Icy Airplane Mode

It’s been awhile since I took some in-flight pictures from an airplane.  This is largely due to the fact that I’ve been sitting in the exit row for the last many flights, which is directly over the wing.  Nobody wants to see a bunch of shots of an airplane wing.  Wouldn’t we rather look down on winter landscapes?

For a couple of trips now, I’ve sacrificed the legroom of the exit row and sat a little further forward in the cabin, so I at least had a chance of getting some shots.  Still, it takes a relatively clean window (all of the several panes need to be free of gunk) and little or no cloud cover.  All of the images here were taken on the same flight from Seattle to Detroit.  These aren’t sunrise shots, but it was still morning light.  As usual, I was sitting on the port side of the aircraft which, since we were flying east, means the camera was pointing north.

I like this icy river image.  I like that it’s not quite totally frozen over.  I like the bends and the crags.  I like the juxtoposition of the man-made fields (the squares and circles) with the natural randomness of the river’s shape.  Before you ask, I do not know what river this is.  I can tell you that all of these images were taken over Montana or one of the Dakotas.  I think this one is over Montana.  If it looks familiar to you, please send me a note and let me know what the name of it is.

This scene I like because the physical features look like veins to me.  Perhaps “veiny” is not the first adjective a landscape photographer wants to hear when someone describes their work, but, whatever.  There’s a joke about having ice in one’s veins in here somewhere, so that’s good enough for me.

This might not be the strongest image ever, but there is a chance that the line in the upper third is the actual border between North and South Dakota.  Go ahead, look at a map; this is what the border looks like.  I’m basing this on what the in-flight map was showing me at the time.  The little picture of our plane was directly over the border, and, sure enough, when I looked outside the window this is what I saw.

As you can see, the clouds started rolling in toward the end of our flight.  Before they completely obscured the view, I got this one that shows clouds, clear sky and the shadow from a different bank of clouds that’s off-camera.  The depth of field here (shot at f/8) gives almost a miniature look to the scene.  If you follow the link and view it as big as your monitor will allow, it might almost look like an optical illusion.  This look could probably be achieved with Photoshop trickery, but this particular image is pretty much what things looked like at the time.

BONUS IMAGE:  As most of you know, my destination is almost always Indianapolis, Indiana.  As luck would have it, on the day I departed Indy to return home, a fairly famous person flew in for a couple hours to talk about education or something.  Normally I would never publicly show such a shakey image, but I figure I probably won’t have very many opportunities to even see this thing, let alone take a picture of it.  It was parked way out there at the Indianapolis airport.  When the PA system told us there might be an interruption in services while a special guest arrived, I made my way to the end of the terminal.  A small group had gathered with their iPhones to snap some pictures when I said, “Excuse me while I whip this out.”  I had my 70-200mm lens hooked up to a 2x teleconverter for a total of 400mm of focal length.  Even then, this image is severley cropped (I told you it was parked WAY out there).  400mm is tripod-distance, especially when shooting through thick airport-glass, but I was one tripod short at the time.  So, those are my excuses for showing this somewhat blurry image.


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My Favorite Photos from 2014

When I thought back to the pictures I’d taken in 2014 it seemed like a slow year.  I’m not sure why that is because I still made a few thousand images more this past year than in the previous, and it wasn’t easy to cull my favorites down to the 17 below (what an odd number to land on).  So I guess it wasn’t such a bad year, photographically at all.  I have some very good memories associated with these pictures.

They are placed in order of the date they were taken.

A corner of the Cascade Mountains as seen from an airplane

An above-ground cemetery in New Orleans

A strange encounter in the French Quarter

Sunrise with contrail over Tramp Harbor

A business park near Indianapolis

The Empress hotel in Victoria, BC

A rainbow over Tramp Haror

Austin fire truck at night

Jimmie Vaughan performing for us

At the Butchart Gardens

Fourth of July fireworks at Vashon Island

A wild chicken on Kaua’i

Bethany Hamilton just hanging out

My first successful image of the Milky Way

A covered bridge in New Hampshire

The Memorial Bridge between Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, ME

Gordon and Rich at a rehearsal for Inspecting Carol

We’re headed up to Whidbey Island later today, so here’s hoping that 2015 starts off . . . sumptuously.


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Inspecting Carol

Inspecting Carol is the title of the latest play I’m in that opens the week before Christmas.  I play a character (Larry) who plays Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, which takes place within the play.

This is from the Vashon Allied Arts website:

Inspecting Carol portrays a subpar theatre company preparing to mount its umpteenth production of everyone’s favorite holiday cash cow, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Long-time Seattle Repertory Artistic Director Daniel Sullivan wrote the play, with the initial 1992 production at the Rep featuring a cadre of popular Seattle actors. This play-within-a-play was said to have some basis in prominent local actors and certainly many well-known theatre types.

Inspecting Carol tells the story of a theater on the brink of financial collapse while awaiting the imminent arrival of an inspector from the National Endowment for the Arts. The inspector’s visit is expected to result in an infusion of desperately needed cash… or the demise of the floundering company

In all honesty, this is the funniest play I’ve ever been in or even heard of.  It’s a bit risque in parts, but how could I pass up the opportunity to say lines like, “Don’t you think Tiny Tim ever had a wet dream?”  Another character gets to declare, “I’m not playing some stereotypical Third World baby!”  That last one comes from one of the ghosts that visits Scrooge.

Although intense and time-consuming, rehearsals have be quite fun.

Aren’t you at least a little curious about why this is necessary?

Would you like to know why one character enthusiastically recites the Now is the winter of our discontent speech from Richard III.  Or why Scrooge feels the need to deliver one of the monologues in Spanish?

If you needed an excuse to come out to Vashon Island, this is your chance.  Tickets are available here.

UPDATE:  Here’s another link (with a picture!) about the show:  http://www.vashonbeachcomber.com/entertainment/286142901.html

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New Hampshire In Fall

I recently had the opportunity to visit my work buddy in New Hampshire.  The trip was kind of thrown together in spite of all sensible reasons against it, and another couple from San Diego even met us there.  If you knew all of us, you would find the story funny, but you don’t so I’ll spare you the details.

We arrived at Boston Logan late.  Here’s the view from my friend’s street early the next morning.

Chasing the fall foliage in New England was a more involved process than I was expecting.  There is, apparently, a very small window of opportunity for us “Leaf Peepers” to see the “peak” colors.  And the peak moves across the area, not returning until the following year.  We were supposed to be in the Derry, New Hampshire area at the correct time for that location, but my friend explained to me that the dry summer meant that the peak window was even tighter this year.

Our first big activity was taking The Cog railway to the top of Mt. Washington.  As we were leaving the Bretton Woods area, we stopped by the side of the road to go check out a part of the Ammonoosuc River.

The next day we headed to Portsmouth.  But before we got there, we stopped to see one of the official covered bridges in New Hampshire.

We then went to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  This was our only gray, rainy day, but it felt perfect for the area.  Below is the Memorial Bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine.  That’s my work buddy, by the way.  He was feeling sad and lonely at the time and was listening to Lionel Richie when I took this image.

The next day was sunny, and we spent it in Boston.  Although that was a great day too, I think I prefer the smaller towns and scenery experienced in New Hampshire.  I think, at this point, I can finally remember that my friend doesn’t live in Vermont.

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The Cog

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the other upper corner of the US.  See, I spend a lot of time in the Pacific NW, and I’ve been to precious few Eastern states.  This year, however, I got to see the Fall Foliage in New England first-hand.

The image above is The Cog Railway.  It chugs up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire at a grade of between 25% and 37%. That’s pretty steep.  We were in this part of New Hampshire, at the beginning of October 2014, specifically because the foliage was supposed to be near peak levels.  I didn’t know, before this trip, that the window of opportunity for peak foliage was so slim.  I didn’t know that it moved throughout New England with nary a regard for visitors (Leaf Peepers, we’re called) who have to fly across the country to see it.  Apparently we missed the absolute peak (in this exact spot) by a couple of days.  Over Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (Starbucks anyone?  Huh?), I would say something like, “Wow, that tree is really red.”  And our guide would respond with something like, “Yeah, but it was redder last week.”  And I would go, “Oh.”

Oh, well.  Here’s what The Cog train looks like when it’s parked at the top.

Here’s what you don’t see in the picture above:  People.  There were people all around, milling about, standing between me and scenic views for no reason, taking pictures with telephones and flashes.  Although I do like this image, I’m most proud of how long I was willing to squat in an about-to-take-a-picture stance while waiting (hoping) for all the other tourists to get the heck out of the frame.  I’m sure I looked super cool.

That’s a shot taken while we were ascending the mountain.  I had a few thousand dollars worth of camera gear stuck out the window, at arm’s length, while moving.  I had no idea what the auto-focus would grab on to; I was just hoping I didn’t drop anything.  The picture turned out pretty good, I think.  And look – foliage.

Here’s the view from the top – 6,289 feet.  That’s, like, a bunch of meters.  Most of the peaks are named after other US presidents, but I’m not sure if we’re seeing any of them in this image.  I’d love to tell you that you can see into another state (which you can), but I have no idea which direction we’re facing here.  Perhaps the geographically geeky among you would look at the shadows, understand that this was at 10:00 AM and say, “Dude, I totally recognize Maine out there.”  Maybe.

At this point I want to give one more picture from my excellent trip to the top of Mt. Washington.  I struggled with my choice, so I sincerely hope you visit the New Hampshire gallery on my SmugMug site.  After some deliberation, I’ve decide to go with the image that has a person in it.  Does that make it stronger for you?  I realize the overall image looks a lot like the previous one, but this one has a guy in it. What’s he thinking?  Why is he there?  Is he there with anyone else?

Am I looking into a different state when I look at this picture?

Hint:  Look at the shadows (the shadows know).

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