Sunsets are a regular theme for photographers since they provide a scene that resonates with people. I have shot plenty of them myself. However, while on Orcas, I saw something in the sky which I was quite baffled by and taken with. The sun was setting in the west and, looking off in that direction, the sky was lighting up as you would expect. However, looking directly south, the sky was doing something very odd. I don’t know exactly what was happening but my guess is that there was a lot of moisture in the sky in that direction and it was reflecting the setting sun back in our direction. It was a localized effect and quite something to see.
An unusual operator is a good reason for a trip out. I had seen some 757 flights in and out of Seattle that seemed to be running a circular route including LA and Hawaii. The airline was called Asia Pacific Airlines and was flying 757s. However, I didn’t have the opportunity to get to see them while these flights were underway. Jump forward to Christmas Eve and I had a day off and they were coming in to Boeing Field. This seemed like it was worth a trip.
They appeared to be providing additional capacity for UPS which was dealing with the big rush in the last days before Christmas. Although the jet was due in a bit later than ideal, I was definitely hanging around to see it. I had got everything done for Christmas so I wasn’t under pressure. The green and white scheme is an interesting change from the usual UPS colors. It landed and taxied to the UPS ramp where the ground crew went to work unloading and reloading it. I didn’t wait for departure, though. Christmas was coming!
As the sun starts to set, the clouds that are a regular feature of the Pacific Northwest start to have a benefit. They can be lit in all sorts of interesting ways and it is slightly lazy but still worthwhile to get shots of them. The levels of contrast in the shot are fine with the naked eye but a bit of a stretch for a camera sensor. It can do a decent enough job but it is the sort of thing where bracketing for HDR might give you more to work with so I did give that a go.
Scrolling through some shots for something else, I saw these two shots of a Dreamlifter departing Paine Field one evening. I think I actually posted about that flight on another day but I guess I ignored the view of the jet as it headed in to the distance. The sky was beginning to develop a nice color and the air was very clear giving a good view of the Cascades mountains in the distance so why not share them now – particularly as it is a time when I am not getting much aviation photography done!
A while back, I made a trek out to Paine Field around sunset to try and get a Dreamlifter in beautiful light. They decided to burn some fuel down to get to their preferred weight and the sun had gone before they took off. You would think I would learn from this but, oh no, I am still a sucker. Departure was scheduled for 8:50 and sunset was 9:03. The day was crystal clear so why not have a go. This time they would be departing to the north so the light angle would be better too.
I turned up at Paine Field and there were two Dreamlifters on that ramp. One had beacons on so that was a good thing. However, no noise yet from the ground cart – they don’t have an APU so need ground power to start. Time was ticking close to departure hour and I was getting nervous but the sound of the cart started so I relaxed a little. However, the start process for all four engines took forever. They were now after the planned time and hadn’t pushed. Eventually they pushed but did so at a glacial pace. Not sure how many minutes passed but we were now perilously close to sunset hour. I was disappointed but still knew that, once airborne, there would be sun for longer up there.
Finally they taxied but by now, the timing was looking worse. Moreover, this must have been the slowest taxi speed I have ever seen for a commercial jet. I wasn’t expecting Southwest taxi speeds but still. They had to get to the other end of the field and boy did they take their time. Then they held at the threshold for a while. The light was definitely past its prime by now.
Finally they did line up and roll. They were only going to Charleston so I expected a relatively spritely take off but they were obviously at a derated setting and rotated further up the field than I would have liked. The best rotation shots had the ILS framework directly in front of the jet. Crap! As it climbed out, the light was a bit better but not what I had really planned for. Oh well, third time lucky?
Three nights in Tofino meant three chances at sunset. Actually, it was more like two as we got there the first evening just a bit after sunset itself but the sky was still really lovely. The second night things were a bit more subdued as the sky was rather clear and there was little to reflect the last rays of the sun. The last night was far more impressive with some cloud on the horizon but obviously more in the atmosphere to glow. Here are a few shots of the sun dropping down and the lovely sky we had to enjoy as we relaxed by the beach.
My sunbathing cormorant got his own post here as a result of being easy to photograph in the evening light. There were plenty of other cormorants around that evening but the rest were around the piles out in the water in into the sun. That did make for some nice silhouette shots instead so here they are. You won’t be able to identify individual cormorants, though.
Some late day departures after the Flag returns included F-15Es, F-35As, L159s and A-4s. You don’t know how long anyone is scheduled to be out but you find yourself hoping that they will all make it back before the sun sets so you can get some arrival shots in the nicest light available. Once they are gone, it is a case of watching the time and crossing your fingers. As it was, we got lucky. They came back in a steady stream with all of them showing up as the sun was at its best. Arriving over Cheyenne is not ideal from a sun angle perspective at this time of year but we still got some nice angles. Some turned tighter while others went wider so we got to try all sorts of angles out to see which picked up what light was remaining.