Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary Reflections

How quickly life can change. With the quiet of that December morning a now long forgotten memory, a young sailor stands over a comrade and watches the USS Shaw explode in the distance amid the shattered remains of naval aircraft at NAS Ford Island. The young sailor, assigned to a PBY Catalina flying boat squadron as a mechanic, is now a stunned survivor witnessing the fiery aftermath of Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred 70 years ago today.

The sailor in question is in all probability my ex-father-in-law, Robert Grommett. While he can't say with 100% certainty that the man in the iconic U.S. Navy image above is him, he knows he was there around that spot at about that time. Moreover, the stance and posture are very much his, even today. The family and I are more than willing to bet it is indeed him.

Bob is in very frail health now, but remains a symbol to me of the quiet fortitude that is the hallmark of the common man. When unimaginable disasters occur, invariably the response from people around the world is to somehow persevere and survive. Life goes on and so do they. And so did Bob.

Many have called his generation the "Greatest." While they were indeed remarkable, I find it hard to believe they were greater than the generation that marched off to Valley Forge or Gettysburg or Belleau Wood. And the young men and women since World War II, at the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Baghdad and Kandahar, are no less deserving of praise for their sacrifice and service.

Nevertheless, the generation that grew up in the Great Depression and fought in World War II deserve the highest respect. They survived the trials of peace and the horrors of a terrible war, with many returning to live a normal life full of dignity and quiet accomplishments. They were not perfect - what generation is? But they did the best they could with what they had, and that is an epitaph we should all aspire to.

Bob's generation is quickly leaving us, becoming memories to those who knew them and legends to those that didn't. But oh, what memories and legends they leave! Here's to you, Bob, seventy years after that infamous date, when the world seemed so stunningly bleak; here's to the life you forged in spite of it! It's an honor to know you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tightening the View

Usually when I am at events like the C-17A 20th anniversary gig, I find myself looking for the unusual shot. This happens for a couple of reasons: First, you can only shoot so many side views, nose views, hero shots and people-crowded-around-the-really-big-airplane shots before you have more than you'll ever need or want to see again. Fortunately, in this digital age, you're only killing electrons, so the material damage - as in expensive film costs - are virtually nonexistent if you wish.

The second reason is unusual shots intrigue me. They show the commonplace in a not so common way. Sometimes its the lines that draw me; sometimes the light. More often than not its both. In any event I let my mind float until I see an angle that sings to me.

If you've ever had a chance to peruse old photo archives of newspapers, aerospace companies or other image-heavy institutions, the art of cropping becomes very apparent. It was a limitation of the fixed lens used by most company photographers, especially in the day of 4x5 Speedgraphic cameras. But while fixed lenses have their definite advantages, what I like about modern zoom lenses is their ability to allow me to "crop" in camera as a means of capturing the composition I want the first time.

The two images in this post are a good example. I liked the angle in the above shot and thought the orange Edwards AFB tail band made a good anchor for the composition. It was a tightly cropped picture compared to the normal, wider-angle style usually taken, and it made for a nice, pleasing image.

However, by going in tighter with the zoom from a slight different angle, I got the shot below. The orange band is hidden and the American flag takes center stage in a much more abstract and dramatic composition than in the first image. Because it was done in camera there is no loss of image quality or enlargement potential, which is a decided plus.

At the same time, the option of post-image cropping is still available if needed, which I have indeed used on occasion. They are, after all, tools and techniques to use in achieving what we see in our mind. In the end it's the result that counts - at least for photography.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tail Lights

I had the opportunity to cover the 20th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III at Edwards AFB this past September. The CTF (combined test force) essentially recreated the flight from Long Beach to Edwards by having the number one aircraft (91-0003, also known as T-1) take off from Edwards, fly over the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) facility where it was built and then return and land at Edwards.

After watching the landing out by the runway we were taken to the hangar where the official ceremony was to take place. There were quite a few people there from the test force and a lot of dignitaries, including the original first flight crew.

After several speeches, and a great deal of sober reflection on how close the C-17 came to cancellation after only 40 aircraft were built due to poor design and quality issues, the program could finally reflect on the success of its remarkable turnaround and the delivery of over 230 Globemaster IIIs to the Air Force.

The airplane is now a very critical cog in this country's ability to transport troops and their supplies overseas. It truly has become a feel-good story and a great lesson in perseverance and teamwork. One could say that hopefully the lessons aren't lost in today's environment, but personally I'd prefer not to see those problems occur at all. Hardship may build character, but it also makes one very old and tired from all the stress.

Be that as it may, after the ceremony we were allowed to wander around the hangar and go inside the airplane. I found this shot to be rather neat in its design with the ceiling lights and glowing windows of the hangar straddling the towering line of the C-17's tail. It produced a rather pleasing image to me - and hopefully to you as well.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sand Reflections

While there are times I feel that color detracts from the image, there are also times when it becomes the main focal point. The above is one such case.

The broad beach fanning north from Morro Rock was incredible as the tide receded. The sand retained enough water to reflect the light as the setting sun cast its deepening hues off the golden coastal hills.

It was amazing to see how long that reflectiveness lasted, especially since it was happening more and more beyond the edge of the waves. Regardless, the wet, rippled sand made for a rather abstract image as it contrasted with the drier portions of the beach with their still discernible undulations upon them. Adding to the contrast, the lengthening shadow from the rock loomed
over the near portion of beach while the upper part was still in sunlight.

The mirror effect was captivating. It is not as captivating to me in black and white, as the adjusted image below shows.

In my mind this merely reinforces the lesson that whether color or black and white, it's the final product that matters.

Just for grins, I've included a wide-angle shot of the beach below. I am standing near the foot of Morro Rock looking north. You can see how far to the left the active wave action was occurring. They did not go beyond the middle of the image, so the sand was indeed very, very saturated.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dock on the Bay

We managed to get away for a long weekend to Cambria and the Central Coast. It's apple season deep in See Canyon near Avila Beach and they sang their crunchy siren song to Tina, so we had to go.

Part of the trip was so Tina could paint and I could take photos. We left very early Friday morning and got to San Luis Obispo by about 9:30. After breakfast at the Apple Farm we spent the rest of the midday scouting locations in Los Osos, Baywood and Morro Bay. We found a nice spot, but decided to come back when the light was better.

When we came back later that afternoon, we discovered to our horror that the tide had gone out and the lovely estuary was now more a mudflat than waterway. So we came back the next day.

The spot we decided upon was at the foot of Doris Avenue where it crosses Mitchell Drive in Los Osos. Crosses is a bit of a misnomer as the other side is a small parking space between two houses and a footpath with "coastal access" trailing between them. That leads to two benches between two private yards, a foot path disappearing into the water's edge and a view of the estuary and bay from that spot along the shore.

But it was enough for Tina to set up and paint the estuary and tree-lined shore to the east and for me to shoot the private docks jutting northward into the shallow water. Morro Rock could be seen across the way.

I liked the look of the small docks. I used black and white film in my Mamiya 645 in a more formal setup, but took some grab shots with the Canon Eos 40D. Since my intent was a black and white image, I modified the above shot in Photoshop and tweaked the contrast. I really like the look of the structure and its reflection in the water. It has a more classical appeal than the original color image below - at least I think so. It's one of those cases where the color distracts from the overall effect.

The nice thing about shooting in digital is the ability to take a color image and convert it to black and white. That's a bit harder to do with film, although in this day and age I suppose I could shoot in color transparency and then do a high resolution scan and convert to black and white if I desire. That way I'd have more options.

I may do that in the future, but for this day, it was black and white film. I'm anxious to see how the shots turned out. Hopefully as good as the digital image!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crankin' Osprey

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the MV-22s participated in the MCAS Miramar Open House MAGTF demonstration. While their ability to take-off, hover, rotate around and land like a helicopter is impressive, watching them crank by in a high-speed pass is equally impressive. Mainly it's those humongous prop blades that amaze me.

The one thing that bothers me about the Osprey, though, is the size and vulnerability of those props. That's a lot of real estate whirling about out there like a big flashing target. A couple of rounds fired into the propeller arc would make for a bad situation really fast. I don't care how well the MV-22 can fly in a simulated engine-out emergency, it's another story when one side is shot up and the damaged blades cause huge vibration problems that will violently shake the nacelle and vehicle. Think of an improperly loaded washing machine in spin cycle. I'm sure a lot of survivability studies have been done and my worries are overblown, but I can't help but feel really nervous about that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's a Blast

The MV-22 did a hover demo at NAS North Island during the opening CONA event this year. While the main action was away from the media tower and on the other side of the public and display ramp, it was front and center for the VIPs on USS Stennis. What impressed me the most was the amount of downwash from the big rotors and the exhaust blast. You can see how far up the Osprey is above the water and how much spray it kicks up. Note that the aircraft was in mid-sideslip to the right as the exhaust plume bends under the aircraft. When it ceased translating to starboard the spray was even larger.

Pity the poor groundcrew and grunts who are under the Osprey in a dirty, dusty environment like Iraq or Afghanistan. They all earn their pay every day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Osprey Launch

The V-22 Osprey is a unique bird. The tiltrotor concept has been proposed and built as experimental and prototype aircraft many times before. Each attempt failed to make it into production.

The Osprey seemed doomed to follow that pattern, but the persistence of the Marine Corps saw the aircraft through a 25 year development period, with a major expenditure in dollars and three accidents with many lives lost.

But in the end the Corps got the vehicle it wanted. With the ability to take-off, hover and land like a helicopter, but fly at speeds much faster than a rotary-wing aircraft, it began combat operations in 2007.

According to reports, the pilots and crews love it. But it is maintenance heavy, so the follow-on order may be cancelled for budgetary reasons. This is also hand-in-hand with a major reevaluation of the purpose of the Marines since amphibious operations in contested environments are seemingly less likely than in the past.

The Corps would argue that elevates the need for the MV-22s, but we'll see if that angle carries any weight.

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating aircraft to watch. This shot, taken from the hangar at MCAS Miramar during this year's ISAP convention in San Diego, shows the CAG bird from HMM-166 "Sea Elks" hovering after take-off from the squadron ramp. Notice the heat exhaust blowing down from the engine nacelles. That's a lot of blast to deal with, but deal with it they do. It's an odd looking thing in the air, as we shall see in a subsequent post, but it is here, it is operational and it is performing as advertised.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Viper in the Lead, Yankee Close Behind

Media Day and MCAS Miramar also saw the arrival of several aircraft for static display. Fixed wing aircraft tended to stay on the taxiway and head east to other spots on the ramp. Fortunately, the rotary wing aircraft chose to park near the press site.

These two Bell-made helicopters from MCAS Camp Pendleton were among them. Leading the way was an AH-1Z Viper (also known as a Zulu Cobra) from HMLAT-303. Close behind was a UH-1Y Venom (also called Yankee Huey) from the same training squadron.

In a neat coincidental juxtaposition, a pre-World War II era Ryan PT-22 has just landed and can be seen in the background.

I particularly enjoyed taking these shots, especially being able to get in tight with the telephoto and the resulting compression. It makes for a nicely dramatic image. Fortunately I had it slow enough to get some rotor blur. There is just enough motion to make the photo dynamic and alive.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

From the Cockpit - An-2

Well, I thought I'd try something new and see if I can get videos to work on the blog, too. As you can see, the day was gorgeous once the clouds burned off enough from MCAS Miramar and we were allowed to take-off. A lot of low clouds remained, which added a lot of neat texture to the landscape as we flew over. It was slow, leisurely and wonderful!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yellow Colt and Uncle Joe

In case you were curious as to what an An-2 looked like from the outside, here's a shot of the beast during the overcast morning hours while we waited for the clouds to burn off. Bob Cable is giving the press a briefing on the airplane during the interlude.

As can be seen, the Colt was short on beauty. But she made up for it in her superb low speed handling and rough field capabilities. Indeed, the An-2 was called the DC-3 of the Eastern Block, a rather apt comparison, all things considered.

An interesting note is that the wings, horizontal tailplanes and vertical tail are fabric covered. The fuselage and narrow walk panels on top of the wing are metal (the fuel tanks are filled from the top of the wing).

Below is the photo of Stalin that so bemused the young woman. His moustache is rather grand. The AK-47 mounted to the wall was a nice interior decorating touch.

In retrospect, it is ironic that during World War II, at least during the period the Soviet Union was on our side (they did start off allied with Germany and rather coldly bisected Poland), Stalin was viewed rather benignly here in the States, so perhaps the young woman can be forgiven. He was cheerfully known as "Uncle Joe" and we sent an incredible amount of planes and war material to the USSR to keep it going during the war. The purges of the 1930s and the treachery of Poland were conveniently forgotten in the need to keep a united front against the Nazis. That, of course, would change after Germany was defeated, but at least the primary objective was met.

War and politics do indeed make for strange bedfellows.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Right-Seat Jockey - A Good Day at Work

Some days it's good to go to work. I was on assignment today doing photo coverage of the pre-Open House media event at MCAS Miramar and several of us were given a ride in a Polish-built, 1947-era Russian transport/passenger aircraft.

The An-2, NATO code name Colt, is the world's largest single-engine bi-plane. Not only did I get to ride in it, but the pilot, Bob Cable, let us all rotate through and sit in the right seat during part of our flight around the San Diego area.

Not very luxurious on the inside, ungainly looking on the outside and very noisy and very, very slow, the Colt was a blast nonetheless! I'd ride in it again in a New York minute.

On a side note, some photographers seek out and get the fast jet rides. I must be trying to corner the market on the slow movers. I've ridden the Goodyear blimp (and got to pilot it for a few minutes), the Stout Bushmaster 2000 (the 1950s updated version of the Ford Trimotor) and now the An-2. A speed demon I'm not, although those who ride with me in my car may beg to differ.

An An-2 used to frequent the early days of the Hawthorne Air Faire. The amazing thing about the Colt was there seemed to be very little difference between its high-speed pass and low-speed pass. And it took forever to fly the pattern. We all swore the Goodyear blimp was faster.

In reality the top speed is about 160 mph and landing speed (stall speed) is around 35-40 mph. But is sure seemed like there was no difference in top and bottom performance when it did its routine. It just flew S-L-O-W.

A semi-humorous side note occurred when we were crawling through the airplane while we were on the ground waiting for the weather to clear so we could fly: a young woman - she looked like a mid-twenty-something - was doing a running commentary while her friend filmed her. There was a portrait of an old man in the cabin and she found his big moustache fascinating. She jokingly referred to the portrait as a photo of her grandfather. She was somewhat chagrined when she was told it was a photo of Josef Stalin.

At least she knew who Stalin was, even if she'd never seen a picture of him. Ah, youth.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Dread Pirate Tina

I have a late addition to the Pirate oeuvre for Talk Like a Pirate Day: this dandy portrait of Tina trying out a Cap'n Jack Sparrow hat and dreadlocks at one of the shops in New Orleans Square in Disneyland.

The look, of course, is Tina's perfected and patented "The GLARE." You know you are in deep linguini when she gives you that evil eye.

The deep scratch is another, very interesting story, though. Just before the kids and grandkids came out for their visit, we were quietly sleeping in bed one night when Nikki, who was stretched out on the headboard above us, rolled over and fell off his perch at about 3:00 AM. Cats, of course, land on their feet (usually), but he must've realized he was falling on Tina's head so he spread his paws out to try to avoid her. Instead, he got his claws snagged on both of her shoulders and one toe raked her face.

As can be expected, Tina awoke with a scream. The cat, knowing he'd done a very bad thing, beat feet into the other room and hid for over an hour. Tina staggered to the bathroom to do emergency first aid. The best I could muster was "are you bleeding?" in my most groggy voice, which she was, and quite profusely, but I didn't know it. Her reply was, "I look like a pirate," which made me laugh, until she said, "that's not funny!" At that point I figured I was making the situation worse and could do no more, so I went back to sleep. Yeah, I know - typical guy.

When I got up to get ready for work I finally could see the damage and saw the scratch was quite deep. By this time the cat came back and I've never seen a more remorseful, groveling feline in my life. He was mortified! The fact that he was made it easier for Tina to forgive him, but she still had the wound and a long healing process to endure ahead of her.

It's getting better, but it will likely scar. How visible it will be remains to be seen. Fortunately it didn't get infected, so we'll hope for the best. She's taking it in good stride, as the photo above attests, but it's no fun, to be sure.

It makes for a great story, though, and a cool pirate picture!

Monday, September 19, 2011

I am the Pirate King!

In honor of "Speak Like a Pirate Day," I present this lovey portrait of Eoin and Evie in cool piratical splendor, with hats that also pass as kids' menus at the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland. They make a rather rakish pair, me thinks, even if the hat is a bit too big for the boy. An' believe you me, matey, we had to be movin' pretty quick on the shutter to catch even that little bit, what with that blasted time delay on the Point'n'Shoot! As can be seen in the followin' photo, he'd rather be eatin' his Cheerios and starin' at big sister than be stylin' with Cap'n Jack Sparrow. Arrrgh.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Eoin's Pacific Plunge

Christie, Mike and Evie brought Eoin out for his first West Coast visit. Naturally that meant a day at the beach and introducing Eoin to the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. As you can see, it was an overcast day at Zuma and the surf was large and intense from a storm surge coming from New Zealand way. No one was allowed too far out, but that didn't stop Christie from dipping Eoin's toes in the water, much to his delight - a distinct difference from his sister's response a few years ago.

Interestingly enough, the visit was more for my daughter than her kids, for however much Christie loves Colorado, she does miss the ocean. It's one of those indefinable longings, although I suppose it's logical upon examination. She was born out here and the ocean was part of her early memories, even though she never went to the beach much. Neither did I, but I have the same feelings. I would miss the ocean if it wasn't within an hour's drive.

Even more than that, I suspect it wouldn't be the same for me if it wasn't the California coast, too. My uncle once told me that he didn't like the East coast because the ocean was on the wrong side of the shore. I know what he meant, although ironically he was born in Oklahoma and moved out here when he was six or seven.

In the end I guess some people adjust easily to new surroundings and feel at home quickly. Others, like me, don't and long for familiarity. It's not that I don't like other places. I love Colorado, too, and have found that many areas around the country have great cities and/or places to visit, all with their own special appeals to my soul. But I feel at home here, in California, and especially in Burbank.

There is some irony in that, too, because I grew up in north Redondo Beach. I really loved it there and missed it when I moved away. But after not living there for so many years, it changed - so much I hardly recognize some parts of it, even though there are many parts that have remained essentially the same. But I find that it's not what it was to me. So my ties there are tenuous now.

Burbank is now my home and I feel very, very comfortable here. And the ocean, which still calls, is within easy reach. As are the mountains and the golden, oak-studded rolling hills that I also love. I'm just glad Tina likes it here, too. Then again, unlike living in Arlington Heights, near Chicago, she doesn't have to turn blue from the cold seven months out the the year, so what's not to like, eh?

One last parting shot of the day at the beach, with Evie showing her little brother how to play in the sand. It was a fun day! More to come from their wonderful visit, which ended today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bridalveil Mist

Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite was incredible this year. Even for a fall famous for its mists, I've not quite seen it so heavy in any previous visit.

The view from the far side of the Merced River offered a really good view at one break in the route that was breath-taking. The crash of water on the rocks at the base and the winds whipping the plume up like a backwards letter "J" was impressive. What I especially liked was how the trees were silhouetted by the mists. It looked so much like a Japanese or Chinese painting to me. I did a few shots trying to balance the white of the water with the dark green of the trees. I was quite happy with this shot.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Art Show Cometh

Well, it is that time of year again and our second home garden art show is approaching. This year we are scheduled to have potter Tim Whitcomb join our merry band. For those able we invite you to join us and see our art. We will have some new pieces for you to view and perhaps buy.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Breaking in the New Filters

After the borrowed filter incident on the bridge I bought a set of graduated neutral density filters at the Ansel Adams Gallery the next day in Yosemite Village. I got a chance to try them out after we got back from Glacier Point that day in the valley North of the bridge in the meadow area near Yosemite Fall.

As you can see the contrast between the shadowed foreground and the brightly lit face of Half Dome was pretty severe. This was one of the best balanced images I got during that sunset.

I was switching between the digital and the film cameras - literally switching as I was using the same tripod. It was quite the fire drill, but I was glad to get the practice and some hands-on experience with the holder and new filters. All in all, I was quite satisfied with the end results.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tunnel Lights

I've long been fascinated by the tunnel entering the Yosemite Valley on Hwy 41. Stretching over a mile and hewn out of the solid rock of a mountain on the South side of the Merced River, the Wawona Tunnel emerges at Inspiration Point and dumps the unwary tourist amid the splendor of that magnificent valley view. It is truly awesome.

Faced with that scenery, the flocks of photographers at Inspiration Point usually look to the valley. But a few of us also look back at the tunnel and ponder the opportunities for neat images there.

This is one of a handful of shots I did that evening. As you can see, the ambient light was essentially gone, leaving only the artificial tunnel lights and the car tail lights. But it captured what I wanted to get.

The next image was shot a bit earlier and you can see there was still some ambient light left, but not much. While I like the atmosphere of the previous image, I do find having the on-coming lights in the shot below makes it a more dynamic photo. The slight cropping I did helped, too. Either way, I find both appealing and I was very happy with the results.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Half Dome Sunset, Sentinel Bridge

One of the more iconic images of Yosemite is Half Dome, and one of the most popular spots to photograph Half Dome is Sentinel Bridge. Like Tunnel View (Inspiration Point) and Glacier Point, this becomes a camera magnet, especially at sunset.

This was a bit of a challenge. I realized I needed a graduated neutral density filter to bring out the details of the trees in the mid-ground as the sun had set on them but was very intense on the face of Half Dome. Unfortunately, the holder that I had that fit the lens was too big for the filters. I tried hand-holding the filters in front of the camera with pretty poor results. Fortunately a fellow photographer next to me - who coincidentally was holding a small seminar for some folks - let me borrow his filter that fit my holder. That worked much better as the above photo shows. I purchased a new set of larger filters in a range of densities at the Ansel Adams Gallery the next day.

I'll show you the results of those filters another day.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Late Spring Storm, High Sierras

Further to the South from Glacier Point a storm seemed to be brewing over the Sierras. As can be seen, there was still plenty of snow on the mountains feeding the streams and rivers flowing into the Yosemite Valley. Fortunately, the vast quantity of water hadn't crested the banks of the Merced River while we were there. It was very close, though, and the meadows were saturated and pooling in many places. The warming trend would make the area more tenuous the following week.

On this day, though, the clouds provided a dramatic display. The elemental forces that produce such towering formations are both incredibly beautiful and terrifying in turn. It is easy to forget the barely cloaked power and destructive potential hidden inside. That is until the lightning fire and flooding rains appear. Then the full appreciation of the awesome power of Nature comes back with a rush.

Self-deception and denial of that power are very human traits and we never seem to learn from our tragedies. Perhaps it is just as well...otherwise we'd never rebuild or press forward. There may be dangers in remembering too well.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Half Dome's Chapeau

Yosemite was phenomenal the four days we were there. We missed the cold snap and snow by a couple of days and the week after we left saw a heat wave. The Merced River was near flood stage even so as the huge snowfall this past year created a lot of spring run-off. The falls were as full as I've ever seen them.

Glacier Point, while a bit of a drive to get there, is always amazing. The overview of the valley below affords some stunning views. This is one of them, a quarter-front shot of Half Dome that is almost level with its crown. The extra-dark staining on the face of the rock is the result of it being continually wet with the running snow melt.

The weather was cooperative that day with some clouds to bring interest to the sky. The view further to the right (South) was even more amazing with a spring storm brewing over the Sierra Nevada range. We'll see that another day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Morro Bay Sunset

Well, that was a long hiatus. In the past two months we've been to Colorado Springs to see the kids and grandkids, I went to San Diego immediately after for the International Society for Aviation Photographers convention, we followed that a week later with a long weekend in Yosemite and then we spent a few days in Cambria during 4th of July week. We also entertained Lin for a great five days and had lots of BBQs and other adventures along the way. In between I managed to write three articles for work and we went to the Hollywood Bowl a couple of times. Oh, yeah, we also prepped for the release of the last Harry Potter movie by having a marathon viewing of all the previous Potter movies the week before release. It's a wonder we found any time to sleep.

Having said that, we've now committed to the gym again. Yes, I got tired of seeing Jabba the Hutt every time I looked into the mirror in the morning. A truly scary thing if you've never experienced it a 0-dark thirty.

The upshot is I'll have even less time than before, so irregularity may be the continuing hallmark of this blog. For that I apologize, but life, as they say, goes on.

I did manage to capture some nice images while we were on our adventures. Part of the reason we went to Yosemite and Cambria was to let Tina get some plein-aire time. She did well. For a sample of some of her recent work check out her website (see link on this page).

We had one really nice sunset while on the Central Coast. Morro Bay was quite nicely lit and the egrets were wading along the shallows looking for targets of opportunity. This is one of the more striking shots from that evening. It was a very peaceful moment - unless you were a fish.

More to come, hopefully soon.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Huntington Green

Here's a more colorfully green image shot the same day. It's slightly cropped as I couldn't get as close as I would've liked, but that's why they invented cropping, eh?

That's known as channeling your inner Canadian. It's something worth doing every now and then.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Agave Original

Lin requested that I post the original color image, too, so here it is. In actuality the result is not much different from the other in terms of tonal changes. Instead of black and white, it's a greenish-gray and white, with the whole range of variations incorporated into that shade.

It is rather calming, as greens tend to be, but I think the pure black and white is more striking, or at least culturally carries more gravitas. I don't know...what do you all think?

I have other images that are a bit more vibrant in the greens than this one. I will post them at a later time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Agave Conversion

We had actually been to the Huntington in February as well when Tina's sister, Lin, came for a visit. While wandering the cactus garden, something we don't usually do, I took a shot of this Agave plant. We liked the look, but Tina suggested I convert the original color image to black and white.

This is the result. I'm rather pleased with it myself. There's something very sensual and flowing about the Agave that makes it endlessly fascinating to capture.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Koi Frenzy

I don't know why I'm so fascinated by Koi, but I am. I guess it's the way they come up to be fed, like little hungry baby birds. It's their mouths that really crack me up, truth be told.

So naturally I gravitate to the ponds where the hungry Koi swirl and splash in wistful longing for someone to please feed them, da*n it! Invariably someone does (no, not me) and they go crazy with delight.

Here is one such swirl. Or perhaps we could call it "a gaping of Koi?"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Water Lily, eh?!

I thought it was especially appropriate that while we were at the Huntington Gardens to met our Canadian friends, two Canadian Geese were frolicking in the pond in the Chinese garden. They were particularly attached to the root system of this water lily and spent several minutes nibbling happily away. It made for a very pretty picture, eh?!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Huntington roses

My, how time flies when you get busy. I did not realize a month had passed since I last wrote, but there it is. Between getting Tina ready for her inaugural Art-in-the-Park foray and my articles for work, it seems there is very little time left for blogging.

Nevertheless, I am going to try to post more frequently, even if the verbiage is minimal. I'm assuming people would rather look at pictures than read my blather. So here we go.

We had two good friends come down from Canada for a surprise visit. The Huntington Library and Gardens was chosen as a mutual place to meet them and a couple of their other friends. Before lunch in the Rose Tea Room (a must!), we wandered the grounds. The rose garden was in full bloom. This bunch caught my eye and smelled wonderful, too!

Ah, Spring in the Huntington! There's nothing quite like it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

CONA Retros Part 3

The beautiful color schemes of the 1930s, the so-called "Golden Age" of aviation (and not just for those Chrome Yellow wings, either), gave way to the realities of impending war. Gray/Blue topsides and Gray bottoms became the first iteration of the many World War II schemes that we saw in the first CONA post. The difference here is the "Neutrality" markings that theoretically identified U.S. aircraft as off-limits to combat (unless it was to protect U.S. shores and waters). To that end the pre-War national insignia of a blue roundel with a white star and a red center remained on the aircraft, but now in six positions (upper left wing, upper right wing, lower left wing, lower right wing, left and right fuselage sides) for greater visibility. Thus the eternal dilemma was revisited: how to have enough camouflage so your opponents can't see you too quickly, but with enough visibility that your own side won't shoot you down by mistake.

To aid in that visibility red and white stripes (eventually standardized at seven red, six white like the U.S. flag) were painted on the rudder of the vertical tail. It still added a dash of color to the very subdued war camouflage. The Northrop (now Northrop Grumman) EA-6B Prowler (the first photo) and this Beech TC-12B (above) are really nice recreations of that early 1940s scheme. Alas, it was not to last as the attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 plunged the nation into war.

The red and white stripes went fairly quickly. But so, too, did the national insignia with the red center. It seems that nervous gunners on ships and ground units, and even in bomber aircraft as well as fighter pilots, took to shooting at anything with red in it as being automatically Japanese. After a series of "friendly fire" incidents, all red was removed from national markings on all U.S. aircraft, and any other markings period in the Pacific Theater. By the Battle of Midway, in early June 1942, the red was gone. This Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin) S-3B Viking is a nice representation of that Midway era scheme.

And yes - there will be more to come....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

CONA Retros Part 2

Though not as glamorous as the fast jets (read: fighters), the trainers got a retro make-over, too. Ironically they got the really classic "Golden Age" schemes, which were the colors and markings of the 1930s.

In another touch of irony, the era that produced the most colorful of schemes also had one of the most structured regulations dictating the meaning and placement of markings of any era as well.

This Beech T-34C Mentor of VT-27 / CTW-4 is a good example. By 1930 the Navy started assigning solid color tails to the various bases and aircraft carrier air wings as a form of visual recognition. In this case, the Willow Green tail was the color given to aircraft attached to the carrier USS Ranger (CV 4) around 1935.

Along with the basic gray paint on metal and aluminum dope on the fabric control surfaces, the upper surface of the wing(s) were painted Orange Yellow (also called Chrome Yellow). All that made for a very colorful airplane.

But it gets better.

In the 1930s, Navy squadrons were comprised of eighteen airplanes, subdivided into two Divisions. Each Division had three Sections of three airplanes each. Each Section had its own color code. Each plane in the Section had its own markings protocols and each plane had a squadron number.

In this case, the front of the nose is black and there is a black band around the aft fuselage. There is also a black chevron on the upper surface of the wing and on the lower surface as well.

A full color band on the nose signified the Section Leader's airplane, as did the band on the aft fuselage. If the nose was only colored on the upper hemisphere it was the second plane in the Section. If it only had the lower hemisphere colored, it was the third plane in the Section. Neither the second or third airplane had the aft fuselage band.

They did have the colored chevron as this was a formation alignment aid.

Still with me? That means the T-34C above represented the Division 2, Section 4 Leader, the tenth plane in the squadron of the Air Wing of USS Ranger.

The alpha-numeric code on the side of the airplane tells you as much, too: 4-TW-10, or 4th Section of Training Wing (4), tenth airplane in squadron. The squadron Commanding Officer (CO) would fly the Division 1, Section 1, 1st plane in the squadron; the squadron Executive Officer (XO) would fly the Division 2, Section 2, 10th plane in the squadron.

See: easy!
This airplane doesn't have the aft band, which means it was probably circa 1940 as official color schemes were undergoing various changes in anticipation of wartime camouflage requirements. This McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) T-45C Goshawk of TW-2 does have the full nose color, thus making it the Division 2 Section 4, 10th airplane in squadron, but it doesn't have the corresponding black aft fuselage band. The black tail indicates it was assigned to USS Wasp (CV 7) at that time.

Incidentally, the alpha-numeric code on this airplane (2-TW-200) is a combination of 1930s styling mixed with modern numbering. In this case, instead of 2nd Division, the 2 reflects the fact this is a TW-2 airplane. Instead of 10 for the Leader, 200 is used, which is the current Modex (nose number) of the airplane in question. In modern usage Modex numbers ending in 00 (or "double-nuts") signify the CAG's airplane. CAG, of Commander Air Group, is the leader of the Air Wing. Each squadron assigns an airplane for the CAG to fly, and that airplane has a 00 number.

The second T-45C at the show, from VT-9 / TW-1, had the True Blue tail of USS Enterprise (CV 6) circa 1940. The full red nose shows it is the Division 1, Section 1 Leader, first airplane in the squadron, even though it, too, is missing the aft color band. Red was always assigned to Section 1; Black was always assigned to Section 4. 1-TW-101 is for Training Wing 1, with 101 symbolizing the first airplane in the squadron. (100 would actually be the CAG's airplane, but the 101 Modex is a nice combination of old and new.)

Incidentally, U.S. Navy is on the opposite side (port side) of both Goshawks, while U.S. Marines is on the starboard side.

A view of the upper wing surface of the True Blue tailed T-45C shows the right part of the red chevron. It also shows the early national marking consisting of a blue roundel with white star with red circle inside. Once we were at war with Japan, all traces of red were removed from U.S. and allied aircraft markings as too many gunners and pilots were shooting at anything red, resulting in a lot of friendly fire incidents.

Anyway, that's an abbreviated history of a very complex period. It actually gets more complicated and convoluted than what I've shared tonight, which makes it really fascinating to study. Regardless, it is a really colorful period in U.S. Navy history and a popular subject for modelers and enthusiasts. It certainly jazzes up a flight line full of dull gray airplanes!

More CONA colors later.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

CONA Retros Part 1

Certainly one of the highlights of the current Centennial of Naval Aviation year-long celebration is the painting of modern aircraft in the historical color schemes of past Navy aircraft. Over the next couple of posts we'll look at some of those schemes.

The first one is on a new Boeing EA-18G Growler - called Grizzly on the carrier to avoid confusion with the Grumman EA-6B Prowler. It's painted in the 1943 "three-color blue" scheme, which had a dark blue on the upper surfaces, intermediate blue on the sides and white on the bottom surfaces. You can't see it here, but the bottom of the outer wing panels are the intermediate blue color as the wings fold and the bottoms go vertical. If the wings had gone past the vertical so they faced upward, they would have been painted the dark blue.

By 1944 carrier-based aircraft became overall glossy Sea Blue. Moreover, Carrier Air Wings (CVW) became so numerous that a complex set of geometric markings were applied to the verticals and wings to denote their home carrier. This Boeing F/A-18C Hornet has a white tail with three horizontal Glossy Sea Blue stripes. This was the markings for aircraft belonging to CV 15 USS Randolph.

Navy aircraft in the immediate post-war period continued in overall Glossy Sea Blue. However, reserve aircraft were denoted by an International Orange band on the aft fuselage. This Boeing F/A-18A Hornet looks rather stylish in that scheme.

Starting in 1955 the color scheme changed again. This time the colors were Light Gull Gray on top, with Glossy Insignia White on the bottom and on the upper surface of the control surfaces. Much later it came out that the white was to reflect the heat of a nuclear blast from damaging the more fragile control surfaces of the aircraft.

Shore-based squadrons had the option of adding high-visibility markings at the discretion of the base commander. This F/A-18C Hornet from NAWS (Naval Air Weapons Station) China Lake has a striking International Orange scheme applied to its wings, nose, belly and tails. It really catches your eye!

The final scheme for tonight is a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet (called Rhino on the boat so as not to be confused with the smaller and lighter Hornet) in the contemporary standard Tactical Gray scheme consisting of Light Compass Ghost Gray on the bottom and outer vertical surfaces and Dark Compass Ghost Gray on the top and inner verticals. The tail markings are the neat heritage scheme of VX-5 from the late 1960s to early 1970s. In a bit of Navy humor, VX-5 joined with VX-4 in 1993 to become VX-9. No kidding - 4 plus 5 equals 9.

Ya' gotta love it.

ADDENDUM: Added 26 March 2011 - the underwing colors on the EA-18G would have been Intermediate Blue even if the wing folded past the vertical. My error. Also, the lightning bolt marking on the tail was for an airplane assigned to USS Shangri La (CV 38) during World War II.

Also, the "X" on the tail of the Reserve F/A-18A was the actual letter tail code for aircraft assigned to the Naval Reserve Squadron in New Orleans in the late 1940s, the same station where the Hornet's squadron is currently located (VFA-204 River Rattlers). It's nice to see how well they matched airplanes with their retro schemes.

Finally, a data search shows that the F/A-18C in the very colorful China Lake markings is not currently stationed at China Lake but attached to the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) located at North Island. Since that's where the West coast retro schemes were applied, it makes sense. I'm glad they chose the China Lake markings, though, as they are especially striking.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snow in Burbank

We interrupt our CONA coverage to proclaim "Snow in Burbank"...well, sort of. It mainly hailed and sleeted. If there was snow, and I think there probably was somewhere in the Valley, it was brief. But memorable.

The upper shot was taken at Camera Craft in North Hollywood, where I was when it hit. That's Kevin's car and you can see a nice accumulation building up. Some cars passing on the street looked positively wintery.

This shot was the door to the Camera Craft. Slushy ice was building up.

This was the scene a couple hours earlier along Victory Blvd near Alameda in Burbank (right in from of Burbank House of Hobbies). I grabbed a quick snap with my small Pentax that I keep in the car. The two shots at Camera Craft were with the same camera.

I got this shot on the way home from Camera Craft. It's along Olive about two blocks West of Buena Vista and looking to the Northeast at the Verdugo Mountains. You can see the snow reaches nearly to the base of the Verdugos.

When I got home I grabbed by Canon 40D and shot the Verdugos from our front yard. That's them peeking through the trees.

A telephoto of the Verdugos from our front yard.

The sun was setting but I thought I'd grab a quick shot of the grass in our lawn. The remnants of slushy snow can be seen.

It was certainly a memorable day. Ironically Tina is in Colorado Springs visiting the kids and grandkids. It was sunny and warmer there than here. She will be back before the storm here gets there. Some people have all the timing. Still, I'm glad I got to see it once. Now it can warm up. It's flippin' cold outside!