The North Cascades Highway gets snowed in for the winter, so we decided to take a trip up there before the snow arrived. It was also a good time for fall foliage, so we wanted to see what the mountains had to offer. The colors in the trees as we drove up were very nice but, the higher you get, the more you are into the evergreens and the foliage becomes sparse. However, we had something equally attractive awaiting us.
It was an overcast day as we drove up with any hints of sun from the lower levels gone as we got higher. There were some really cool bands of clouds to see as we drove. At one point we had the valley in sight and the tops of the mountains but a band of cloud in the middle. It was while on a stretch of road with nowhere to stop so no shots of that. However, as we got up to Diablo Lake and then Washington Pass, we got plenty of mountain tops in and out of the clouds.
I experimented with both normal shots and HDR. With the shadow of the valleys and the brightness of the clouds, the dynamic range was pretty wide, and I thought HDR might give me some more processing options. I was glad I made that choice as it really helped to get detail in all parts of the images. That will be our last trip up there this year. The snows will be getting heavy before too long and then it will be a waiting game until the pass is cleared in the spring.
Seattle is a place where you can get a fair bit of humidity at certain times of day. Earlier in the day, there might be a lot of cloud but it will burn off as the day goes on and you have some sunny afternoons and evenings. Watching the planes on approach to SEA on days like this can make for some rapidly changing conditions. I was watching a bunch of jets heading towards SEA as they came through the clouds and into clear air. They would be leaving trails in the cloud base behind them as they went but would be trailing their own little vapor fields behind them.
The conditions didn’t last long and soon the clouds were almost gone and the amount of vapor that they were pulling was minimizing. The vapor was clearly aligned with the flaps on the wings so you could see where the air was being worked the hardest. I did get some shots of them for this which I shall share later but the way in which the vapor puffs and dissipates is best seen in video, so I shot a bunch of that. Most planes were coming directly over me but a couple of the wide-bodies were going to the inner runway so were offset from my location.
One evening I was up at Everett for an aviation opportunity and, things were not looking good because the shot I was after was looking like it was going to be thwarted by a late arrival and the setting of the sun. As it turned out, that provided a far better shot than I expected. The sunset illuminated the clouds, and they provided great light for the arriving aircraft. While I was waiting, I did look behind me and saw that the sky was glowing beautifully. There was no way I wasn’t going to get a shot of that. Sunset shots are rather passé but why not?
During the air show at Edwards AFB, there was a lot of maneuvering of aircraft high above the crowds. There was a little cloud at higher levels – not enough to stop it being almost uncomfortably hot, but enough to be visible – and the planes that flew through this level left their wakes through the cloud layers breaking them up and forming patterns where they had been. I thought this looked really cool and, because the show was backlit, the sun was coming through these patterns and the shadows made them appear more conspicuous. A C-17 flew across at one point which gives you some idea of the scale of these interesting patterns in the sky.
As we took the ferry to San Juan Island, I spent a bit of time wandering the car deck and looking out at the other islands. One of the hills to the north of us clearly had the wind running in from the water and, as the air rose up over the hill, the water vapor condensed out to form some nice clouds. They were rather distant but I figured I would try my luck with getting a shot. The processing is a little harsh but I still like the shapes of the clouds and put up with it not being perfect.
Snowy Cascades shots are pretty but I was shooting from an airliner on my way for a work trip and the mountains were sitting amongst the clouds. Getting a good shot from a plane of a white subject when contrast is not going to be great is a risk but this came out better than I expected. It won’t be too long before the snow is melted and we shall have to wait for half a year to get something like this again.
A good sunset requires some nice high clouds. I was up at Arlington watching the recovery of the Alice prototype after it had done some off-roading and the light was fading fast. The clouds were quite high level and not terribly extensive so they provided a nice canvas for the low setting sun to illuminate. Sunset shots always seem like a lazy shot but it looks so good so why not photograph it?
Our hotel in Seattle had a roof deck which we sat out on prior to going out to dinner. Looking south across the city, you can see Mt Rainier. In the evening light, the mountain was glowing. It looked great and was accentuated by some cloud formations across the summit. Sadly, from this location, the bottom of the mountain is obscured by buildings but it was too good a site to let that stop me taking some photos.
When planes are on a southerly flow into the Seattle airports, the traffic comes over our house all the time. The SeaTac traffic is always a bit higher but the Boeing Field traffic can be lower and visible from the window. If I notice something is coming, I can grab the camera and take some shots of the jets passing overhead. This includes the 777X test aircraft. On a clear day, things are pretty straightforward but a bit of cloud can really make for more interesting shots.
One damp weekend day, I went to Kenmore to visit the camera store. After browsing in there for a while, I headed down to Log Boom Park just to take a look at the Lake. A storm shower had just passed through so I decided to try my luck in staying dry. As I walked down to the water, my gamble did not pay off and it started to rain again. However, I was able to stay out of the worst of it and take a couple of shots across the lake. The clouds near us were really menacing but there was clearer sky in the distance. Quite a range of exposures to accommodate.