Back in the air again! This was the opening leg of a two-week road trip through several southern states we hadn't visited yet on our way to seeing all 50. Our original plan was to fly to Charlotte and drive to Charleston, but Hurricane Florence coming directly at us on that path suggested a re-route to Atlanta! American was very helpful in re-booking us via DFW.
Airport taxiway and runway markings continue to interest and amuse me; this one at SeaTac seemed pretty self-evident!
The flight to Dallas was straightforward, the landscape as always fascinating in its complexity and textures. The mountain ridges of Utah were intriguing, but the smoke from a massive forest fire provided a whole new perspective on the power of nature.
The cloudscapes coming into Dallas were at their Texan dramatic best! Flying in the canyons between huge cloud mountains remains one of my most exhilarating experiences.
Changing flights in DFW gave us ample time to watch a massive storm brewing nearby; that cloud tripled in size in twenty minutes. Colorful taxiway markings seemed to me to have been gift-wrapped by the cracks in the concrete! Once airborne, the muted colors of an east Texas dusk were very peaceful.
Welcome to the re-launch of my photo Web site! After many years of concentrating on the many intriguing patterns and textures of this beautiful world as seen from a window seat at 30,000 ft, I've had a lot of interest from many people about the things I see at ground level as well. Accordingly, I've now added a new set of Ground Level photo galleries to complement the Flight Level ones. Please explore them and let me know what you think!
I've also taken the opportunity to change the focus of my annual calendar to Ground Level to shake things up a bit. The new one for 2018 has just been released and contains twelve images of trees taken at various locations in the USA and the UK. Again, please take a look and let me know your thoughts. And don't forget that they make excellent holiday gifts!
Back in the air again for a week-long trip to Toronto, visiting many old friends in the hospitality technology business during the annual HITEC Conference; it felt good to be back in my favorite window-seat environment! With three parallel runways take-offs at SeaTac often require "after you" pauses when one plane needs to get to its assigned runway; here a Horizon Q400 is ready to roll as soon as our 737 passes through.
It's no secret that I'm fascinated by patterns, man-made as well as natural. Someone did an outstanding job lining up these school buses south of Seattle!
Sometimes the mountain ranges seem to take on animal characteristics. Some can be quite an reassuring, but these curving, jagged arcs looming above a small settlement in Montana came across as somewhat threatening to me, waiting for their chance to pounce when winter falls.
The shapes of lakes are always intriguing to contemplate. What wind and water current flows through the evocatively named Freezeout Lake in Montana caused this hook to develop over the centuries?
Sometimes I can feel that an image is intriguing, but I don't really know what it will turn out like until I've enhanced its contrast in Lightroom. This one was a special surprise; the detail and patterns in the little river islets are a treat! Somewhere in Iowa on the way to Chicago.
Finally, speaking of patterns, I loved the vibrant flow of energy from all these access roads near Toronto's Pearson International Airport! It does make you appreciate GPS and navigation systems, though...
Hawaii has always been one of our favorite vacation spots, and Maui our preferred island; it's a place that always makes us smile as soon as we land there. This time we finally took the helicopter trip we'd long promised ourselves, and picked the tour of West Maui and the north coast of Molokai. It was, of course, spectacular! (As usual, more photos can be found in the Gallery of the Month; click on any image to enlarge it.)
Taking off from the heliport at Kahului Airport, we crossed Kahului Bay on our way to West Maui. As usual, there was a stiff breeze blowing from the northeast, which makes this one of the premier windsurfing locations anywhere and a prime spot for surfing competitions.
Halfway across we saw another of those locations where two tidal flows meet in a clash of bubbles. I'm always struck by the color change from one flow to the next, and must work out why that happens one day.
Further north along the rocky coast near to the spectacular Nakalele Blowhole, the surf pounds into the cliffs with a relentless determination, producing some dramatic outlines and some weirdly eroded rocks.
Over towards the Molokai coast the surf was still breaking in fine style. This particular wave left a trail of foam that reminded me of a goat's head, complete with horns - or maybe I'm just seeing the waves as perpetually butting heads with the rocks.
The north coast of Molokai is renowned for its sheer drama, with 3,000-ft cliffs plunging straight into the sea. A massive earthquake 200,000 years ago split the island, with the entire north side falling into the ocean and leaving this dramatic result.
Back over West Maui we flew inland from the Kaanapali resort area, climbing up towards Puu Kukui mountain and looking back at the old lava flow that curves down towards Lahaina. I wonder why so much of the residential development is on the flow itself.
On the way back to the heliport we flew over what appeared to be a settlement pond for some chemical plant in Kahului, but checking Google Maps later it actually turned out to be the Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary! I don't know what the attraction of that yellow water is to the wildlife, but I do wonder how the pilots taking off from the nearby airport feel about having birds so close to the runways...
A vacation in the UK last month included a quick side trip to Italy to see a cousin, not that we need any excuse to visit Italy! The flight from Gatwick to Pisa was over continuous cloud cover, unfortunately, but the return to Heathrow enjoyed perfect weather - at least as far as the English Channel! I could only get a seat behind the wing so the engine exhaust impacted several photos, but here are some I especially liked. More can be found in the Gallery of the Month; as always, click on any image to enlarge it.
This is about as typical an Italian village as you can find! Taken just after take-off from Pisa airport, I love the clusters of red-tiled buildings, and how the straight-edged fields contrast with the winding roads.
After take off we flew up the Western coast of Italy past several small ports; this one had some remarkably white mountains behind it. It turns out that these are the quarries for the world-renowned Carrara marble, used over the centuries for everything from Michelangelo's David to London's Marble Arch and the Peace Monument in Washington, DC.
Further north we passed over the extensive agricultural region of the Po Valley, which runs right up against the Alps. It also includes the industrial areas of Turin and Milan, and the vineyards of Asti!
Clear skies over the Alps gave some stunning views of the mountains. The center peak here is the Matterhorn, as impressive as ever, but while we also saw many glaciers, it was apparent that some were retreating quite rapidly, such as the one in the foreground on La Ruinette.
Heading into southern France I was struck again by the wonderful patterns created by farmers as they cope with the hilly topography and the need to maintain woodland among their fields.
And sometimes the patterns seem to form something else, too; once I'd seen the "horns" at the top of these fields, the overall pattern seemed to me to resemble a Cubist's interpretation of a bull!
Where agriculture is king every available piece of land is used, not only where four rivers come together to provide irrigation for the fertile plains, but as far as the eye can see.
Even so, I'm at a loss to explain why there needed to be such a strong diagonal division between these fields! It makes for a striking composition, all the same.
I'm always on the lookout for airfields as photo subjects when I fly, and on a trip to Phoenix last year spotted one in southern Utah which looked, ah, "adventurous", a mesa-top strip with a very definite "you will be airborne at this point" layout,
Turns out this is actually for very good design reasons, because it's not actually an airport. It's a rocket-sled test track used to evaluate ejection seats and other escape capsules, which were triggered at the end of the track and then (hopefully) floated down into the valley 1,500 ft. below. There is a small unpaved runway just off to one side as well. The full story of the track is at: http://www.airfields-freeman.com/UT/Airfields_UT_SW.htm.
Seattle to New Orleans in June can be a real study in contrasts, from the cool cloudy Northwest to the steamy sunshine of the South. This trip in late June, however, started in brilliant sunshine in Seattle and ended in New Orleans under stormy skies! As usual, the Gallery of the Month has a wider selection of images from this trip, but here are a few I thought worth commenting on. Click on any one to enlarge it.
In the desert on the eastern side of the Cascades the vivid color of this small lake caught my eye. I'm sure the fact that it's quite close to the nuclear waste storage tanks at Hanford is just a coincidence...
The dry-land farming region north of Walla Walla is a truly fascinating area, with very intriguing patterns of colors and shapes that beg for some kind of explanation. Whatever the reason the result is wonderfully abstract.
The desert can always be relied on to produce some interesting images, and this trip was no exception. Here over western Wyoming the vegetation on the side of a ravine looks like a carnival mask discarded on the desert floor.
Back over agricultural land again, these cultivation patterns and crop/soil colors in eastern Colorado resemble the wood grain patterns of fresh-sawed lumber - somewhat ironic given the total absence of trees in these wide-open plains.
It's also interesting to see the different approaches to cultivation in these fields. Some follow (to a greater or lesser degree) the patterns left by earlier contour-based planting, while straight-line fences cut right across others.
Clouds have always fascinated me, and the usual summer thunderstorms on the run into New Orleans didn't disappoint. This massive accumulation on the Texas-Louisiana border just seemed to keep climbing up to the sky, level upon level.
Field patterns often have historical as well as geological significance. Along the Mississippi towards New Orleans land grants were awarded based on a small, uniform length of river frontage to ensure equal access to shipping and irrigation water. The resultant long, thin landholdings thus became very crowded on the inside of the river's many turns!
It's been along time coming, but thank you for your patience and welcome to my updated Web site! I've added several new images to the Galleries, have brought the order process back onto the Web site instead of being hosted on ImageKind, and will soon launch a presence on both Instagram and Flickr! As always, I welcome your feedback and comments. The only casualty of the site update was that my old blog posts couldn't be carried forward, but I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you on a much more regular basis, and to hearing back from you soon.
Despite my official retirement from the hotel technology consulting world last June existing clients kept me traveling through into December, so things didn't feel too different. This year, though, for a variety of reasons I didn't travel anywhere for the first five months. Oddly enough, it was very restful to be at home for an extended stretch, photographing the spring beauty of the Northwest and not feeling any urgent need to get back on a plane! However, a family visit to Burbank, CA in late May called us back to the air, and it did feel good to be back by a window seat again, camera at the ready.
Once the initial cloud cover cleared after leaving Seattle plenty of intriguing patterns and images once again presented themselves. The current Gallery of the Month shows all the main images I took, but here are a few I thought worth commenting on. (As always, click on any image to enlarge it.) The colors of Shasta Lake around Bridge Bay Resort were especially striking, and it was good to see the water level higher than it's been in a while!
A little further south the agricultural fields in the Central Valley formed their usual fascinating abstracts. I was particularly taken with the angles in this one; even the cultivation of individual rows in some of the fields seems to start and stop on sharp diagonals!
One field in particular had a pattern I've not seen before, looking like some kind of traditional Southwest blanket design. Given the apparent flat nature of the surrounding fields I can't begin to imagine what combination of farming, irrigation and terrain produces this effect, but it was very pretty.
On the return trip a residential development construction site caught my eye, with its intriguingly complex and rhythmic pattern of roads, tiered building sites and colors.
Here's another intriguing farm image, this one near Bakersfield. I doubt if the white buildings at the top were laid out with this in mind but it certainly looked to me like a painting of a Greek temple, complete with columns and entrance portico!
This farm showed a most unusual effect. The cultivated fields appear to be uniformly flat and even, laid out like a massive sheet of cardboard on top of and completely separate from the underlying arid desert soil with its multiple streambeds and gullies. Looking closely you can see traces of the terrain showing through the crops, but the illusion is striking..
Finally, before the clouds of the Northwest rolled in and cut off the view, I was struck by the brilliant blue of Millerton Lake (near Fresno) snaking through stark, bare hills on the western fringe of the Sierras. Coming from England I'm still not accustomed to seeing lakes of this size in such barren surroundings, completely devoid of vegetation. Makes me wonder how long it takes for nature to work its magic, breaking down the rock into soil and slowly spreading plant life up from the water's edge. Probably quite a while...