Flights: Spain: 590nm Infrared vs 830nm Infrared vs Visible Spectrum

I really didn’t think the day would come like this, but it did. I got bored with aerial photography – too repetitive. So…. I bought another infrared camera! This one is 590nm wavelength as opposed to my existing camera, which is 830nm. 830nm is mostly black and white, with a touch of blue if properly channel swapped. 590nm allows for black and white plus yellow, which is normally reserved for foliage. I would end up with permanent autumn, which is a majestic season, so I was sold.

Last May, the camera came pretty quick with a small bill from customs. This time? All hell broke loose and a flamenco dance of paperwork ensued with Madrid, resulting in an equally small bill from customs, though laden with more pieces of paper to make everyone happy. The camera arrived precisely as my airplane was out of service, so my alleviation of boredom became an exacerbated case of coitus interruptus.

Finally, I was able to haul all 4 cameras up into the airplane and try some test shots. Initial results are mixed. 590nm is much more sensitive to overexposure, whereas 830nm is practically bulletproof. Blue is overkill right now on 590nm, and I haven’t figured out how to selectively tone down the blue hues in certain areas, and will probably have to whore myself by paying for some training in Photoshop, as selective color desaturation in a limited area is a more elevated task that I cannot due in Lightroom. The bottom line is that winter is not the greatest for any infrared photography, and the visible spectrum wins the trophy. As I get a chance to descend into the lower Mediterranean forests, I am sure the 590nm will begin to show some interesting results, equally as much as spring will probably be quite a treat. Some comparative imagery is below from initial flight tests.

First flight: visible. Obviously not the greatest day for photos.

First flight: 590nm.

Note light sensitivity in the cloud. This is worse than visible, whereas 830nm is better than visible. 

Second flight, visible.

Second flight, 590nm.

I do like how it shows the shadowed pines so brightly, though the washed out tones are going to require some practice and tuning.

Third flight: visible spectrum.

Visible again. Clearly it snowed.

830nm infrared. Note a tiny bit of blue in the upper right, otherwise dull.

And 590nm infrared. The snow comes back blue, of which I severely desaturated. Almost zero yellow to be found anywhere. 590 actually comes back brighter than 830….

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.

Flight: France: Mediterranean Coast, Camargue Delta

I was going to provide lavender photos, and there are too many pretty pictures of the French coastline on the way, so I am going to break this one up. This post contains images along the Mediterranean Sea from Perpignan, France to the Rhône River, and a few north as I head to Carpentras to refuel. The lavender will come next.

As mentioned in the last post, the wind the day before was screaming, so I ran off to the Spanish desert instead. On this day, it went from “screaming” to, I don’t know, something like “maximum an idiot would fly in,” though it meant the air was quite clear. Both the Tramontane and Mistral winds were raging, which are funnels between the Massif Central and either the Pyrenees (Tramontane) and Alps (Mistral), making for an incredibly rapid weather transition zone in the South of France, dry air, and just plain angry wind.

Fortunately, the wind has a bit of a shadow, sometimes, in between the two events. Therefore, I chose fueling stops near Montpellier and east of Avignon, out of the line of fire. Wind during flight can be disconcerting, though it’s the landing that really matters. I did break my record for slowest groundspeed in the Cub: 37 knots at cruise power, which means I was hitting a 30kt to 35kt headwind for a period of time along the Rhône River, though it was oddly free of turbulence.

La Perche Pass, France. Ground elevation roughly 5,000 feet.

Leucate, north of Perpignan.

Marshes and salt ponds, infrared.

And in color….

Windsurfers.

Windsurfers in action. I was barely passing the guy on the right due to how hard the wind was blowing.

Note how hard the wind is blowing from shore to sea. The ripples are quite strong for such a short fetch. 

For some enigmatic reason, the wind was creating lift, and I was under a military no-fly zone at 800 feet, so I head to power back to only 1800RPM to not go up any higher.

Pervert in a Piper Cub? No naked French people here, though I doubt the lady with exposed cleavage and large breasts (left, center) anticipated anyone directly overhead….

Agde

Agde, infrared.

Here I go invading privacy again, though no nudity. There is a lady reclining in the bow of the boat, again probably not anticipating an airplane when arranging beachwear.

Agde

I don’t know enough about the French to understand their proclivity for strange architectural experiments.

Sète

A markedly different way to memorialize the deceased. Sète again.

Frontignan, infrared.

Frontignan, in an almost horrifying juxtaposition to visible spectrum.

Carnon Plage, Aéroport de Montpellier Méditerranée in the back left.

Le Grande-Motte

Etang d’Or, final approach to fuel stop in Candillargue.

Salt ponds, Camargue Delta.

Infrared.

Not infrared.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Helicopter

Plage de Beauduc

Reminds me of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, except for the ocean color.


Self-evident statement: lighthouse.

Heading inland….

Rhône River, at 40 miles per hour. Note the ripples indicating wind.

Chateau, south of Paradou. No name on Google Maps, so it must be private.

Massif des Alpilles. It was rather….warm.

Durance River. Color is authentic, not doctored. I believe it comes from rock silt off the alps, as the Rhône looked similar in Grenoble a year prior. Avignon airport in the background.

Book: American Texture: Canvas from the Sky

Number twelve is the first of a new project style: a national focus. I started gathering images for this one back in 2011, when I first discovered that zoom images without a horizon could be compelling and interesting. Over the years, I kept snapping pictures here and there of textures and patterns that I stumbled across while flying across America. Now that I am in Europe, the time finally came to put the American images together in their own work.

Since coming to Europe, I have been focusing perhaps a bit…obsessively…on textures and patterns as found here. Book #12 is really the opening act of this subject, as I have enough images already to write a few more. I am still figuring out how I want to put those together, so stand by while I keep hoarding thousands more….

Cover: Great Salt Lake, Utah

 

 

Flight: Spain: Mequinenza, Monegros, Central Catalonian Depression

I was going to fly to Provence to photograph rolling fields of lavender, and the weather bombed out. Winds were extreme in the South of France, though it was otherwise pretty in Spain, so I decided to head west and see a sliver of the Catalonian Central Depression and Monegros Desert that I had missed before. It turned out to be a long flight with 4,000 photos taken, so I was good and worn out for my binge flight I took the next day to Provence. Stay tuned for those pictures.

El Pedraforca (2.506m), from below.

Pantà de la Llosa del Cavall, Infrared

Pantà de la Llosa del Cavall, not Infrared

Solsona in the center left, Montserrat on the left horizon.

Wheat field – is this how crop circles start?

Harvested wheat with a squiggly road.

Intersection of drylands and irrigated farmland, Catalonian Central Depression. Note aqueduct.

La Fuliola

Vineyards or something. Whatever it is, its dry and hot.

Peach orchard.

Road through peach orchards.

Peach orchards, Aitona. I photographed these full of purple flowers in March.

Embalse de Ribarroja, Ebro River. Happens to be Catalonia left, Aragón right.

Same thing, not in infrared.

Mequinenza Reservoir.

Arroyo de Valcuerna

Monegros. I truly love this place, even if its a scorned hellscape. 

Bujaraloz, with irrigated corn. Quite a contrast.

Somewhere in Aragón.

Near Lleida

Reservoir near Santa Ana. It is more or less the Catalunya/Aragón border again.

Serra del Montsec

Pantà de Camarasa

Embassament de Terradets, infrared.

Serra del Monstec, infrared.

Riu Segre, infrared.

Flight: France: July Snow & Surfing the Wave

It has been said that it can snow in this neck of the woods 12 months out of the year. For a semi-arid Mediterranean area, that is a paradoxical assumption, and this post has some evidence that it can snow in July. So far, I have provided photographic proof in every other month of the year on the blog.

I don’t really know where the cold air comes from, per se. It is usually a north wind that causes the summer events, though to the north is the broad surface of France, with water to the west and north of that. Summer ocean temperatures alone do not explain sufficient cooling to allow for snow to fall here at only 9,000 feet. While Russia can provide a distant conveyor belt of cold air, that is a rare phenomenon. I suspect there is something to do with evaporative cooling or general characteristics of Western Europe that allow for seemingly disproportionate amounts of cold pooling to occur in the upper atmosphere, which occasionally get brought down to earth during strong high pressure events.

Anyway, there was a strong mountain wave with this north wind event, and I said, more or less, “Screw it!” and decided to fly up into the wave. Perhaps because there was not snow all over the Pyrenees, I felt like punishing winds would be softer on the airframe? Who knows what drives these ambitions.

Mountain wave drying out in Chinook effect. Infrared.

July Snow (1 of 9)

Approaching the wave. Enigmatically, it is raining beneath me with no clouds….
July Snow (3 of 9)

Descending and drying air off of Pic Carlit. Infrared.
July Snow (4 of 9)

What did I expect to see above the clouds? The satellite told me it is overcast in this direction all the way to Paris.
July Snow (5 of 9)

12,500 feet or so. Note lenticularis clouds high up and in the distance. It was….breezy.
July Snow (6 of 9)

La Cerdanya
July Snow (7 of 9)

Puigmal (9,554′ / 2.913m) with a little bit of snow from the prior night. For some reason, I cannot remember mountain peak heights in meters, whereas I can autistically remember an absurd amount of peaks in America.
July Snow (8 of 9)

Hike later in the day at 7,500 feet. Who doesn’t love horses? Depending on your perspective, this is either the tender and moving image of equine maternal love….or a horse’s ass.
July Snow (9 of 9)

Flight: Catalonia: Change of Sovereignty

The weather has been idyllic and pleasant, with afternoon temps in the 70s, blue skies, and fall color. I decided to wander over to the airport, unsure if I would fly. The day was nice, though the haze was persistent and enigmatic given the weather forecast models calling for hefty Tramontane activity, which usually heralds dry and clear air. Upon arrival, I decided to assemble my new tool chest, and then decided to take a flight “just for fun,” without the cameras for the first time in a long time. The doors would be wide open (no fear of cameras falling out), and I might have a little fun too.

Takeoff was at 1800RPM, because I can. That translates into less than 40 horsepower, and yet the plane still takes off and climbs slowly. As I was in the downwind of the pattern, devising some other sort of antics to do after landing, another pilot asked me on the frequency what I think of independence. “Independence? Did they declare?” “Yes, about 10 minutes ago.”

Of all days to fly “just to have fun” and without the camera, a god damn country forms while I am not looking! Another pilot announced on the radio: “You took off in Spain and you’ll land in Catalunya.”

While that has some fun drama, the newly declared Republic of Catalunya may have occurred while performing the preflight runup. It is somewhat ambiguous as to when the moment itself happened. Nonetheless, I grabbed the cameras and went back up for the first photo documented flight in the Republic of Catalunya.

Now, let’s be honest, it may not last long. It may be an actual declaration that holds. Surely, things are going to get worse before they get better. The mere concept of Catalunya does not fit into the post WWII model – either right or left. The European Union is based on the inviolate autonomy of the existing nation state, in answer to more than 1,000 years of European bloodshed. Things like Catalunya do not fit into this framework, so the whole of Europe will be watching, with angst, as to what happens. If Catalunya can successfully pull it off, nobody will like it. If bodies start hitting the floor in Barcelona during Madrid’s smack down, nobody will like it. It is going to be an interesting ride.

Fontanals
Catalunya! (1 of 9)

Estoll
Catalunya! (2 of 9)

Alp
Catalunya! (3 of 9)

Das
Catalunya! (4 of 9)

Urus
Catalunya! (5 of 9)

Bellver
Catalunya! (6 of 9)

Roundabout
Catalunya! (7 of 9)

On final….
Catalunya! (8 of 9)

Still on final….
Catalunya! (9 of 9)