The time that the NASA DC-8 spent up in the Pacific Northwest was a ton of fun for the aviation enthusiasts. Since I did get to shoot the jet a few times, I got some closer shots of the airframe to show the various sensors that cover the jet and are used for the sampling work that has been its specialization. There are plenty of them on the top, sides and bottom of the airframe. Here are some shots. I wonder what will replace the jet and whether it will have a similar array of probes?
Nice evenings during the summer mean balloon flights over Woodinville and the surrounding area. I was driving home one evening and, as I came up I-405, I could see a balloon that looked like it might be close to home. Rather than turn towards the house, I headed for one of the nearby fields that has been a landing zone for balloons before (and that have made it into posts on here). When I got there, the balloon was close but was tracking slightly west of the field so no way it was going to make it in. It was heading towards the town so I decided to drive towards the south side of the town to see where it might end up.
I was coming around the south side on the road that skirts the town and the traffic had come to a halt. This was because everyone was watching the balloon low overhead. I actually took a shot through the sunroof of the car as it came low over me. I looped around the roundabout but didn’t take the south exit because the crew seemed to be heading that way and I didn’t need to crowd things.
I went around to the next road and looked back across the fields as the balloon continued on its way. It wasn’t touching down so I guess the area was not ideal. I figured I might head a little further south and see if it came even further. I took the road to Redmond and pulled off at one of the field entrances. Sure enough, they were still drifting south but looked like they might finally be getting close to landing. I didn’t shoot much video, but I did get a little to emphasize the way the balloon was drifting through the trees. As I watched it, the ground crew pulled up and started honking at me. They were incredibly rude. As soon as I saw them arrive, I was getting out of the way. Not my fault that they were struggling to catch their balloon, but they behaved like everyone should just get out of their way. I did anyway but, if you are reading this balloon crew, don’t be assholes to bystanders if you are struggling to recover your balloon and its passengers.
The arrival of the balloon in Woodinville resulted in a previous post of the balloon flying in and another of the crew once the balloon was on the ground. I didn’t just shoot stills during the post landing time, though. I also decided to get a little video of the process of deflating the balloon. I was surprised how long it took but, while there is a large vent on the top of the balloon, once the envelope is lying on its side, the vent is no longer at the top and the air needs to be squeezed out. Here is the video I put together.
The wildfires that spread throughout the west in September resulted in some really bad air quality in our area. It was hard to see too far on some occasions and you definitely weren’t supposed to exercise if you could avoid it. At one point, I had thought a short bike ride might be okay but I didn’t do it and, when I went out to take some photos, I realized that even walking around the park was resulting in me feeling quite bad. Serious exertion would have been a bad idea.
I wanted to get some photos that demonstrated how bad the air quality was. However, I discovered that it was quite hard to compose a shot that showed how bad things are. You can take pictures that show distant objects as obscured by the smoke particles (although post processing techniques can reduce or increase the obscuration if you wish) but the difficulty with that is that a photo doesn’t give a good idea for the viewer of how far away things really are.
A wide lens makes even things that are close look distant and a telephoto lens brings distant things in close so you struggle to make the viewer perceive things the way you actually saw them at the time. I tried with these shots to have enough in the foreground to give some concept of how quickly the visibility fell off but I don’t think it really tells the story in the way that being there did. However, this is a record of what it was like and maybe I will come back to these pictures to remember.
In this recent post, I showed a shot of an Amazon Prime Air 737. With a bit more notice and better timing from an availability point of view, I saw that another jet was coming in to Paine Field from Anchorage. It was being delivered from the conversion line in China and would have the finishing touches taken care of by ATS at Everett. I was there and set up in plenty of time – except… I had one camera ready to go but the other one had been previously used for some video at home and was on manual focus. I was shooting with the 500mm initially and all was well. As the jet got closer, I switched to the 100-400 and everything was wrong. Nothing would focus. It seemed like forever but I must have realized fast and flicked the focus switch because I was able to shoot it as it came level with me and crossed the threshold. What an amateur mistake. Fortunately, I got away with it!
I learned something significant while shooting the airliners from above LAX. It is a lot harder to see an airliner from above than I thought. In the many years of flying, I am familiar with the importance of maintaining a good lookout and the difficulty of spotting other aircraft around you in the sky. From our locations over the airport, we were generally picking out the aircraft from a background of the city, not the sky. I had figured that we knew the approach paths and what was due in so we would not have trouble seeing the planes as they came in.
I was very wrong. First, they are not easy to find at all. Three sets of eyes were looking but we would find things at odd times, sometimes when they were very close. Also, with parallel operations to the 24 and 25 complexes, you can get distracted by activity on one side and miss out on something the other side. The result of this was that we did not see some of the jets until they were on the ground. Pete, who was with me, flies 777s so we were keen to get the BA jet when it came in. We knew the arrival time and still managed to miss it until it was on the ground. An Air France A380 also sneaked in past our “diligent” scan. An Aeroflot A330 was also successful in coming in untouched.
All of these were a little frustrating but not terrible. However, it did give me pause for thought about how I would plan the flight the next time in order to keep track of the things that I most wanted to get. This flight was my first time trying this so I was happy to have got so many shots that I like. The missed ones are not the end of the world. I did learn a lot though and will make sure I use that knowledge next time.
I attended a course recently that was held in Madras OR at the home of the Erickson Air Museum. This museum is a fantastic collection of vintage aircraft, some of which were used for the course, more of which will appear on this blog in due course. At various times while we were there, I had the opportunity to wander around the museum and see the collection. This included during the evening when a party was underway but which also meant they had some interesting illumination.
The majority of the aircraft are warbirds but not all of them. A Bellanca was present which is, to be generous, a most unusual looking aircraft. I would certainly have liked to have seen it outside had the opportunity arisen but that wasn’t to be. There was also a Martin Mauler which is an aircraft I had never heard of previously. It looks like a Skyraider but you could tell it was different. It was just hard to know what it was without checking the information on the display.
Madras is not on the trail for most people so I imagine the museum does not have a lot of people happening upon it. However, it is a nice facility with a great collection and a super bunch of people working there. If you like warbirds and vintage aircraft, it should definitely be visited at some point.
There seem to be quite a few posts on the blog of kite surfing. Whenever I come across someone out in the waves, I can’t help myself but spend some time watching them. Driving down the coast from Coronado, we stopped on the beach to eat our breakfast. As we sat on the wall looking across the sand at the waves, the kite surfer headed out a short distance away.
Of course, he never came up as far us us but he was still close enough to get a good view. He managed to get some good air at times, usually when I wasn’t trying to photograph him. The wind off the ocean was strong and steady so he was having a lot of fun with some reasonably sized waves to launch off periodically. I figured an animated GIF might be a good way to show him in motion. See what you think.
The National Championship Air Races recently took place at Reno NV. This was my second year covering it and the 50th running of the races. Before I go too much further, here is the link to the article I wrote for Global Aviation Resource so, if you want a rundown on how the event went, that is a good place to go. It also has pictures but you don’t need to go there for them since I am about the share a bunch of them here too!
Reno is a very interesting event to shoot. The organizers go to a lot of effort to host the media representatives. Given how many of us show up, this is no small feat. They provide a center for us to base ourselves out of, breakfast and lunch each day (this year sponsored by Nikon), buses to take a selection of people out to the pylons each morning and afternoon, access to most places you could want to be and a team with golf carts who will run you to wherever you want to go (provided you can find them since they are kept busy!).
The parts of the show are very interesting in themselves. Exploring the pits is a great thing to do. The main pit area has the Unlimited racers and the T-6s. The jets are at the far end of the field and always seem isolated to me. However, more fun can be had walking through the hangars for the Sport, Bi-Plane and Formula One classes. Here you will see small teams of people beavering away on their pride and joy. With a lot less people coming through, you can get a lot more access to what they are doing.
When it comes down to it though, the racing is what it is all about. Shooting from the pits and the stands is fine and it gives a certain perspective on the races but shooting from the pylons is something else. Being right inside the turn as aircraft zip by at high speed and low altitude is really impressive. Sometimes you want to just stand and watch rather than see it all through a viewfinder. However, the races are not long and, if you have a variety of shots that you are looking for, you have to get them quickly.
Moreover, sometimes you need to get in the groove. The slower types are easier to calibrate yourself for but the jets and the Unlimiteds are really motoring and you don’t have much time to get in practice. You may want shots of everything but there are certain planes that you know are going to be required for coverage and whether you get them looking good, in good light and sharp in the brief windows available is a combination of practice and luck – plenty of the latter in my case!
It is a fun event to be at and one that will leave you pretty exhausted. Getting there early for the sunrise lighting and being around to get whatever opens up at the end of the day followed by downloading everything and cataloging it before cleaning your gear up – that dust gets everywhere – charging anything that needs charging and also remembering to eat and suddenly the sleep feels awfully short. It’s only a few days though. Is there somewhere else you would rather be?
This year I made my first trip to the Reno Air Races. I have no clear explanation why I haven’t been before. It has been in my calendar for many years but other things always seemed to conspire to stop me from making the trip. This year, I finally made it. I could almost have never made it. With the accident at last year’s races that killed a number of spectators, there were plenty of questions about whether the event would go ahead. Fortunately it did.
I was covering it for Global Aviation Resource. My article will shortly be published in their monthly digital magazine so, if you want to get the full story (and the better pictures) pop along to www.globalaviationresource.com to buy the magazine. I will not reprint anything here that is in the piece for obvious reasons. However, to tempt you a little, here are some other shots from the event that will hopefully give you a feel for what went on.
It was quite a learning experience for me. Fortunately, I had a number of friends their to give me guidance on what to do, where to go and what to look out for. The bus trips to the pylons were a great experience (if a little odd sometimes when we were shuttled about between heats) but getting so close to the aircraft as they turn was something special.
Planning became a real priority. Each race is relatively short with most being six laps. In that time you have to get all of the shots you want. Tight crops, loose views, pylon in the shot, video, slow shutter speeds and there you have used up your race! Getting into my stride took a little time but I soon got a feel for what I wanted. This does mean there aren’t many opportunities for a second chance so you have to shoot a lot quickly to make sure you get enough to work with.
This does result in shooting a lot of images over the time there. All of these have to be downloaded and checked. I won’t say exactly how many I shot but it was a very large number and culling the crap out was a time consuming business. I am still weeding out some now!
The media relations team at RARA are unbelievably helpful. They have a lot of people covering the event yet handle it all with a friendly approach and they really do make your life genuinely easier – not always the case! I planned out my time at the event to get me to the pylons at some points, in the pits and the flightline at others and the final day was mainly spent in the stands. My friend Paul had traveled up for that day so it was nice to have someone to chat with while watching the racing from the spectators’ viewpoint – even if I did have to leave that for a while to cover part of the ceremonies.