Tag Archives: civil

Air Canada Special Early Sunday Departure And Lightroom Masking Options

Air Canada brings a pair of A220-300s in to SEA each evening – one from Toronto and one from Montreal.  They leave the following morning with the Toronto flight heading out early and the Montreal flight following a couple of hours later.  The Toronto flight one weekend was the TCA special aircraft so I decided to head out and catch it departing.

The day started very overcast and gloomy but there was a sign that things were going to get better.  This did happen but things were still not great when the jet departed.  The light had improved a bit but the cloud was still there.  When looking at the shots, I figured it was time to make use of the masking options that Lightroom offers.  The latest update has improved their usability somewhat.  First I drop the exposure of the shot overall to get the sky looking roughly how I want it.  Then I select the aircraft suing the Subject option.  It does a pretty reasonable job but I do then refine it with an addition brush to bring in the bits it has missed and a subtract brush to take out the detail areas where the mask has overlapped.

The new option is the click on this mask and choose the Duplicate and Invert option.  This gives me a sky selection that matches what I have got for the aircraft.  For the sky, I can work on the white balance to bring it back to something more cool which suits the overall look of the shot.  I can similarly work on the white balance for the jet to make the reds pop more in the livery.  The exposure can be brought up a bit with the shadows helping a little while bringing the blacks down while improve the contrast.

All of this is pretty straightforward.  One nice feature of the latest update is that you can actually apply the same settings to multiple images.  The brush adjustments are not going to work well for this so it is best to do the overall selections and sync to the various images and then, if a shot is worthy of further work, the refining of the mask can be done afterwards.  If you know which shot is the best, you can just focus on that one.

Airlift Northwest In Olympia

Airlift Northwest is a regular feature in the Seattle area providing aeromedical services across the region.  I have seen their helicopters at both Arlington and Boeing Field numerous times.  During the Olympic Air Show at Olympia, I was wandering up towards the hangar where the Huskie was stored when one of the Airlift Northwest EC-135s made its approach.  I couldn’t have been better positioned for it so got a bunch of shots as it came in and landed.  The UW colors look good on these helicopters.


There are many ways in which the largest aircraft in the world might be defined.  It cam be dimensional and it can be by weight.  Depending on which you choose to use, the Stratolaunch aircraft can probably qualify for one of them.  A project that was started under the oversight of Paul Allen and, for which the future suddenly looked bleak when he died.  However, it has continued and now seems to have a possible future.

I was hoping that it might make a flight for the Edwards show.  On the Friday, the jet was out taxiing at Mojave.  I missed it being out on the runway but I could see it moving as I drove north.  Consequently, I made a quick detour to see what I could see.  It was being brought back to their ramp when I got there.  The airport security were kind but firm about not hanging around so when they arrived shortly after I did, I left as requested.  Fortunately, I had already had a brief opportunity to take some photos of it.  I understand it flew a few days later carrying the launch vehicle (probably a mass and aero simulator) on a test flight.  We shall see if it progresses to launches before too long.

Vision Head On

I was hanging out at Arlington with my buddy Bob.  A variety of aircraft were flying that day but the conditions were not ideal.  We were there for something else but that is the topic for another post.  We had gone to the north end of the field where a path crosses under the centerline.  Some Eagle Flights were taking place that day and one of the planes providing them was a Cirrus SF50 Vision.  It took off while we were up there so we got some head on shots of it.  A grey jet on a cloudy day is not ideal so, rather than getting the regular side on shots, a head on view was actually a better outcome.

Rotor One Goes To Test The Viz

The Bolt Creek fire brought a load of helicopters in to fight the fire and they were based at Harvey Field in Snohomish.  A while after I got there that weekend, one of the UH-1s fired up.  This was Rotor One, a county operated helicopter.  It took off and turned over me before heading east.  It turns out it was looking to see how the conditions were.  Visibility looked awful and, judging by whatever Rotor One reported, that was the case everywhere.  None of the other helicopters ever got moving.  The conditions were just too bad.

Super Puma On The Doorstep

I made a kit of an RAF Puma when I was a kid and have had a soft spot for the type ever since.  The Super Puma is a capable airframe that has had a few problems over the years but is still very impressive.  If I can see one anytime, I will try to do so.  The good news is that one has shown up at Arlington.  It was parked outside a hangar without rotors when I saw it and got some shots.  It has since moved indoors and I assume it is being fitted out for operations.  If so, I can’t wait to see it in action.

Surge of 787s

Nothing too special about this post.  I was out at Boeing Field for the flights of Sentimental Journey but the traffic to SEA was passing overhead.  Most traffic is domestic but you do get the international movements too.  In this case, I got three 787s in very short order.  They came from British Airways, JAL and ANA.  I figured they could have their own post so here you go.

Scaled Composites 401

The day after I went to the Edwards show, I was hanging around the area and headed up to Mojave to see whether Stratolaunch was going to move.  It didn’t, which was disappointing but the time up there was not wasted.  I got to shoot some stuff around the airport that I hadn’t previously and I went to the north end to look down the runway in case anything was moving.  I saw that a Western Global 747 was coming in and decided to head to the south end to get it arriving.  As I left, an L39 took off to the north.  I should have paid more attention to it.

I short while later – once I was well away, it was followed by a more interesting plane that it was acting as chase for.  A Scaled Composite 401 known by a variety of names including Son of Ares.  To miss that climbing out past me was bad.  It got worse when I realized the 747 had approached from the north so I missed it anyway.  I wasn’t going to make the same mistake when the 401 returned.

I did have to wait for quite a while.  They were undertaking flights at altitude and running racetrack patterns.  I could get the occasional distant shot as they went overhead.  Eventually the L39 returned and I figured it wound’s be too long before the 401 was back.  I had picked a spot on Google Maps that looked promising for the approach.  As I waited, I realized some other photographers were on the other side of the road and closer to the centerline.  I wondered about moving but also didn’t want to miss it while I did so.  I stayed where I was.  A bit distant but still worth it for an unusual type.  It has been seen at Boeing Field but not by me!

SOFIA Makes An Entrance

One of the highlights of the show at Edwards Air Force Base was the appearance of NASA and DLR’s SOFIA airframe.  A Boeing 747SP that has been converted for infra-red astronomy, this was my first time seeing SOFIA.  It has a large telescope mounted in the rear fuselage with a huge rotating door that opens up when at cruising altitude – above the majority of the atmospheric blockage to IR – to allow the telescope to make observations.

SOFIA is being retired.  There is a debate about whether this is purely budget related or whether the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (which also observes in the infra red spectrum), means that it is no longer needed.  Whatever the reasons, it is being retired and this show was a bit of a swan song.  As part of this, they actually opened up the door for the telescope which, apparently, is a first since it was first commissioned other than while it was observing.

The plane made a run in from show left making a cool pass but this was the side without the telescope visible.  They then turned around and made a banked pass along the crowd line with the telescope visible.  At first I thought that they had blown it because they had a nice bank angle on but were lining up too soon.  However, they straightened up for a while before bringing the bank back on and giving the crowd a good view.

They landed after this and taxied in to where I was waiting but that will be a separate post.

The East Side of Heathrow Proves Fruitful

My visit to Myrtle Avenue proved to be a success, even if it had been a lot shorter than intended.  As I headed back to the Tube, I was ready to call it a day.  The arrivals had moved to the northerly runway and I figured that was not going to be practical to shoot.  However, I could see the arrivals in the distance and decided to try one of the overpasses to see if I could get any shots.  This location was not great but I decided to walk a little along the road to see whether there was anything better.

What I had not thought about was that, since I was on foot and didn’t have to worry about parking, I could really try anywhere.  This worked out very well and I progressively made my way up the perimeter road trying out different locations that either had good angles or were closer to the approach path.  The good news was that there was plenty of traffic and, while British Airways A320s were extremely prevalent, there was a lot of variety.

I am not sure the next time I will get to shoot an Iran Air A330 for example.  I was also getting lots of arrivals of Middle East carriers as well as African airlines.  All of this is a nice change from the regular traffic I see on the west coast of the US.  I was also getting a few jets from airlines I meet see at home but not the types that I would normally see.  All of this combined with the sun being particularly cooperative and I was quite happy with the conditions.  I was mainly shooting stills but I did occasionally try a bit of video as you can see below.