Near the north end of Boeing Field is the old Georgetown Steam Plant. This is an old power station that was decommissioned decades ago. I had been curious to see what it was like inside. I had thought about going a while back and then the pandemic put paid to any visits for a couple of years. The opening hours have now been established and they open on the second Saturday of each month. That proved problematic for a while as that clashed with travels or other plans. Consequently, I put the first opening in my calendar and tried my best to make sure I could go.
The Saturday came around and it was a gloriously sunny day. This shouldn’t matter much since I was going to be indoors but it does make for a nicer day to be out anyway. It was due to open at 10am so I decided to get there right at the beginning. Turned out this was a good idea. The parking lot was already looking pretty full and more were arriving. I have no idea why it was so busy. Sure, a nice day encourages people to go out but how many people see a sunny day and think “let’s go to a decommissioned power plant”? I asked a docent whether this was normal. He said they normally get about 30 people over the day and they had four tours of 50 people booked plus those, like me, that didn’t take the tour!
The power plant was built at the beginning of the 20th century. It had three steam turbines of different vintages, powers and technologies. The first two are vertical and the third horizontal. These are fed from a large boiler room. There are balconies with the control electronics which you can see but are not yet accessible. I was happy to let the tours concentrate people in various locations which meant it was quieter wherever they weren’t so I could wander around casually.
I had figured wide angle was going to be my friend in the building so had a wide zoom and a fisheye zoom with me. I used the fish a little initially but soon concluded it wasn’t that useful to me so I swapped it out with the 70-200 to allow me to get some detail shots of the machinery. Older machinery has a lot of character with polished metals, complex mechanisms and multiple gauges. It is a great look in to a bygone era.
These shots are few of the overall layout of the building. There are some details from within the plant that will have their own posts to come so I can focus on them. I don’t want to try and squeeze it all in to one post and lose some of the curious elements in the larger story.
Roche Harbor on San Juan Island is now a resort town with a marina, hotel, restaurants and accommodation. However, it started out as a production facility for lime. Some of the original elements of the town have been preserved and one part is the old power production site. The original generator set was supplemented by a second as demands increased for power. The images of them belching smoke as they worked didn’t make it look like a fun place to be back in those days. Now, they are inactive and cleaned and painted but they are a reminder of how things used to be done.
When I got the new cameras, I needed to get a new card reader as a result of the change of format. I researched this a little and bought what seemed to be a good reader. However, when I was downloading the shots, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I know the cards were larger and the files were bigger but it seemed that it wasn’t any faster than I was used to. At some point, I thought to look at the USB C cable I was using. I had bought the cable for connecting my iPad and found that charging cable and fast data cables were not the same thing. I tried the cable that came with the camera and the downloads zipped along. I then bought a proper data cable and now the card reader is working like a charm. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t thought about this having already got a USB C cable but it made a big difference so don’t make the same mistake as me.
The ferry terminal at Orcas isn’t the only dock available and it is the home of a boat used by the local Sheriff’s department. We didn’t often see them out and about while we were staying there but they did come by a couple of times. The boat is clearly capable of a good speed. No doubt, if you are the sheriff, you don’t want to be outrun by people that easily and you also need to be able to get to places promptly. That means power in the form of some chunky outboards. I suspect it is quite a fun boat to drive.
Working from home introduces you to sounds from the street that you never normally hear when you are there outside working hours. Nancy knows all of these things since she hears them all the time but they are new to me. However, we were both taken aback by something that sounded like a roaring noise. I had to investigate. It appears that the power company was doing some work digging up the road outside our street. I guess they had to cut in to a gas line and they had set up some device, presumably to burn off excess gas before continuing their work. It was only a brief event but a noisy one!
If you take a garbage truck and attach it to a power pole that you aren’t supposed to attach it to, you are likely to cause some trouble. We had a blackout as a result of such an event. The pole ended up punching a hole in the roof of a nearby house (thankfully it wasn’t raining) and power to our area was cut off. I got home as the light was fading and got a few shots of the damage. The power lines are strong and they had succeeded in taking down two lamp posts as well.
I popped back out to see how things were progressing and to watch the teams at work fixing the situation. Making the initial pole safe took a lot of time as bits of it were removed. A new pole was put in place and the old pole lifted back up and attached to the new one. I assume this was a temporary fix. Focus then shifted to the next pole which was leaning at an angle that suggested it had taken a bit of the load too. This one just got straightened up and didn’t need to be replaced. I gave up watching after a while since I preferred to be indoors in the warm. Power came back on at 9pm so we were able to sort out the things that had been cut off before turning in for the night.
Up in the Cascades, there are a bunch of dams. The rivers have been dammed to provide hydroelectric power. The lowest dam was not terribly cool looking but the dams higher up the pass looked a lot more like you would expect a dam to look. One of them was easy to see although it was deep in shade while the rest of the scene was very bright. HDR seemed to be the way to go. The last dam we passed was visible from the highway but it was hard to get a clear look at it without some vegetation getting in the way. Time to reach above your head while standing on a rock and using the Live View mode to try and see what you were shooting. Limited success but at least you could see something.
Newhalem’s role in generating power was reflected in the local park. It had a center section that had been designed to emphasize the position that electricity has in the town with the pillars supporting the roof frame and the frame itself having an electrical theme. The big insulators were most obvious but it wasn’t hard to spot other elements too. A rather individual bit of styling and one that appealed to me.
Snoqualmie Falls may be impressive but they would be even more so if there weren’t a diversion of a lot of the water. There are two hydroelectric power stations at the Falls. The original station is built into the Falls themselves. Water is taken off at one side and drops down to some turbines before being ejected alongside the base of the falls. The exiting water can be seen from above.
The second station was built a few years later and has been expanded since. Water is ducted around the Falls to a holding pond where it then enters some pipes that run it down the side of the hill to a turbine hall. The hall has been replaced and expanded relatively recently but the style has been kept in keeping with the original. The pipes also look like they have been replaced because they looked quite new. As we walked across them, it was hard to imagine just how much power was flowing within.
The round the world trip of Solar Impulse, the solar powered aircraft conceived of by Bertrand Piccard and built/flown by him and Andre Borschberg, resumed its journey after an enforced stay in Hawaii while they dealt with some overheating issues with the batteries. By the time the batteries were fixed, it was too late in the year to continue. The aircraft charges its batteries during the day and uses them at night. If the day is shorter and the night longer, the flight is not sustainable. The arrival of spring meant they could resume the trip.
Originally the leg from Hawaii to the continental US was supposed to go to Phoenix. The break meant they came up with a revised route which included a stop in the Bay Area at Moffett Field in Mountain View. This meant I could cover it for Global Aviation Resource. There are two articles I prepared which you can see here and here.
The arrival was scheduled for about midnight. Late landings and early departures are scheduled to provide the calmest conditions. The very high aspect ratio, lightweight airframe is sensitive to turbulence. It also is easier to schedule a very slow aircraft in to the air traffic patterns during the night. While the time moved around a bit, it ended up being pretty much as expected. This brought the issue of how to shoot an aircraft at midnight.
I took a second shooter with me in the person of Hayman Tam. I wanted stills and video for the story and can’t get both at once so we worked on it together. He would focus on stills and I would get video. I would also get some stills too. The plane is sufficiently slow that you can get both for most situations apart from the landing itself. It didn’t hurt that Hayman had just taken delivery of his D500 which should be a lot better in low light.
I was mounting my camera and the 100-400 on a gimbal mount to steady it for video. This was also helpful for getting stills. Not ideal but better than nothing. I was at the max ISO for my camera of 12,800 (excluding the extended ranges) with -1 to -2 in exposure compensation. Even so, it was still a very slow shutter speed. Some bursts of shooting were necessary to get a reasonable shot. Fortunately the aircraft has a lot of lights of its own otherwise there wouldn’t be much to see. It’s a shame my new bodies hadn’t arrived at the time as they might have been able to get better results. Even so, I was quite pleased with what I got considering that I was shooting in the darkest conditions I have ever tried for a plane.