Flight: Spain: Delta de l’Ebre

This flight set my record for maximum photographs taken in one day: 5,102. Cycling between three time-synced cameras, it was a quite a dance in the cockpit all day, flying down to Reus, refueling, then to the Delta, back to Reus for fuel, and then home. I had the joy of flying over five miles out to sea to avoid restricted airspace (I don’t like overflight of water), and had a cornucopia of microclimates: mountain waves and turbulence leaving the Pyrenees, pleasant temps in the rolling Mediterranean hills and forests, followed by an inferno on the ground in Reus. Föhn winds were in full force, which then collided with the sea breeze over the Delta itself, causing temps to come down again, followed by a literal wallop into the land air mass when I impacted the convergence point near the shoreline again. On the way home, the coastal air mass interacted with the Pyrenees, creating a massive wall of clouds towering into the sky, though I was able to sneak through a hole at 9,000 feet over Cadí-Moixeró and wedge home.

For the perceptively gifted, one may note that the images were taken in summer. “Is this schmuck that far behind?” August and later September snowfall upset my workflow, and then there was that whole referendum thing in October. I am recouping key flights that I missed in between these noteworthy events so I can, I don’t know, get on some sort of compulsively precise schedule.

Mountain waves – La Cerdanya

Montserrat, infrared.

Mediterranean hills between Montserrat and Reus

Parc Natural Els Ports – fresh up here, hell on the left horizon.

Descending toward the coast.

Reus Airport – hotter than hell and all of the staff could care less about refueling. Lovely jet in the background.

Mediterranean, infrared. Kind of bleak looking.

Visible spectrum. Costa Daurada (“Gold Coast”).

Won’t be landing on the beach if the engine quits. Why do people pay premium prices to vacation like sardines? Prison is cheaper.

Heading out to sea to avoid nuke plant. Not particularly thrilled.

Fish farms.

Approaching the Delta de l’Ebre.

Mussel farms.

Rice farms on the delta. In would be hilarious if the locals shared cultural characteristics with Louisiana bayou dwellers, though I doubt it.


More mussel farms, west side of Delta.

Infrared salt evaporation ponds.

Salt evaporation ponds.

More rice nonsense.

Sod farm with rice and the Ebro River behind it.

Ebro meets the Mediterranean, infrared.

Right here I smacked into the land air mass, resulting in a rapid 300 foot ascent.

Tarragona port facilities, infrared.

Tarragona

Windsurfer.

Tarragona.

Tree.

En route home.

Cars. This is literally practically in the middle of nowhere.

Entering the Pyrenees.

Oh, that wall of clouds…

Sneaking over Cadí-Moixeró.

Flight: Spain, France: Menacing Rainbow of Death

I have always had an attraction to chasing rainbows in the airplane. The problem is, it is very hard to do, as rainbows tend to come after thunderstorms, and pilots are suggested to furnish 20 miles of clearance away from any thunderstorm activity. That advice is a death blow to the idea….unless it is ignored.

I had some fanciful notion that, when some thunderstorms blew through, I’d get some great lighting. Then I got this idea that a rainbow would show itself. I sort of just “knew” that it would. The problem is, the storm was quite raging, windy, and angry, and my logic sequences were firing warnings over and over while I waited.

First, it was the black clouds and wind. Then when that came and was replaced by a heavy downpour, I began preflighting the airplane in the hangar. As the heavy rain turned into a moderate rain shower, with light showing on the backside of the storm, I pulled the airplane out, jumping in before I got too soaked. I performed a runup as the rain switched from moderate to light, and taxied to the end of runway 07 with the light rain transitioning to clouds. Lined up and ready to go with the rain still falling, I was waiting for that sensible (ha! If there is anything “sensible” about this plan) moment to take off. Just then, a beam of sun materialized in front of me, followed by a rainbow right off the nose. Full power and I was off….

Rainbows tend to be fleeting. The truth behind that statement is because, over one point on the surface of the earth, rainbows do not last long as the storm moves away and people tend to stay where they are. This flight proved that the rainbow itself lasts longer…one just needs to chase it.

That I did, into France, back into Spain, and up into the mountains, until the sun set, and then I came back home. It was quite a flight.

Note: All black and white images are infrared.

Statue at La Cerdanya Aerodrome: a woman with breasts, wings, and no head – all that matters to Spanish male pilots.

Taxiway and runway with impending storm.

Menacing, swirling clouds.

That sensible moment to take off.

To get a stronger rainbow, I have to turn the polarizer to the opposite setting I normally do. The better setting for contrast virtually erases the rainbow.

Puigcerdà. The rainbow is closer, and arcing around without contacting the ground, which means I am in the rain. That would have been quite correct as I was getting wet with the door open.

Imagine that, infrared captures the rainbow too!

The money shot! This is the cover for book number 14, with the aerodrome in the foreground.

Looking the other way, things are nice and idyllic.

Appears the rainbow is winding down over Osseja, France.

Not really – still going! A delightful combination of thunderstorm, rainbow, and mountains beckons.

Puigmal (9,500 feet or so). France left, Spain right.

The white on the ridges is hail from the storm.

Book #13: Around the Summit: Flying Grand Teton

I am extremely proud of this latest release. I had initially planned to do a book on Grand Teton National Park when I came to Wyoming, though I didn’t have an idea of how it would turn out. My first books had a defined list of items, whereas this was a smaller space, and it would be a matter of what I found, and how it looked.

It turns out, I became what I consider to be a ‘real’ mountain flying pilot during the course of this project. Prior to the Tetons, I tended to go up on nicer days and keep some reasonable distance from towering peaks. By the second time I flew over the Tetons, I was getting close. By the third, I found I could wedge myself between clouds, peaks below, and peaks towering into said clouds. Over time, it became possible to add layers of clouds, snaking through holes and popping out in various areas, either sandwiched between layers, or top of the whole thing.

Then came the coup de grace: 35 knot winds with outside air temperatures of minus 30F, with an overcast layer beneath. An image from that flight made the cover of the book. I should be glad I didn’t get frostbite with the door open in temperatures like that! It is also noteworthy that I found that high wind didn’t necessarily mean downdrafts or turbulence: many times it was serene, with placid air despite the wind.

The book covers just about every square inch of the park: its glaciers, mountains, lakes, forests, and everything else. If the three Teton peaks did not exist, the rest of the park would still be considered noteworthy; we simply do not notice it because of the main feature. I spent a lot of time with the airplane in harsh backcountry areas taking photos.

Flight: France: Provence Lavender, Languedoc Wine Region

I was admittedly unsure where the lavender specifically was when I arrived in Provence, and a quick conversation with a French pilot pointed me the right direction. I had fortunately picked a good starting point, and it would be a pleasant flight around Le Luberon to see fields in full color.

As was the case in Holland with tulips in full bloom, the fields were not 100% coverage, and what is more, the colors are best at a 40-degree angle. That generally means that every field one mile away looks stunning, while the fields beneath look lackluster in color. After about 20 minutes of vainly chasing the supposed superior colors yet another mile away, I finally figured out I was getting bamboozled by light angles, and then it took another 20 minutes to figure out how to get some decent imagery. Usually that involves much larger fields, which allow some angle, lower altitude, and some determination.

I distinctly recall a very warm and fuzzy feeling while over the town of Sault, which is famous for its lavender, thinking that doing it in the good old vintage airplane from New York is a far superior method for tourism of renowned locales. That, and I was quite pleased to have gone somewhere else I had been wanting to go for a long time.

The flight home was the next day, also featured in this post, which involved almost no wind, as the Tramontane and La Mistral wind features had died down. That also meant that Mediterranean haze began to ooze inland, which meant landscape photos weren’t so hot. You’ll see a few examples as I climbed into the Pyrenees.

I made my worst landing in five years, despite the bright sun and null wind. I’ll blame it on having taken almost 11,000 photos in three days over 17 hours of flying time. The last flying bender of this magnitude was done in September 2015, and, well, I am still writing the book(s) from the photos I took back then.

Lavender

Lavender with wheat.

Example of irritatingly lackluster color.

Lower Luberon, infrared.

Approaching Apt, infrared.

Near Apt.

Rhône River, near Avignon, infrared. The controller kept telling me not to overfly the “Pry Zone.” It took a bit to figure out he was referring to a prison.

Either the French have taken to building coliseums, or the Romans did it in more places than just Rome. Nimes.

That looks like rather miserable work.

Much better! Making agricultural hard labor look trendy and hipster. 

Languedoc wine region. Note a bit of sea haze oozing in.

Some form of monastery, convent, or other semi-administrative ecclesiastical complex. While not in the photo, I did see a few crosses in inventory, literally laying around on the ground.

I am unsure what this is, though the message is loud and clear. “Ours is bigger than yours.” To think that such things were built centuries ago….

Yay feudalism!

Languedoc, infrared.

More long, cylindrical poles to add to my global collection.

I believe this is part of the “Avenue of the Castles,” though I am not certain. Infrared. Visible image of the same thing is useless due to haze.

Ascending the Pyrenees. This image is post processed to death and the haze is still a bit excessive.

Pic Canigou, with abundantly clear haze layer.

Pyrenees ascent, with haze lowering a bit.

Now the haze has dropped 70%, as I have climbed over the skank layer evident in the Canigou photo, hence the rationale for living in the Pyrenees and whining about how hard it is to fly down lower and get good photos.

Val du Capcir, infrared.

Les Angles

Puigcerdà, Catalunya, taken while over France.