I have plenty of photos of Gulfstreams and a few photos of FAA jets – mainly flight checking Learjet 60s. However, the FAA Gulfstreams have not been something I have seen a lot of. I did have a nice chance to shoot one at Washington National many years ago, though. I did see the jets on the ramp at the south end of the field occasionally but I think this was the only time I got one airborne. It was shot from Gravelly Point so I was nice and close to it as it was on final approach. That is a great place to shoot from (or just hang out and watch the planes) and I will have to get back there at some point.
My trawl of the archives is also including airlines that have disappeared. Today’s subject is Midwest Airlines. They operated out of Milwaukee which was not far from me when I lived in Chicago but was not a place I frequented much. The only time I think I shot there was during an open day at the ANG tanker unit based there. I did get some Midwest movements that day. I actually saw more of their jets and Washington National as it happens. It wasn’t an airline I have many shots of in total but here is a selection of what I did get before they disappeared.
Located in Jackson WY is the National Elk Refuge. This is a huge tract of land that has been set aside for the elk to winter in as other parts of their territory have been encroached upon. During the winter, thousands of elk make their way down from the higher ground and feed in the refuge. Elk are very skittish creatures and will not hang around if people are nearby. However, they are also not the sharpest of animals and, if a person is within something else, they don’t recognize that they are there.
Consequently, it is possible to take tour groups through the refuge on sleighs. These open sleighs are drawn by a pair of horses and carry about 20 people each. If you were to step out of the sleigh the elk would be off but, provided you stay inside, they don’t much care about you. They may look at you as you pass by but it doesn’t stop them munching.
The sleigh ride is a lot less comfortable than you might think. Despite the deep snow, things are very uneven and you lurch and bump along as you traverse the refuge. There was a large herd quite close by (no doubt courtesy of the food that is periodically laid out) and we were able to make a loop around the whole herd without disturbing any of them. We could have conversations at normal levels without a problem. Just don’t drop anything out of the sleigh. Getting out is forbidden.
When Southwest bought AirTran, they inherited a mixed fleet of 737s and 717s. AirTran had been a 717 only fleet for a while but had expanded to include 737s as they grew and the production of the 717 ended. It didn’t take too long for Southwest to announce that the 717s were going away. Where to was the question. That was soon answered when Delta picked them all up. Consequently, there has been a steady stream of 717s showing up in Delta colors recently.
I have come across a few of them recently on both sides of the country. Despite the age of the basic DC-9 design, the updates introduced and the chunkier profile of the more modern engines means that there is something slightly different about the appearance of the jet. I quite like the look of it. Previously, the majority of the examples I had seen had been Hawaiian (including those I had ridden on). It is nice that the type has found a new home which means they shall be around in the US for a while to come.
The second leg of the journey that provided me with the storm video of Chicago was to Washington DC. For those that haven’t been there, Washington’s National Airport is located in the Potomac River. Approaches from the south come straight up the river but approaches from the north follow the winding line of the river to stay away from populated areas. It is quite a fun ride on a rough day.
On this day it was calm and evening was drawing in so there was a great view of the city as we made our approach. I shot some more video from the window using my phone and you can see all of the famous parts of the city. Enjoy!
More window shots today! I usually end up sitting on the same side of the plane depending on which way I am heading in order to be on the shady side. However, I was on the opposite side on one flight back to Oakland recently and ended up with a good view of Yosemite National Park as we came home. The light was a bit harsh and I was a long way up so nothing outstanding here but it was still a cool view with Half Dome being the easiest landmark to pick out from this angle.
It has been quite a while since I last flew in to National Airport in Washington DC (or Virginia if you are being accurate). My recent visit to DC took me through the airport but not through the main terminal that I have used in the last decade. Southwest operate from the original terminal which, I have to admit, I didn’t realize was still in use.
This is quite a distance from the rest of the airport and so you have a ten minute walk to get to the access to the metro station. It takes you all the way through the original terminal building which is a pretty impressive art deco structure. I did not have a camera other than that on my phone but I did grab a few quick pictures of this building which seems to have been restored as it is in good condition. It seems to be a bit of a gem that is missed by most people traveling through the airport.
One spot I had never been to while in San Diego was the Cabrillo National Monument up on the northwest end of the bay. The drive to the point takes you through a lot of older naval installations. It also takes you right through the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. On our way back from the headland, we stopped at the cemetery to take a look around. It sits on both sides of the road and extends a long way in each direction.
Military cemeteries, wherever they are, are always thought provoking places. The uniformity of the layout and the headstones combines with their scale to be quite overwhelming. While many of those buried there died in service, a lot of the headstones were far more recently dated as they were the resting places of veterans of long ago that had more recently died. Many of these also included the spouse of the person.
The location up on the ridge overlooking the water in both directions is a beautiful spot and, as last resting places go, I suspect it ranks pretty highly. We certainly weren’t alone in visiting the cemetery. If you find yourself in that area and have some time, I would recommend going.
Before we went to the beach at Point Reyes, we did briefly stop off at Drake’s Bay. This wasn’t a big part of our plan but we needed to drop in to the visitor’s center briefly. While we were there, one of the team was talking about the elephant seals and mentioned that a few were on the beach just outside. We took a look before we went on our way. There were indeed a few seals right up near the center. These were not as large as the seals down at Ano Nuevo but they were still pretty large.
Some volunteers had put some small flags out to guide people away from the seals. Even so, we were still quite close to them. Moreover, they would move when they felt like it so the flags were soon irrelevant. The volunteers just had to remind people not to get too close or in the way if a seal was on the move. Despite this, some needed a slightly stronger hint to keep out of the way. How hard is this to understand I wonder?
With the amount of seal shots I have recently got, you would think I would have been happy to let this time go but I just can’t resist a wildlife shot. I got a few of them as they slept or eyed us cautiously and then we went off to the other beaches for the remainder of our day.
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?