Wigs Over Houston

OK, not really – it’s WINGS Over Houston, but I figured, with the wigs on the site and all…you get the idea.

Yellow Rose
B-25 – The Yellow Rose

Going back to October, this year’s Wings Over Houston Airshow was Oct. 17th, and I went with my dad (as usual) and my boss/friend from work. She’s a former employee of US Airways (now part of another airline, can’t remember the name right now) and loves airplanes, too, so it was fun to share the experience with someone else.

MK959 Spitfire

I told myself that since I wasn’t very satisfied with my aerial pics last time, I’d focus on shooting the planes during the viewing hours of the show, when you can get up close with them before they take off. However, once the planes got in the air I couldn’t help myself, and since I knew a bit more this time about what settings to use on the camera for decent shots, I managed to get some really nice ones this year. I also made sure to try for shots that would be more unique or interesting than the typical stuff everyone else snaps – the two above were taken during a war simulation, and I particularly liked the effect the smoke from the faux-bombs created.

The Breitling Jet Team – from France

The Thunderbirds were there this year (instead of the Blue Angels who performed in 2014) but my friend and I were wise enough to leave before the final show; my father and I spent over an hour in the shuttle line the year before since we left with everyone else, and since there were two performance jet teams this year, I still got to see some high flyers before we took off. It was a good idea, since it meant we walked right onto a shuttle instead of waiting in line forever.

straight up


In 2014 I saved my camera strictly for photos of planes in the air and didn’t even take it out when we were wandering around viewing the planes, but since this year I wasn’t planning to take any aerial stuff anyway I took my camera with me to the touring area earlier in the day, and got some nice shots there too:

Standing beneath the wing of a C-17; one of my favorite shots of the day

I took my telephoto lens again this year, but am considering taking the wide-angle next year; it was hard to get all of the planes in my shots while we were walking around with the zoom lens, and it wasn’t the most convenient lens for these types of shots. We stood in line to tour the inside of the C-17 and my lens was pretty much useless inside it; I could not even get a shot of the cockpit once we got in there because it was so small – and we stood in line for over an hour to get up there! I did get a shot of the stairs leading up to it, though:


I also got a few shots of one of the servicemen standing in the cockpit and looking out the little round window that overlooks the huge cargo area where we were all waiting in line, but with the lack of indoor light and my inability to get my settings right, all the shots of him looking through it were crappy and blurry. I processed one of the shots, though, and just edited the hell out of it to disguise the fact that it’s a bad photo – I had to process it, because the dude was looking right at me in the shot.


There was also a nice big United 737 that I took some snaps of; I tried to keep all the crowds of people out of these shots so it might appear that I was actually just getting super-close access to a plane on a runway instead of at an exhibition; for the most part I think I pulled it off:

united 737 2

united 737

Another thing I wanted to try this year was taking pictures of interesting people, as well. There certainly are a lot of them:

Yes, “interesting” is one way to describe these guys

blue hair baby_pxr

I love it when I get to piggyback off someone else’s staged shot; this veteran was posing for someone else so I snuck up behind them and snapped the same photo:


That’s actually a composite of two shots I took of him; in one, a woman walked into the frame right as I snapped the shot, and her body covered up half the flag. In the other, she wasn’t in the frame, but his features were not as clear and the shot wasn’t quite as focused, so I layered that less-focused shot over the better one and erased the woman’s body out of the frame. And there you go.

Last shot for now – I snapped this one quickly while we were waiting in that hour-long line for the cockpit of the C-17; I snapped a bunch of one-offs through the open cargo doors since there wasn’t much else to do and nothing I could get decent photos of inside, and right after I took this one I looked at it on my LCD screen and realized it was a nice one. How much more alike could these two look anyway?

Yep, definitely related

I processed this one in black and white because the color just didn’t add anything to it. I especially like the young guy’s shadow on his dad’s (I assume) shirt. They were probably looking up into the cargo hold at all the people standing in line inside and thinking to themselves, why on earth would those idiots stand in line so long just to spend two minutes inside a stuffy cockpit? Well, because we can, dude. That’s why.

I edited most of these shots over the past two days; that’s how busy I’ve been and have just now gotten around to really editing these photos. I’ve decided I need to start dedicating myself to editing at least one photo a night since I’ve got such a backlog of stuff and what I’m really craving is a good old portrait-and-jumping photo session. I don’t want all this other stuff to get completely forgotten, though, so I’m trying to work through it all now. Still lots I’d like to edit from this set, as well as my trip out to IAH back in September, so more planes to come.

Next week – vacation! I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving already. A whole week off, and I’m going to try and take my portrait shots then.


Plane of Pools

Stupid title, I know. I was just trying to think of something to incorporate the two completely unconnected subjects of this post. Because last week, this happened:


I’ve never been so happy to see concrete in my life. The next step is to clean the interior of the pool and prepare it for the plaster, which will happen today – I’ve been envisioning some really crazy self-portraits in the empty pool wherein I don a ball gown and a snorkel, but unfortunately I’ve caught the first round of crud that circulated around the school  last week (in my case, it’s an upper respiratory infection, but I know others who came down with strep throat) and I feel lousy. I’m not sure I’m going to be up for taking photos for the day or two that the option is available to me, so it may be a sorely missed opportunity, but one I’ll have to let go if I’m still sick. Boo.

I stayed home from work today and went to the doctor for meds, and when that was done I processed more airplane pictures. At first I wasn’t to thrilled with the shots I got last Sunday at the new location; they definitely don’t allow me the super-close proximity the official observation spot provides, but they do allow for a lot more variety, due to my ability to shoot the planes coming all the way up the runway:


I’m farther away, but getting to snap the planes taking off over buildings or just lifting off the runway is pretty cool, and means I get bored less quickly while processing the shots:


Of course, I did have to hang out in what appeared at first to be a fairly suspect location to get them:

Looking back from the dead-end where I parked

For most of the time I was there, I was the only person at this spot:

My car at the bottom of a hill that provides a nice vantage point to see the planes 

But occasionally other plane-spotters stopped by, although I was the only one who went to the top of the hill:



So overall, it was a fine place to hang out, although I was pretty nervous at first, thinking it had to be a bad idea to spend time alone at the end of a fairly deserted road behind an airport. I felt plenty safe soon enough, once I realized it really wasn’t as deserted as I thought it was, and appeared in fact to be a little plane-viewing spot for a lot of people with kids who were trying to entertain them and out of ideas, I guess? Moving on. Next time I’ll bring a blanket or something to sit on up there, though, since the grass was pretty high and brushy and it wasn’t too pleasant the times I tried to sit down.

Severed head in a bag, or discarded Carl’s Jr.? You decide.

I got to this spot around 11:30, I think, and while I mostly shot United planes, I managed to snap a few others before I was done:




I also had a chance to snap some planes landing on farther runways, and although they were too far away for the shots to be great ones, I did want to capture how close some of them fly over before they land, since it gives me a nice sense of scale:

Low United

And I managed to snap this little bright-yellow Spirit Airlines budget plane (I definitely was able to get better shots of planes landing farther away from me than I can at the Lee Road location, too) :

Yellow Spirit

And then, of course, were all the United planes:




That last one really took me by surprise; the little hill I stood on overlooked two runways running parallel to each other, and for the most part they were all taking off from the runway farthest from my location. But this one used the closer of the two, and when it roared up overhead I was actually focused on a different plane and didn’t see this one coming. It’s positioning really gave me a nice shot of it’s underbelly passing over; with the landing gear already retracted.  I guess it took off a longer runway, or something. Moving on.


I planned to head for home no later than 1:00, since these runways were fairly busy and by then I’d already taken plenty, but at one on the dot it was as if United opened the floodgates (or plane gates, if you will) and sent an onslaught of airlines taxiing over to take off, and well, it was just too good to walk away from at the time. They must have been taking off two or three minutes behind each other, at the most, so I kept snapping until my 32G CF card filled up. That’s right – 2600 shots of airplanes, people. And many of them are worthy of processing this time! How will I ever get through them all…?


Of course I’ve got more to share later, but for now this is all I’ve got. Time to go lie down and let that Nyquil I slugged about 20 minutes ago work it’s magic Until next time, y’all!

Sunday Shots

I’ve not taken any self-portraits in quite awhile, but I have been taking photos here and there when I’ve had the chance.


In fact, now that I look back over what I’ve processed the past few weeks, it’s quite a few shots. A few weeks ago, while out buying groceries for the week, I stopped by the floral department and picked up some flowers to shoot, then spent the rest of Saturday taking photos of them. In the shot above, I was mainly trying to catch the reflection of the petals when the flower was lying on top of a plastic handbag liner I yanked out of one of my purses (it’s a piece of plastic you can insert into a handbag that lacks shape to give it some across the bottom – #themoreyouknow!). It was a challenge to get a whole lot of the reflection into the shot without getting into some really weird framing, but I guess it came out OK.


Simon ended up in a lot of the shots because, well, that’s how he rolls:


Sprocket and Penny got into the mix for a bit too:



I also saw some flowers that were wrapped in netting to keep their shape (no, I don’t know what kind of flowers they were) and I really liked the pink and purple color combination that created, so I took photos of them without taking off the wrapping, although that may actually look stupid. Still, I liked them:


I unwrapped them eventually, and took some super-macros of the petals:


Then eventually I ended up putting all sorts of crap on them, just to see how it would look:


That’s baby powder on the rose above, which I was hoping would look like snow. I also threw some glitter on the pink flowers, but I haven’t processed any of those shots yet. I took about 600 pictures of flowers, then got distracted by work and pool drama and ended up not processing nearly enough of them. For about a week there I didn’t process any shots at all, although lately I’ve had time to work with about one each night. This is the last flower shot I’ve had a chance to edit so far, but I know there will be more to come from this set later:


Then, at one point during all the pool construction drama, I looked in the back yard and this tipped-over, mud-covered wheelbarrow caught my eye; I thought it’d make a good picture, so although it was already dusk I grabbed my camera and braved a trip into the muck to get a few shots. My husband almost had a cow when he looked out the window and saw me crawling around back there, because he knows what a klutz I am and how easily I can hurt myself just walking into a room, much less wandering around a construction area with a camera. But, I survived, and got a few cool shots out of the deal:



I have a few more, of course, to process from this set (don’t I always?) but I have yet to get to them, either.

Now, if I thought Doug would have a cow about me scavenging around in our backyard with a half-constructed pool in the vicinity, he would have really flipped his lid if he’d seen where I was hanging out this past Sunday:


I drove out to my usual planespotting location at IAH Sunday morning, but when I got there I realized I’d mis-read my flightradar24 app in thinking the airport was utilizing that runway for arrivals, and in fact there were no planes at all flying in that direction. Since it was early and I was already out there, I decided to be a little brave and try to find a second planespotting location I’d read about – I’d always been wary to try it out before because I’d heard you had to call airport security to let them know when you were there, and that alone sounded sketchy enough to me to discourage the trip. Plus, it’s not uncommon for the areas around an airport to be less than ideal locations to start with, and since I’m always by myself when I take plane pics I’d been a bit chicken to give it a try. But I was feeling up for it this time, plus I’d driven all that way and didn’t want the drive to be a total bust, so I found the dead-end road that stopped right up against two runway fences, made the airport security call, and got to work.


These two runways are used mainly for departures, and they were pretty busy, although mostly with United planes – I didn’t get very many unusual planes this time. I did get some new angles than what I can get from the official observation lot, but the planes are farther away, so I was once again feeling the limitations of the 70-200 lens. It did the job, but I would have been happier had I been able to get closer. And the clarity isn’t the greatest either; I think I had the ISO setting too low this time. Still, the weather was nice, and it ended up being a fine place to shoot although, as I said, my husband probably would have freaked out had he known I’d driven to a dead-end road, parked the car, and hiked up a hill all alone to take plane photos! Actually, while I was up there I saw a lot of cars come and go; mostly people with kids taking a moment or two to watch some planes take off, but still. When I really stopped to think about it, it probably wasn’t the wisest decision. Not to say I won’t go back, of course.


I say this so much you can probably all say it along with me by now, but once again: this is all I’ve had time to process from this set  so far, so there will be more to come. Although I haven’t been able to get dolled up lately for a selfie shoot, at least I do have a lot of photos to work with when I get a spare minute here or there.

Okay, tomorrow’s Monday, so let’s get back to it.

Plane Plan

This past Monday, I woke up thinking about airplanes, so I checked my Flightradar app and saw that – yay! – IAH was using the runway over their observation lot for arrivals. There were a few interesting planes coming in that day, so I quickly packed up my gear and headed out.

#EI-DRE – AeroMexico Boeing 737-700, landing at IAH on June 8, 2015

Since I’ve done this a few times now, I did a better job of being sure I had what I needed and knew what I was doing before I got out there (in other words, no wig hairs on the camera lens this time). But I did make one awful error – in between spurts of plane landings, I would get back in my car, turn the air conditioner on (since it was about 95 degrees outside with what felt like 100% humidity), and switch my camera off to save the battery. Just as I was about to leave, I saw the largest plane of the day heading right for me – a British Airways Boeing 777. I grabbed my camera, flipped it back on, and got out just in time to take some great shots as it passed over. Unfortunately, as I got back into my car I noticed in my LCD screen that all the shots I’d just taken were nothing but bright white light; apparently when flipping my camera’s on switch my finger had accidentally also switched my camera mode from Aperture over to Manual, and the camera let in way too much light and blew out all the shots. Blurgh! (as Liz Lemon would say). The only thing that kept me from pulling my hair out in agony was that I did manage to snap some nice pictures of a different BA Boeing 777 on my last outing to IAH back in January. But still – bummer.

Welp, there it is.

There was another 777 that landed that day, but it was using a different runway that’s too far away for my little telephoto to reach. I tried to get some decent shots of it, but this was the best I could do; in looking at it here, I guess it’s not too bad, just not nearly as close or clear as I would like. I’ve read a little about shooting using a telephoto lens, and everything says you lose a lot of clarity if you zoom all the way in when taking a shot, so I tried not to do that this time when taking these far-away shots even though it meant I couldn’t get quite as close as I would have liked:

#F-GSQA – Air France Boeing 777-200

I was also getting blurry shots at first, so I got on my phone and did some quick research; ultimately deciding to try using Aperture Priority mode instead of the Shutter Speed mode I always use. This actually helped to get clearer shots on a regular basis, so I’ll need to be sure to remember that next time.

#N509NK – Spirit Airlines Airbus 319-100

As I mentioned before, it was pretty damn hot out there, and I didn’t even get to the lot until around 11:15, but the sky was nice and blue and there were plenty of clouds to create more interesting pictures,so I’m glad I went ahead and tried it out in spite of the heat. Especially since it looks like we have another week of rain coming and who knows when I’ll be able to get back out there again. It’s also good to know that, unlike Hobby Airport, anytime I choose to go out there I’m guaranteed to get at least a few planes other than the regulars (United Airlines at IAH, Southwest Airlines at HOU) – as long as they’re using the right runway, that is.

#N618NK – Spirit Airlines Airbus A320

Supposedly there’s another good planespotting location around IAH that isn’t an official one; I can’t tell if it’s still available to park at or if it’s been cordoned off – I get conflicting information on different sites where I’ve looked for information. Since it’s not an official observation area I am still a little chicken to check it out, but sooner or later I’m sure taking photos of the planes in always basically the same position in the sky is going to get boring. For now it’s OK though, because I get a little better each time at getting the whole plane in the frame once it gets closer. Well, except for when I accidentally mess up the camera settings and over-expose the hell out of my shots.

#N703ABV – Avianca Airbus A319

I also caught a few small private planes as they flew over; if you click this  next one and magnify it you can see the dude in the passenger seat staring right at me, LOL:

#N500HY – Beechcraft Beechjet. This one must have just gotten a new paint job because in all the other pictures I see of it online, the tail is plain white with brown stripes.

#N281SE – Piper Malibu Meridian

That’s all the planes I’ve edited for now, but I will have a few more to come. I haven’t processed any of the United Airlines ones yet, and there’s a few more I took that were using that other runway that I think I may be able to process and get decent results. We’ll see.

Other than plane photos and wig videos, I’ve been watching tons of documentaries on Netflix – documentaries are a serious weakness of mine, and I’ll watch just about anything if it’s in that category (proof? I watched an entire documentary about a font. Yep). The most bizarre one so far is called Room 237, and it’s dedicated to some of the more obsessive and outrageous analyses people have come up with to explain Stanley Kubrick’s hidden messages in his movie The Shining. Yep. While I didn’t actually believe any of the theories, it truly is fun to take a Kubrick movie and pick it apart for visual symbols and motifs, but I’m still convinced he just did it because he was obsessive about visuals and then he just let everyone interpret things however they wanted. My favorite theories were that Kubrick made The Shining to confess to the world that there was no actual footage of the US landing on the moon, but Kubrick was contracted to create such footage so the world would actually believe we did go there. Want proof? Well, there’s Danny’s sweater for starters:


Oh, and also the inclusion of the Tang powdered drink on the shelves (used on space missions) and something about that key containing the letters not just for “room” but also for “moon” and, the number 237 represents the 237 kajillion miles (technical term) Earth is from the moon. And one woman also pointed out that in the super-creepy scene there where the dead twins roll that ball to Danny, the pattern on the carpet reverses, which had something to do with the reversal of time and how the movie was meant to be watched backwards, or something.


Oh, and for the theory that The Shining was meant to be viewed backwards, the documentary actually plays a bit of the movie moving forward as it should while superimposing it playing backwards on top of it, and I have to say that was pretty cool although the idea that this was what Kubrick actually wanted rather than the theory of someone who’s gotten way too into decoding this film isn’t likely. Still, a fun documentary overall, especially if you are a fan of the movie as I am.

An example of what you see when playing the movie backwards and forwards at the same time. Coincidence? Yeah probably, but still cool. 

Some other great ones I’ve seen this week are Dear, Zachary (do NOT watch without an entire box of Kleenex, because you’ll need it – trailer below):

The Queen of Versailles (voyeuristic view of an uber-rich family attempting to build the biggest house in America that turns on a dime after the crash of 2008 and ends up really being about clueless rich people trying to function without their private jets and 15 servants. SPOILER: apparently rich people do not know how to potty train, or clean up after, their dogs):

All This Mayhem (two young skaters from Australia and the tragic yet spectacular fall from grace they experience when the money and the fame dries up):

The Source Family (a hippie cult in the 70’s made unique by the inclusion of quite detailed video footage taken by the cult’s “historian”):

Bridgend (haunting and bizarre story of a small town in South Wales where almost 80 teenagers have committed suicide by hanging over the past 8 years):

And perhaps the best one of all so far, The Imposter (story about a guy who actually convinces a family that he’s their missing son, even though he’s not):

All of these are currently streaming on Netflix, and I can’t recommend them enough!

Plane As Day

thisis me
And no, I don’t care about the commercials either.

Last night when the Stupor Bowl was about half-done I fled fromTwitter and Facebook to write this blog post until it was all over. However, in defense of the Stupor Bowl (defense – get it?) I will say this: there is someone I dislike so much that I did actually want the Seahawks to win, because this person is the most ridiculous Patriots fan I’ve ever seen – it’s practically his entire identity. So it’s really true how they say hate destroys the soul, because my hatred for this person actually made me care just slightly who won the Stupor Bowl. Of course I now know the dude is going to be intolerable for the near future; all the more reason to avoid him more than I already do. Moving on.

As I ramble I will share some more airplane photos as well as a few random others I’ve edited the past two weeks and have yet to upload. I didn’t realize how behind I am on sharing plane shots; there’s a whole slew of ’em to show. So, here you go:


That baby right there is a British Airways Boeing 747; it was the biggest plane I saw when I went planespotting last Saturday; really impressive. I took several shots of it:


This next shot was taken at the same time of day, but on its own it was rather boring, so I decided to really go for broke with my Topaz filters and attempt to make it a sunset shot. Judge for yourself how it turned out:


It’s not perfect, and personally I can tell where I did a little cloning to edit out the stupid wig hairs that were on my lens, but overall it came out better than I expected. For grins, here’s a before and after collage:


There were several pretty cool planes that landed that day on a different runway, so although I was able to snap photos of them, they were quite far away and my telephoto couldn’t handle the distance; at some point I’ll have to cough up a LOT of dough for a 100-400, I think. This one is great, but when it comes to planes I still could use more zoom. Anyway, I went ahead and processed the teeny little shots I have because, what the hell, I was there and I took them, but they aren’t thrilling at all:

LH440 a
Lufthansa #LH440 Airbus A380-800 flying in from Frankfurt
RA82045 Volga-Dnepr1
Volga-Dnepr Antanov AN-124 #RA-82045, flying in from Paramaribo; the photo was crappy so I played around with editing to pretend like it was intentional. It wasn’t.
star alliance
Star Alliance flight; couldn’t read the registration number to get any information about this one.
US Airways Airbus A320-232; flying in from Phoenix. Couldn’t make out the registration number on this one either.

One thing I tried to do this time out was take some interesting close-ups of parts of the plane I don’t usually photograph, just to see how that turned out. I was seeing loads of United Airlines planes, since IAH is their home base, and I knew I didn’t want to sort through thousands of shots of the same plane to get to the unusual ones, so I got a little creative when they flew by to give me some images to mess with later. Here’s what I came up with – all of these shots are of United Airways (which I still want to call Continental) Boeing 777 #N78003, flying in from Amsterdam:

Wheels! Yay?
Love me some lens flare
Fuselage – YEP

Then, I also took a shot to show how close the traffic was coming in that day (between 3 and 6 PM seems to be the best time to go on a Saturday as far as air traffic goes):

There’s one gaining on ya!

Believe it or not, I still have a bunch of shots to edit, but we’ll see if I get time to do so this week. Let’s close this out with a few shots of Simon, who can always be counted on to provide me with a few poses whenever he’s around. I think this first one was taken during one of my purse shoots; I had a stool with a black blanket over it in front of a black background to photograph the purses, and at some point Simon leapt up there and made himself at home. Of course, much posing ensued:

you know who

And here’s one I shot back on ladybug day, when I didn’t capture the ladybug and took pics of Simon instead:


So there! I think that catches you up on all my recent edits. Much more to come, just not sure when. Happy Monday everyone!

Plane and Simple

So, here was my thought process this morning: I really should take some pictures today, it’s been awhile…I’m not in the mood to shoot any doll shots, though, OR get dressed up for self-portraits…it’s a gorgeous day out, I should get out today, maybe take Sherbet with me and do some weird doll shots out in the open…nah, I really don’t have any ideas for that right now, and I’m not in the mood, but I hate to waste this lovely day and all that great lightOMGAIRPLANES!!!

As usual, forgot to film with my iPhone in landscape mode, so skinny framing once again. I’ll never get that right, will I?

I called up my handy-dandy FlightRadar24 app, and sure enough, IAH was definitely using the runway across from the observation area. In fact, they were using the hell out of it, so I got my gear together and headed out. It was the perfect day for planespotting – not quite 60 degrees, a little breeze but not too windy, bright winter light, and just enough clouds in the sky to create interest in the pictures. Traffic was manageable, and I made it to the parking lot by 1:30 PM (slight delay caused by getting lost, which is par for the course with me). The only downside was my father could not join me; he’s been wanting to go back out there, but he couldn’t come along this time. Too bad, because there were a lot of people plane-watching and tons of air traffic to boot. Ah well. As I’ve learned, it’s hard to plan ahead for this sort of thing too much because you have to be sure the airport is going to use the proper runway in order to see much of anything, and that can’t be determined even a day ahead of time (at least, not that I can figure out). So, it’s a spur-of-the-moment thing, which certainly makes it harder to bring others along for the ride.

Lots of families there watching the planes

Each time I do this, I learn a bit more, so this time I kept myself calm so as not to go home with eight thousand photos of the same damn plane (in this case it would be United, when spotting at HOU it’s Southwest Airlines) only to run out of space on my CF card when something different finally shows up. And, I tried to get some interesting shots and unique perspectives, rather than just making getting the entire plane in the frame at least once as it passes by my entire goal. However, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t screw a few things up: I should have parked my car on the other side of the lot to at least attempt shooting on the same side as the sun, but I’m not sure it would have mattered; as it is, the sun was behind the planes which created some awkward lighting situations I’ll have to try and repair in editing. Also – and this was the big one – next time I need to remember to CHECK MY LENS and give it a quick cleaning before shooting; this is a totally unique screw-up to have, but believe it or not, there was a dang WIG HAIR stuck to the lens the entire time I was shooting! So far I’ve been able to edit it out of the shots I’ve processed in Photoshop, but honestly when I first pulled up the photos on my computer I nearly had a heart attack, thinking there was a huge scratch on my lens. Imagine my relief to discover it was just a strand of synthetic hair. Still, it’s a pain to get out of the shots, plus it obviously got blown around by the wind because throughout the shoot it moved all over the place. And, it totally ruined the video I tried to take with my 7D, not that it was much good anyway (you have to use Live View to film video, and in the bright sun I could NOT see at all what I was filming, so I just pointed the camera in the direction of the planes and hoped for the best). And no, I could not see that hair on the lens at all while shooting, even when stopping to chimp my shots – again, it was too bright to get a good look at them outside.

If you’d like an example of how it looks to have a wig hair stuck to your lens, well, here you go (I have no idea how to edit video beyond the free Movie Maker that’s on my hard drive, so I lack the skill to edit the hair out):

Obviously, there’s a lot more wrong with video than the wig hair – and damn, it looks like there were two of them!

I did catch some new planes while I was there (new for me anyway), although some of them were using a different runway and I could only get very distant, rather grainy shots. Still, I managed to snap a Volga-Dnepr Russian cargo plane, a Lufthansa, and a Singapore Airlines off in the distance, flying in over some trees and an airport hotel. Up close the big winner of the day was a huge British Airways double-decker 747-400 – it came by quickly, of course, and it was hard to get it all into the frame, but I think I got a few good ones of it as it passed by. I also got up-close and personal with Spirit Air, AeroMexico, and an American Eagle. So far, I’ve only processed an American Eagle shot:


I didn’t get the color quite right, because with the sun behind the plane it came out a bit dark and I tried to lighten it the best I could, but it made the tone a little warm and I spent some time trying to cool it down; not sure I totally succeeded, but for what it’s worth, there it is. I’m almost nervous to work with the rest of the shots, because I got so excited every time something other than a United jet flew by that I may have gotten a little twitchy and screwed something up. But I think I can get at least one decent shot per interesting plane, along with some close-ups of the cockpit or the underbelly on the plane that I tried to do. Oh, and I could also get some nice landing shots this time from behind the plane; the angle of the runway to the observation area at Hobby makes that impossible, but here it can be done since we’re directly behind it:

I wanted some people shots for perspective; I mainly liked the reflection in the puddles on this one, and the sky, not to mention the kid holding his arms out like a plane. In other words, I guess I like all of it.

Obviously there will be more to come; you’re either looking forward to it or already planning to avoid my blog for the next week or two. Sorry! I loves me some planes. And today’s jaunt was just what I needed; not feeling like setting up anything for a shoot + needing to get the hell outside and enjoy a pretty day = photographer satisfaction. Here’s looking at another, week, folks; hope you have a good one!

No Plane, No Gain

I am continuing to scour the three thousand photos I took at Wings Over Houston last weekend for shots that might be unique from what other photographers captured. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of photos from the event that have been uploaded to various airshow and aviation websites, and yep, I’m still seeing a lot of “my” photos over and again, including several with the Blue Angels passing over the moon – although none of those look quite like the one I captured. As I see more and more shots from others, I get a better idea of which pictures I’d like to process, like this one:


This was the narrator of the Blue Angels performance; I popped this shot off real quick for no good reason but ended up liking the color and composition of it. Don’t know if I would have liked it as much had he been wearing the traditional blue flight suit, because I love the bright yellow against that rather dull background.

I didn’t so much love this next shot, but I was impressed with the aircraft so I wanted to share at least one:


The propellers on this thing were massive; when at rest they looked almost as big as the fuselage of the plane. They also swivel, so the aircraft can fly either as a plane or a helicopter. It was definitely an impressive thing to watch, but a damned ugly thing to photograph. I was so excited to see it fly but when looking at the photos I couldn’t work up much energy to process any of them; I had to force myself to do this one. Moving on.


I liked the color and composition of this one, but I admit to having been too lazy to look up exactly what planes these are. It’s been tricky for me, processing shots of planes where the subject is so small; I’m used to getting right up on a plane as it lands like I’ve done in the past with commercial jets, but these were much higher in the sky and farther away than the planes I capture at airport observation areas. So even though these felt tiny to me, I found other things to appreciate. Also, I wasn’t able to slow my shutter speed down enough to blur the motion of the propellers; I tried, but my camera was still stopping the blades. If I’d slowed down the shutter any more, though, everything would have been blurry, so I quit trying.


Ah yes, I do know what these warbirds are – a B-17 and a Mustang P-51 (a TF-51D, actually, but I prefer to call it a P-51 because it sounds better). I’m so bummed there were no clouds in the sky as that would have really helped to project a sense of flying here; it almost looks like a shot of planes set against a light blue background, like an ad in a paper or something. I tried to cheat and add some clouds as a layer but it looked awful, so plain boring blue non sky-like background it is.

At times, though, the planes made their own clouds:


Again, such a small subject but at last, some texture to the sky! That’s a A6M2 Zero, by the way, a Japanese WWII fighter plane.

And now, for a few more Blue Angels shots:


This is one of those shots that’s been replicated a thousand times over, but at least mine is nice and crisp. And holy hell, how do those pilots not die doing this sort of thing? Amazing.

Now this one is a little weird:


I actually took the shot while focusing through a chain-link fence, and if you look at it from afar you can see the fence’s diamond pattern against the shot. It’s very big and blurry, but it’s there. Because of that, I edited the hell of it, adding an HDR filter through Photoshop and intensifying the color. It’s a little odd-looking and I’m not sure I like it, but at least it’s something different from the usual.

That’s all I’ve had time this week to edit, but in other news: SANDY’S BACK! She had surgery in mid-August and was not cleared to go back to massaging until October 20th, but I haven’t had time to get to her until this week. I knew I was in for an entertaining session when she told me what sort of surgery it had been: she had part of her colon removed. YEP. And as soon as I was face-down on that table she started telling me all about it. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that once again while my head hung over the massage table my jaw was hitting the floor. I don’t know anyone else who can literally make my mouth hang open in an odd mix of horror and hilarity like Sandy does. After sharing with me the specifics of what came out of her right after surgery (just a hint: the word “jelly” was used), she skipped ahead to her last day in the hospital, when the doctors refused to release her until she passed gas. “And no squeakers,” Sandy elaborated. “They wanted a sonic boom!” Just imagine, she mused, the one thing you spend your whole life trying to avoid doing in front of other people and one day you have to perform it for your doctors to get your ticket home. Oh Sandy, you have been missed.

Air Apparent

This past Saturday was the Wings Over Houston airshow, and for the second time I went with my father. Last year, the military were not involved with the show because of the government sequester, and it being my first trip I had no idea how much that impacted the crowd – but this year, the event was twice as crowded as last. And, there were loads more planes than last year, including the Blue Angels. It was a great show, and well worth the early rise time (I got up at 5 AM to be at my dad’s house by 7) and the hour-long line we had to stand in when the show was over and we went to catch a shuttle back to the park-and-ride. Now for the fun part: I took THREE THOUSAND PICTURES. How am I ever going to sort through them all?!

The Blue Angels

The sorting has already begun, actually, because the first thing I discovered Sunday morning after processing that shot above, was that everybody with a camera at the event took the exact same pictures as me. Once I realized it, it made perfect sense, but I admit there was a moment of disappointment in comprehending that of course we all took the same pictures, since we were all watching the same show. Allow me to share the example with you that enlightened me:

Hey! No fair!

I’d searched Wikipedia to read up a bit on the Blue Angels, and yep, there it was – my photo! Only, it was taken two years ago. The only difference is that the smoke trailing from one of the planes in the Wikipedia shot is gray whereas all of mine are white – other than that, it’s exactly the same. Once I got over my disappointment at realizing it was highly likely the majority of my awesome three thousand shots were not that awesome at all,  but were actually pretty damn common, it at least provided me with a starting point for culling through them. I decided to try and find more unique shots that perhaps not as many people bothered to capture, like this one:

An F-100F Super Sabre flying into a cloud of smoke during a demonstration

I’m not sure that particular shot works all that well. but certainly the dark smoky background is different than the usual. Unfortunately I didn’t quite get the back end of the plane into the frame, but that’s not always a necessity.

By the time the Angels came out to fly (they’re always the grand finale, and rightfully so) the moon was visible in the late-afternoon sky – it was a welcome appearance, since the sky this day was cloudless, and for aviation photographers clouds add so much  interest to a shot, as well as giving the pictures a better effect of being airborne. I’m sure many picture-snappers got shots of the Blue Angels flying over the moon, but mine has actually gotten 5 retweets and 10 favorites on Twitter, 3 of which were from Blue Angels pilots themselves, so I’m happy. Hey, don’t laugh – 5 retweets on a photo is more than I’ve ever gotten, so I’ll take it!


Aside from the sky being cloudless, it was a gorgeous but COLD day, at least for Houston (in the mid-forties all morning, and very breezy). I was wearing Ugg boots and my long Free People sweater, but I still had to go purchase a big fugly Wings Over Houston hoodie to keep from chattering my teeth off until mid-afternoon; I was quite the sight in my oh-so-fashionable outfit, including kicky scarf, and a big gray sweatshirt stuffed over all of it, but it’s not the Wings Over Houston Air and Fashion Show, so whatever. Plus, the morning chill gave way to an afternoon that was incredibly pleasant, especially when standing in the aforementioned shuttle bus line for an hour. And if you still felt cold, there was always this to warm you up:

The Shockwave Jet Truck

Yes, that’s a jet engine strapped to the cab of a semi, so yes, at some point in someone’s life this was actually considered a good enough idea to make it happen. It’s at the show every year, and while watching it reach speeds of up to 375 miles per hour doesn’t do anything for me, seeing it taxi past the crowd with flames leaping everywhere is pretty awesome. Makes for a nice picture too.

More Blue Angels shenanigans – yep, that’s actually two planes, one right side up and one upside down. Actually, I think this is how baby airplanes are made.

A funny story: at one point during the show, a group of four people came up right in front of us, carrying two poles attached to banners. They had on orange reflective vests that said “Oracle Team Polehandler” on the back, and to us they looked like they were at some point going to parade around with the banners advertising whatever Oracle sells. They sat down on the tarmac in front of us, and I was totally amused by the one female in the group who kept turning to face the crowd and take selfie after selfie (with the tarmac as a backdrop) on her iPhone. She seemed completely unaware of the fact that we could all see her sitting there smiling at her phone camera, and I admit to thinking her a bit oblivious – especially since a pretty amazing stunt flyer was putting on one hell of a show at the time. You would think the fact that the pilot’s stunt plane had the huge word ORACLE painted on it might have clued me in to something, but nope. Then her whole group got up, picked up their poles (in accordance with the title on their orange jackets) and marched themselves with precision over to the active runway, where they proceeded to stretch the thick ribbons that were attached to each pole across it and hold each end. Not soon after that, the completely obnoxious announcer (not the announcer for the whole show; ORACLE apparently had their own) told the crowd that the pilot was now going to perform his infamous “triple ribbon cut,” wherein he flies between each of three sets of poles, cutting each set of ribbons stretched across the runway with his plane – using the left wing for the first ribbon, the right wing for the second, and cutting the third ribbon with the fin of his plane while it’s inverted. WHUT?!

Oh yes he did – see the ribbons?

That teeny tiny person in the white shirt and black pants is the female in question, and after realizing she’d volunteered to stand on a runway and hold a pole while a plane hurtled towards her upside-down to cut some ribbons in half, I conceded her participation was totally worthy of multiple selfies (in fact, I want to find out how she got the gig so I can do it next year). And speaking of the obnoxious announcer, he must have said the pilot’s name a zillion times while describing his various death-defying stunts: SEAN D. TUCKER. He said his name so much, it reminded me of late-night infomercials that use repetition to make a product stick in the viewer’s brain. He also mentioned several times what EXCELLENT PHYSICAL CONDITION the pilot SEAN D. TUCKER was in to be able to endure the G forces while he performed his stunts, and I found myself wondering aloud if this was a performance or a personal ad. Either that, or perhaps the announcer had a serious crush on him. Either way, I decided to roll with it, and since SEAN D. TUCKER was in such EXCELLENT PHYSICAL CONDITION and so obviously proud of it, when he taxied by us after his demo was over I yelled out to him: Take off your shirt, SEAN D. TUCKER!!! OK, maybe I didn’t shout it, but I did mock-shout it to my dad and his friends so we could all get a good chuckle. Still, I think it’s possible SEAN D. TUCKER heard me:

Bask in the gloriousness that is SEAN D. TUCKER!! Actually, he is rather handsome.

My Canon 7D and my used eBay 70-200 lens did me proud, but I admit to suffering lens envy at some of the humongous ones the photogs in the media box were sporting. And while the Blue Angels were performing, a military photographer out on the tarmac stopped right in front of us to pop off some shots, and I drooled at how fast his continuous shooting was compared to mine. But in the end, I got some nice sharp shots with my little “cheap” setup. I still want to get my hands on the new 7D, but I’m wondering if a better zoom lens might be a smarter investment (they cost as much, if not more, than the new 7D camera body). I definitely saw the limitations of the lens today, and would have loved to get a bit more zoom as well as some image stabilization, so we’ll see which way I decide to go. If I move up to a lens that’s much bigger than the one I have, however, I’ll no longer be able to shoot without at least a monopod, which leads to a whole new set of limitations. Plus it might be ridiculous to have a $1600 lens strapped to a old-model 7D anyway. Moving on.

These are just the first shots I’ve had time to edit, and I’m not sure how I’m going to more forward with it all. I hate to bore the crap out of everyone with shot after shot of air show photos, but in the end, if it’s where I’m at and what I’m into, why would I do anything else with my time? So love my plane photos or leave them, people. Because they’re gonna be around for awhile!

Plane Storm!

Saturday morning I got up early to spend way too much money on new carpet. It’s ridiculous how much such things cost, but it is what it is. After that was done, I came home and found myself feeling a little down. I’ve been doing so much running around the past two weeks for the house that I haven’t really settled into the usual blissful lethargy of summer; I’ve been feeling antsy whenever I have a few free minutes, as if there’s some other errand I should be running. So as soon as I started feeling blue I decided picture-taking was in order, but I didn’t feel like gussying up for any portraits or jumping; in fact, I didn’t feel like doing any setup at all (I briefly considered more macro shots but couldn’t be bothered to set up the studio for them). I just wanted to grab a camera and go – so I pulled up my Flightradar24 app on my iPad and checked out the traffic at Hobby Airport. Lo and behold, there were a few planes scheduled to land that afternoon that were not Southwest Airlines planes (some JetBlues, Deltas, Americans, and a TransAir) and they were all coming in between 4 and 5 PM, so around 2:45 I grabbed my 7D and my 70-200mm and headed on out.


Hobby is about 50 minutes from my house, as long as traffic cooperates, which it did this day. I managed to snap the American airliner and the JetBlue, but missed the Delta and the TransAir – perhaps they landed on a different runway (Hobby is pretty small so the planes are hard to miss, but the observation areas only cover one runway, so it’s possible). I made sure to set my shutter speed higher this time, and my ISO lower, so I think I got better-quality shots this time out, not that I was unhappy with my last shots, they were just a little grainy and soft.


The sky came out nice in some of these too; there were sporadic showers all over the city as there always are this time of year, but none of them sprung up over HOU while I was there. It was hot as hell, but I just sat in the car with the engine and AC running and waited for the planes to arrive. For the most part I was not alone, and there was at least one other car hanging around waiting to take photos or video of the planes coming in. Usually I see people with little kids watching the planes take off and land, which is nice. And speaking of video, since I already have so many shots of Southwest planes, I experimented with taking video as they were landing. Some of the video was terrible, but I spliced two together here that aren’t bad; you can at least get a feel for how close the observation area is to the runway. It’s really exhilarating to witness:

Here’s one more of the American Eagle I snapped. Googling the registration number brings up lots of other photos of this plane; it’s cool to see where else a plane you photographed has been. Also, I have a friend who is a pilot for JetBlue, and she says she occasionally looks up the registration number of planes she flies to see if she can find any pictures of herself flying it (she can look it up by the date the photo is taken and know if she was the pilot). If you want to see some photographic history of this particular plane, try going here.


My one stupid mistake of the day (because apparently I have to make at least one) was not changing my custom white balance setting back to Auto; I totally forgot that the last time I used my 7D I had a custom setting, which was set using my studio lighting. So I had to mess with the color a bit to get it right when processing the shots. But other than that, I’m pleased with how these turned out. Lots of private places landing at HOU today too:


One thing about the shot above: I didn’t realize it was a propeller plane until it was too late to change my shutter speed. What you want to do when photographing a prop plane is slow the shutter down as much as you can so that you don’t “stop” the motion of the propellers, like I did here. When the shutter speed is slower, the propellers are just two circular blurs, which gives a much  better impression of a plane in motion. Oh well. Also, these private planes fly in much lower than the big jets, so it’s harder for me to get decent shots of them over the barbed wire fence. By the time they’re right next to me, they’re already below the fence line. In the next shot, the fence was just below the frame:


All in all, I took about 500 shots and was back home by 6 PM. It was a perfect little jaunt for the day, and gave me plenty to work with for the evening. At some point I will have to venture out to IAH in the same manner; I hesitate because it’s a longer trip, but now that I know what I’m doing photographically (more or less) I’m pretty confident I could make the trip and have something to show for it at the end no matter what. Checking Flightradar was definitely a good idea as it ensured I was there at a time when traffic was high, and I was able to slip in, get my shots, and leave without too much hassle. The only disappointment was when I tried out the second observation area (at the other end of this same runway) and didn’t get any shots of planes taking off. One was taking off right as I pulled into the parking lot, which made me think more would be coming, but I got into place and waited for about 20 minutes to no avail. I’ve never been able to get shots from that lot, where the planes take off right over the heads of observers. It’s nice to have the other area see a lot of traffic, but it means I only get the same angles over and over and I’d like to get some shots going right over my head. More reason to try out IAH sometime soon too.

For now, I’ll finish up with a few Southwest Airlines shots, and share the JetBlues and a few more private planes tomorrow. You can check out some flight history of this last plane here. but there’s not much, because it’s a newbie – only two months old!



Terminal History

At last, I have edited more pictures from my trip with my dad to the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. It’s the site of what was the original terminal for Hobby Airport, which opened in, not surprisingly, 1940.

museum front_Snapseed
This photo looks a lot like the photo on the website, the difference being I took this one. Also my dad is in the window. Other than those two things, it’s the museum sign, yep.

I was so excited to get out the back door and onto the tarmac that I didn’t take pictures of much else, but here’s a longer shot of the entrance:

museum front big_Snapseed

I have to tell you that as I look at these photos of the front entrance, all I can think about is that I locked my keys in the car when we were there, and we spent a ridiculous amount of time standing around in that parking lot during the heat of the day waiting for AAA to show up and break into my car. Except, once that happened, we discovered that my keys were not in my car at all, and had fallen out of my purse somehow and gotten lost somewhere in the museum or behind it where all the planes were. So my dad and I, along with all the museum volunteers, spent an hour or two scouring the place looking for my keys, only to have me discover while talking to a volunteer and glancing down into my purse that they were actually stuck in a side pocket the whole time. Mind you – this is after AAA showed up and broke into my car. I was too mortified to tell anyone, and kept it a secret until I got my dad alone so we could share a good laugh over the absurdity of it (the whole time I thought they were lost I kept repeating “this doesn’t make sense, I never lose my keys!” over and over, turned out I was right). Then we both decided not to tell the volunteers a thing about it, walked out to my car and pretended to dig around in the trunk some more, and came back in claiming the keys had been buried under the trunk lining. Good times.

museum foyer_Snapseed
The museum’s foyer, restored to its original appearance. The museum hasn’t been open long, and does not yet have the funds to restore the second floor, so it is off-limits. Also, I think all of those people are looking for my keys.

One funny thing about the lost-keys fiasco was how one-track-minded the volunteers were about the whole airplane thing. Most of the volunteers and visitors were male, slightly older than middle-aged, and plane enthusiasts of one stripe or another. Many were photographers. There were a few married couples with small children wandering about, but overall it was an older male crowd. And me. It was also one of the friendliest groups I’ve been around in some time – full of information and ready to share. I had people suggesting good camera settings and spots to take pictures as well as offering background of different planes that were on the runway, like these planes, which are apparently planes from other countries that flew into the airport and were confiscated for one  reason or another:


But back to the lost keys: so there we were, my dad and I, on my cell phone trying to call AAA and figure out the address to the museum. At this point I’m a little panicked because I don’t yet realize, of course, that I do have a way to start my car and get us out of there, and I’m wondering just how long we’re going to be stuck at the airport. Then in the middle of all that a man with a camera slung around his shoulder came over, exclaiming excitedly that a Frontier Airlines jet was about to queue up on the runway, and it was really rare to get a glimpse of one there, and I really should grab my camera and get ready to take pictures. I kept explaining to him, no really sir, I am on the phone with triple A, you see I HAVE LOST MY KEYS and am trying to find them, so no I really do not want to go take pictures of a Frontier Airlines jet right now, thank you. He totally did not get it. It was something else my dad and I laughed about later, how when a good jet came up the runway, no one cared about anything else in the slightest. Of course, when I looked up their airplanes on Google, they do look pretty cool, and I’m rather sorry now I didn’t just go outside for the ten minutes it would have taken to snap the photos and continued with my car key search afterwards, especially now that I know my keys weren’t lost after all.

One of the planes you can view from the tarmac behind the museum

We also missed out on the opportunity to walk with a volunteer down to “the hangar” as they kept calling it, to view some planes up close and personal that I gathered were kind of a big deal, but again, car keys.


It was such an enjoyable day, and I’d really like to get back there again. Of course, there’s the whole car-key humiliation to deal with, but it’s been awhile now so perhaps they’ve forgotten. I think the fundraiser this month is titled “Learn How To Fly Day” so I probably should sit this one out as I’d most likely lose the keys to the plane and ruin everyone’s day. But I gotta go back sometime to get a photo of a Frontier Airlines jet, if nothing else.

One of the many planes I will not be flying