Friday, April 15, 2005

Look Ma, No Roots!

The plant in the crook of this giant oak is a Tillandsia Utriculata, or the Giant Wild Pine Epiphyte (and it took me an awful long time to find out the name...). These plants live up in the crowns of trees, drawing their food and water from the air around them, catching whatever happens to fall in their direction. They grab onto a branch with root-like structures, but those structures provide no nourishment to the plant like normal roots. This particular plant started out in a small tree off to the side of one of the buildings here at work, but was blown down during one of the hurricanes. I put it in the tree where you see it now about 8 months ago, where it has thrived ever since. There is a large spike visible in the picture above, coming out of the top center of the plant, which means the plant is about to bloom. After it has finished blooming, it will die. Actually, the picture above is several weeks old. The spike has nearly tripled in height now, and is starting to branch out at the top. I don't think they ever produce actual flowers, but I'm hoping we might get lucky.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Blastin' From The Past

Things just get stranger and stranger. For those of you who are still checking my blog, here's a little golden oldie from 1988. Graduation day at the Lakeland Civic Center for Lake Gibson Senior High School. Naturally, I'm the one in white (I graduated second in my class), while the other guys in the picture (L to R) are Lex Little, Tiki Bakshi, errr, Steve something, his last name escapes me, and Shawn Reynolds. I barely remember it...

Oodles of Doodles XIII

Lucky number 13 is another western scene, this time from Gordon MacRae-Cowboy's Lament (Capitol T834, 1957). I figure these doodles were popular because they could be cheaply printed, saving those almighty dollars for the bigwigs back at the tower. But they are still quite attractive, even if they were only a way to get out of having to pay for full color printing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Superiority Through (Last Year's) Airpower

I bragged a little about getting better pictures at last year's Airfest, so I figured I'd best put my money where my mouth is. Here are a couple of choice shots from 2004. (2004 was the first airshow they held after 9/11, so they really pulled out all the stops.)

This display of WWII and modern firepower was very impressive. The prop plane had to fly for all it was worth, and the two jets had to throttle back to something close to stall speed, but they were still able to hold formation for several passes.

Last year's show featured the Blue Angels instead of the Thunderbirds, which was a little odd since the Blue Angels are Navy planes, and Macdill is an Air Force base. but whatever. I managed to get a single shot of one of the times they flew directly at each other. The closing speed between the two planes was over 1200 mph! Talk about your lucky shots...

PS-In the not-too-distant future, I hope to make it up to the Pensacola Naval Air Station, and their museum. I went there once a long, long time ago, and I remember enjoying it then. I'm sure I'd enjoy it more now that I have my camera. Stay tuned...

Superiority Through Airpower X

Sometimes, the best shot is of the people on the ground instead of the planes in the sky. (Except for that one guy who seems strangely uninterested in the spectacle taking place above him. Hmmm...)

Superiority Through Airpower IX

The grand finale of the airfest was a performance by the USAF Thunderbirds. For most of the day, their planes sat out on the tarmac, eight of them all in a row, just hinting at what was to come. Around noon, they fired up all of the planes just to give a little tease of the demo that was coming. Not long after the checkout, they towed a few of the planes off, leaving only the six below. You can see the cockpits are now open, waiting for the pilots to climb back in.

The photo below is a closeup of one of the planes on the ground. I don't know why the plane number is upside down...

Finally, the planes made it into the air, and what a show. When you see a show like this, it's easy to understand why America is still the greatest country on Earth. The sheer power and grace exhibited by these planes and their pilots is amazing. Look closely at the photo below, and you'll notice that one of the planes is right side up, while the other is inverted. (I took lots of pictures of single planes flying inverted, but it's not impressive since it looks like I flipped the picture over...)

The biggest part of the Thunderbirds show was their tight formation flying. They did passes with 2, 3, 4 or all 6 of the planes flying together. They sometimes had planes flying straight at each other at speeds over 600 mph, only for them to turn at the last second and fly straight upwards.

All in all, it was an amazing show, and one I can highly recommend. From a photographer's point of view, it's tough to get good shots. You have to be super quick on the shutter, and even then you won't get a lot of shots. From the ground, these guys are always backlit, and moving at speeds that mean they can move in and out of focus in an instant. I caught plenty of blurry images, as well as shots of empty blue sky.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Oodles of Doodles XII

Today's doodle is from the back side of Jackie Gleason-Presents Lover's Rhapsody (Capitol H366, 1953). It's the first doodle we've presented that comes from a 10" LP. The liner notes claim that this is Jackie's second LP. I'd never seen it before, so I picked it up, and was happy to find a lovely doodle of a lovely lady on the back. There are several photographs on the front of a Ms. Jane Easton, so I'd have to guess this doodle is also of Ms. Easton. No hint as to who the artist is, though.

Superiority Through Airpower VIII

OK, one more quick Airfest picture before I call it a day. Those of you who live here in Florida may be familiar with hurricanes. No, not the University of Miami football team, the giant storms that menace us during the summer. The plane above is the one that NOAA sends out to check on the storms, the one they talk about on the news all the time when hurricanes threaten. Imagine being in that relatively small plane, and flying through a storm with winds of 150 mph...

Why does it say US Department of Commerce on the side? I think that NOAA is a divison of the Department of Commerce. What you can't see on the side are the little stickers with hurricane icons on them, each marking a storm that this plane flew into.

Tri-Motored Heron

One of the more skittish birds I try to photograph is the tri-colored heron. Whenever I spot one, they are usually on the wing, trying to get out of camera range. But this fellow was nice enough to pose politely for a few moments atop a dam at Red Bug Slough Preserve in Sarasota.

Other than this birdy, there wasn't too much else to see. Maybe at a different time of year, you'd be more likely to see interesting things. I saw quite a few of the flowers below, which are sort of pretty, and I have no idea what they are called. They seem to sprout up from some sort of grass, and the flowers look almost like nothing more than some bird poop on a long grass stem. But closer examination reveals this not to be the case, as you can see in the detail below.

Oscar (Not Grouch)

Some of you may be getting tired of the pictures from the airshow, so just for a change of pace, here are some pictures from my trip out Sunday. I visited Oscar Scherer State Park, which is just south of Sarasota on US 41. Not sure why I'd never been, but it may have had something to do with the $4 cover charge. But once I got in, there was plenty to see and do. The shot above is the beautiful blossom of the coral bean plant. They are absolutely gorgeous when they are in bloom, but the rest of the year they are the sort of thing you hire lawn people to get rid of. They are composed of long thorny stems that will hurt you if you are unlucky enough to run into one. But those flowers...

The caterpillars above seemed to be really enjoying the fern they had just devoured, crawling up and down each stem to make sure they hadn't left anything edible behind.

They say that beauty is where you find it, and also in the eye of the beholder, so that may be two strikes against this little scene. What you are looking at is the aftermath of a forest fire on a palmetto bush. The fire killed part of a new frond that hadn't emerged from the stalk of the plant yet. That's the brown part of the fan. The green part you see survived the fire. Then the whole thing sprouted, and voila! I think it makes for a nice picture, with the juxtaposition of the two colors like that.

Superiority Through Airpower VII

One of the more anticipated events at Airfest was the flyover of the B1 bomber. We were told over the PA that it was only going to make one pass, and then they started telling us how far out it was. Slowly but surely the distance to fly-by got less and less, then there it was. No time to take more than a single picture, so what you see above is all I got. It was almost flying across the sun when I got my finger on the trigger, so I apologize for the rather interesting coloration. Macdill was one of 6 airshows this stealthy baby was visiting that day, and they made a big deal about how it was a 'training mission', not a joy ride to half a dozen airshows. Yeah, right.

Last year, we were treated to a double flyover by a B2 stealth bomber (it flew one way, then back the other way...), as well as a series of demonstrations of the F-117 stealth fighter. They even had a F-117 on the ground that you could get fairly close to, but not so close that you could touch it. It was also very well guarded, so you couldn't have laid a finger on it if you tried.

Superiority Through Airpower VI

Now that's power! You wouldn't want to be standing anywhere near these things when the pilot fires up the turbines.

Superiority Through Airpower V

Sometime towards the end of the day, people at the airshow started gathering on the flightline to watch the final act of the day. But the guys above had the best seat in the house, out on the wing of this cargo plane. I asked them how much it'd cost to get one of those prized seats, and they said about $78 million. I tried to get them to accept my Visa card, but I guess those big planes don't come equipped with POS terminals. Oh, well.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Superiority Through Airpower IV

No airshow would be complete without skydivers, and this one was no exception. These guys were jumping out of their perfectly good plane before I could even get into the main gate. When they spun around and formed this little heart, the crowd around me made a loud collective "awwwwww" right on cue.

You'll notice that I continuously compare this airshow to last year, because last year was my first trip, and I think it really was a better show. For 2004, they had several groups of skydivers at different points throughout the day. It sort of made for something a little interesting, and at a more human speed. Too many rapid turns of the head to watch a 600mph fly-by can be hard on the neck. These skydivers did a lot of twirls and dips and spins, but they weren't moving at a neck-jarring pace.

Superiority Through Airpower III

This WWII vintage B-25 was a big hit with the war bird crowd. She made several bomb runs over the airfield, each time triggering a smoke bomb on the ground to explode and make a lovely show. The name of this plane was Panchito, and it had a lovely graphic painted on the nose. I didn't get a close-up picture of that graphic this year, but I think I have one from last year of the same plane... Here it is:

This was the only warbird they had this year. I guess there are plenty of specialized shows for those at other times of the year. I'll have to try to get to one of those in the near future.

April 2005-Week Three

The calendar page for this week features an unnecessary close-up of my cat, Baby. She's intently watching the world pass by outside the window, wishing she could be a part of it. But she's an indoor cat, and she'll have to make do with attacking electrical cords and what-not.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Superiority Through Airpower II

I know I promised more pictures from Airfest today, but it doesn't look like I'm going to get to them. So to hold you over, here's a group shot of many of the different airplanes I photographed.

Oodles of Doodles XI

Our latest doodle is quite a doosey! From the flip side to Peter Palmer-Presenting Peter Palmer (RCA Victor LSP-1736, 1958). Peter's claim to fame seems to be performing as Lil' Abner on the stage at some point. There's a bunch of blah-blah-blah on the back of the LP that I can't be bothered to read, mostly because I'm missing the Simpsons, but also because I have lots of stuff to post. So you'll have to look this one up yourself.