Tag Archives: washington

Finally Seeing The Mandarin Duck

For as long as I have been going to Juanita Park, I have been hearing about the mandarin duck.  We have tons of wood ducks but there is one mandarin that lives in the bay.  Everyone talked about whether they had seen it.  However, it was never wherever I went.  Finally I broke that “duck” (apologies for the awful pun).  It was hanging out in the bay in nice lighting conditions and seemed busy playing with some root.  After this visit, I was back a little while later and there he was again.  I guess I am trusted enough now for him to hang out!

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.

Motorcade Comes In The Back Gate

I was at Boeing Field awaiting the departure of the Vice President and was wondering when the motorcade would appear.  I had assumed it would drive down the road alongside the airport and in through the FBO’s entrance.  As I looked to the north, I could see that there was not traffic on I-5 southbound so I knew they weren’t far away.  The helicopter hovering above also suggested things were close.

Then I saw a bunch of flashing blue lights coming across the bridge near Ruby Chow Park.  I was a little confused by this but a short while later, I saw a string of vehicles with lights flashing coming along the taxiway alongside the main runway.  I assume that the Secret Service had elected to enter via one of the crash gates at the north end of the field.

The variety of vehicles was quite fascinating.  There were the heavily armored SUVs that the Veep was in.  These were followed by other SUVs, minivans and ambulances.  I guess the motorcade is equipped to cover any eventuality.  They crossed the runway and headed for the waiting C-32.  Not everyone was going on the C-32 though.  Various people would be on the C-40 that was also waiting while others would be picked up later or travel via different methods.  Watching the whole cavalcade arrive was quite a sight.

Sentimental Journey In Damper Conditions

Glorious weather had greeted the B-17, Sentimental Journey, when it came to Seattle.  The following week, it moved up to Arlington but was not so lucky.  The skies were pretty overcast and the air was more humid.  It didn’t make for great conditions to shoot a bare metal aircraft.  However, many times before, I have written here about how poorer conditions can sometimes be worthwhile.  This was one of those times.

I started off shooting from further up the field and, as the B-17 started her takeoff roll, it was clear that the props were pulling a fair bit of vapor from the air.  Consequently, I headed further down the field for the next flight.  This also provided a close look at the plane as it taxied out.  The real benefit came when the power was applied.  Vortices were streaming from the tips of the props and swirling back across the wings.  It is always a tricky call when trying to shoot in these conditions.  A good bit of prop blur is good as is a blurry background to emphasize speed but, this will result in the vortices being less defined.  A faster shutter speed helps make them stand out.  I tried to get a good balance with the speed I chose.

F-35A Departure And Arrival

Over the course of the Seafair weekend, I got to see the demo F-35A arrive and depart a few times.  The demo pilot would get airborne and keep the jet on the deck in full burner building up a decent amount of speed.  Then, she would pull to a steep climb just as she got to the perimeter of the field.  This looked pretty impressive from the side but it was even more impressive from head on.

The return to land after the display was a lot more sedate.  It was a pretty standard pattern and approach but there were plenty of people at the south end to enjoy the last moments of the flight.  I headed down there a couple of times.  You could easily do both departure and approach since you had the whole time that the display was underway to re-position.  I did all go to Ruby Chow Park from one departure and shot video rather than stills.  Seeing the F-35 come right at us and then pull hard was impressive.  The noise was intense and the wake threw dust and debris into the air around us.  It made an impression!

Green Heron

The great blue herons are a regular feature of Juanita Bay but I had seen a few local photographers had managed to get shots of a green heron.  By the time I next visited the bay, I figured I might have missed out but was rather pleased when someone said the heron was in amongst the grasses.  It did mean he was hard to photograph since he was well concealed.  I figured this would be all I could get but there was some other creature in the grass – a rodent of some sort I think.  This spooked the heron and it flew out on to the log nearby and I was able to get a clear shot.  He squats down a bit when resting but, when relocating, the length of the neck was clear.  That is what allows the hunting to be successful when he lunges at his prey.

A Lovely Tree On Its Own

I was walking back to the car in the park when I saw the light on this one tree making it look really attractive in the evening conditions.  I only had the 500mm with me so there was only one option.  Time to shoot a pano and stitch the whole thing together when I got home.  Handholding a pano with the 500mm is not ideal but it seemed to work out okay.

Veep Comes To Town

The Vice President made a visit to Seattle a while back.  Much of the discussion was about how the traffic downtown could be disrupted but the first thought that I had was that there would be jets visiting.  I was unable to see anything of the visit of Air Force One and the Marine Corps support when the president came to town but I was able to catch the Veep’s jet.  For this visit, Air Force Two was provided by a USAF C-32.  It arrived while I was elsewhere but I was able to catch it depart.

It was parked over near Modern Aviation and, when the motorcade arrived and delivered everybody, they were swiftly on their way.  The taxi route came out towards me and then direct on to the runway to backtrack.  Since a TFR was in effect, no one else was flying so no need to use the taxiway.  Just straight back down the runway, do a 180 and power away.  I think the 757 is a good looking jet and the C-32  certainly looks great.  They were off the ground swiftly and climbing away.

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.

The Kingfishers Stop Being Shy For A Change

There are some kingfishers that live around Juanita Bay but I have never previously been even remotely close to them.  They seemed to live around the outlet of the creek and head straight out into the bay so they were but a speck from where I was.  However, for some reason, a pair of them were out and about.  When I was on one pier, one flew right past me and I was too slow to realize what it was.  However, luck was on my side.

It was heading for another one over the other side of the inlet and they then started spiraling around before heading back towards me and then straight overhead.  I was lucky enough to get a few shots of them as they went by.  I headed around the inlet later on and they were flying again.  This time one landed on the deck where I had previously been.  No doubt, that wouldn’t have happened if anyone had still been there but it was funny to see.