by the time the second one showed up.  The result was a far nicer shot for the second jet than for the first.  It is amazing how quickly conditions can change and what a difference it can make to the images.

RHS Wisley

On our last full day in the UK on our most recent trip, we met up with family and the Royal Horticultural Society’s grounds at Wisley.  It has been quite a long time since we were last there and I only had some limited memories of the place.  They were good memories, but I clearly hadn’t seen as much of the place as I could have.  The old house is the first thing you see when you arrive and I’m glad that it is still there since it provides a nice introduction, even if it isn’t terribly relevant to the average visitor these days.

They have built a really nice gift shop and café/restaurant complex, and we did make good use of that on our visit.  Then we headed into the gardens.  They are just as nice as you would expect from an organization like the RHS.  We went through one of the glasshouses and then climbed the hill to the cunningly named Hilltop building.  The grounds around it are nice but they also have a rooftop area which provides a great view across the grounds.  I think if I had been alone and with more time, I might have gone further afield in the grounds, but that day was not the day to do so.  I did see what looked like a nice avenue on the map so wandered up through the trees to a very scenic view down back towards the main area.

Wisley is a lovely spot.  I would highly recommend it if you like gardens and plants or even if you just want somewhere pleasant to wander after a decent lunch.  I suspect we will make a return visit if we have a chance for more time when back in the UK.

Finally, the Jetz Black Jet – Just No Sun

Air Canada operates a charter service under the Jetz brand.  While the A320s are not the focus of the mainline fleet, they are part of the Jetz fleet plan.  With a lot of use in sports charters, they do show up at Seattle pretty frequently.  One of the Jetz jets has been painted in a gloss black livery which looks pretty cool.  I really wanted to get some shots of it but they only seemed to be bringing it in late at night and departing in the early hours of the morning.

I wasn’t going to be out that late and photographing a black jet at night was not going to be that worthwhile.  Then I saw one was going to come in on a Sunday morning.  I took a look at the forecast, and it was showing the potential for the sun to be out and I decided to give it a go.  Finding a location on that side of the field for the morning light has got a lot worse since construction has taken away some of the options.  However, there are still some things that can work.  I was hopeful that the sun might be there but, with the jet turning on to approach, there was still some cloud taking away the best of the morning light.  Nevertheless, the jet looked pretty good as it flew by to touchdown.  I wasn’t unhappy with the results.

Jackdaws Searching for Snacks

We stopped for a small snack at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park after our walk.  We were heading to lunch later, but you don’t want your energy to drop so a cake of some sort is a necessity.  The tables around the café provided plenty of food for the local jackdaw population and they were very keen to get whatever fell from the plates of the customers.  With the sun on them, they looked really cool.  I didn’t know what they were at the time, but the grey heads were quite distinctive, and I did a search later on t identify them.  Funny to learn these things so long after I had lived in the UK.

Foreign F-35s

Luke AFB is not just home to a load of USAF F-35s.  It is also the training base for many of the export operators.  They also allocate some of their jets to the unit, so you do have the opportunity to catch a bunch of jets that are not from the USAF.  This includes Italian, Danish, Norwegian and Dutch jets.  Aside from the Danish ones that actually have a tiny bit of color in their national markings, all the jets are low viz.  At least they are slightly different, even if not very conspicuous.