My Photos — on display for the benefit of the world

Flying the Line

Flying Over the Holiday Season

 (DavidRaboin)

An airline pilot walking through the cold winter rain while looking for his hotel shuttle at O’hare Airport, Chicago.

Back at my regional airline I flew with a wily old bachelor captain named Dale. Every year, Dale would use all four weeks of his annual vacation allotment in December. He didn’t have a family. He wasn’t trying to be home for the Holidays. I asked him once, “Dale, why do you take all you’re time off in December?”

“December is when everything bad happens,” he said, “In December, the seasons are changing and you get those days-long storms with snow, rain, and sleet. And, all that weather happens when the airports are packed with holiday travels, families that travel only once every couple of years, they’re nervous, and they don’t know what they are doing. I don’t need that. I take December off and come back in January when the dry arctic air has set in, things dry out, and only professional travels come out to the airport.”

I think of Dale every year as I slog through the holiday season. In my career, I’ve never had the seniority to get time off in December.  In fact, it’s the opposite, with the airline’s heavy holiday schedule, I’m usually out working more in December that any other month. This year I was lucky and got Christmas Day off so I was home to see the kids open their presents on Christmas morning, but other than that one pleasant day, I’ve been out fighting the crowds and the weather for the past few weeks.

The other day, while lying on my hotel bed, lost in a haze of holiday flying, and mindlessly scrolling my Facebook feed, I came across this video of Hulk Hogan and Randy the Macho Man Savage. My grinchy spirit soared as I watched those coked-up, steroid-clowns steal 1960s hippy-acid culture and spin it into 1980s commercial gold. And, I was also a little jealous too. Oh, to shed my uniform and wear a different persona… This blog, and my writing, would be a lot more fun if it was done under an anonymous pen-name. I need a metaphorical Macho Man Savage bandanna. If I could just shed the responsible airline-pilot-dad bit…

Steam rises from a vendor's standing n Chinatown, Flushing, New York City (DavidRaboin)

A busy market on a cold winter night in Flushing, New York… I took this photo on my walk back from dinner during a LaGuardia overnight. We stay in Chinatown. 

Flight crews take notice of the short winter days and long nights. In winter, our work days usually begin before dawn and finish after sunset. Often, eating dinner means taking a cold, dark walk in an unfamiliar city. I take my camera and practice night street photography.

 (DavidRaboin)

I love flying into Palm Springs. To stay below LAX traffic , ATC makes us descend early and then level off just above the San Bernardino Mountains. Yesterday, the clouds split open and we saw a fresh batch of snow on the mountain tops. In the distance, you can see the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park.

Flying during the holidays isn’t all hardship and gloom. The low winter sun makes great light for aerial photography and snow adds some pop to the mountain tops.

a-nice-poster

Meeting De Aviation, Nice, France… Poster by Charles-Léonce Brossé… 

Many years ago, I had this poster hanging in my apartment. The mustachioed french aviator was my inspiration, my hoped for alter-ego who could shower flowers and happiness on an exotic coast. That’s what I hope my Instagram feed is, roses falling from the sky.

 (DavidRaboin)

San Francisco Bay, downtown San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, Oakland, and in the far distance my backyard mountain: Mount Diablo… After a front moves through clear arctic air means great visibility. If you look hard, you can make out the snow packed peaks of the Sierras along the horizon. 

Maybe if I had a selfie stick and a suitably wide-angle lens, I could make a picture of myself above San Francisco that is similar to that poster of the pilot over Nice? I’m kidding of course, but I admit that an interesting foreground subject makes a landscape image come to life. That old poster has more spark than this highly detailed photo.

The long ride across the prairie to Denver International Airport… The beginning of a long day of delays

We need all the rain and snow we can get in California. However, I wish this drought could be broken on days when I’m not scheduled to fly multiple legs through San Francisco. This winter we’ve seen an endless train of storms and rainy days in NorCal. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to perfect SFO weather delay speech, “Folks, Imagine if they closed several lanes on the Bay Bridge during rush hour, that’s what it’s like at SFO airport now. The wind is out of the south which means they can only use two of their four runways. It’s like they closed half of their available lanes. Now, air traffic traveling to SFO is backed-up throughout the country. Air Traffic control issued us a wheels up time of…”

 (DavidRaboin)

Speaking of the California drought, check out all that snow on Mount Shasta. That should help top off some of our reservoirs as it melts off this spring and summer. 

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Gulf Coast Thunderstorms

 (DavidRaboin)

We can see the storm clouds ahead on the horizon from halfway across Texas. These are my first thunderstorms of the year. The rough weather is stacked up along the Gulf Coast. We’re flying east, LAX to Fort Lauderdale, and the late afternoon sun is dropping behind us.

 (DavidRaboin)

All the way across the Gulf of Mexico we dodge the growing clouds.

 (DavidRaboin)

The highest clouds glow in the late evening light.

 (DavidRaboin)

It’s night by the time we reach the western shore of Florida. A bolt of lightning arcs between storm clouds.

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Shadows and Desolation

 (DavidRaboin)

Long shadows reach across a forgotten valley in East Central Nevada

I gaze down from the flightdeck on a barren mountain range that looks like a cracked jawbone left to bleach on the desert floor. It makes me happy knowing that The Great Basin is out there quietly waiting, ready to cover my tracks with dust and swallow me whole. That highway, the one you see in the cut in the mountains, it’s always an option.

 (DavidRaboin)

Alpine glow at sundown on the desert peaks of Western Utah

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Cascade Range Morning Fly Over

 (DavidRaboin)

Looking South, an aerial view of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams

Aircraft departing Seattle to the south fly past some of the well known peaks of the Cascade Range. Here’s a photographic tour of the Central Cascades. I took this pictures a few days ago while flying from Seattle to Los Angeles.

 (DavidRaboin)

Looking East, abeam Mount Rainier with the morning sun behind a thin cloud

 (DavidRaboin)

After passing Rainier, looking South at Mount Saint Helens and Spirit Lake

 (DavidRaboin)

Mount Saint Helens passes off our right side

 

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Sevier Lake at Sunset

 (DavidRaboin)

Westbound above Utah, Sevier dry lake at sunset

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Where I’m at this Winter

 (DavidRaboin)

Winter’s Veil, a thin layer of clouds glows in the late afternoon sun above the frozen farmland of Central Illinois

This photo of sunset above Illinois represents a milestone for my photography from a technological and skills point of view. You see, several years ago I wouldn’t have tried for a photo like this. Without the latest generation of camera equipment and top-notch editing skills, this scene wouldn’t translate into a workable photo file. There is only a tiny difference in luminosity between the glowing cloud and the farm field below and, without the best RAW file and the gentlest touch in Photoshop, this photo would turn into flat-mucky digital soup. I’m not trying to brag. It’s just hard not to be excited. From the beginning of anyone’s photography journey it’s always a struggle to capture what you see out in the world and make your photos look as wonderful as the experience. With this photo, I feel my powers gathering. Please don’t burst my bubble. Let me enjoy this moment of freedom. I know that soon I’ll feel that familiar bump as I slam back into my limitations.

 (DavidRaboin)

First flights of the day getting ready to launch after an all night rain — San Francisco International Airport SFO

The above photo is another milestone for this blog. Longtime readers might be able to figure out why.

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Winter Ops

 (DavidRaboin)

Low winter sun off the coast of California, photo taken in late afternoon LAX to SFO

As a west coast based airline pilot, winter flying isn’t the heavyweight slugfest that my east coast based friends endure. I might dip my toe into winter for a day or two, but then it’s back home where an over abundance of ripening citrus fruit hangs heavy on sagging branches before rolling into the gutter. In California, oranges and grapefruit threaten to clog our storm drains during El Nino’s next downpour.

 (DavidRaboin)

Snow in the Great Basin in Central Nevada

Real winter isn’t visible until the foothills of The Sierras. This winter, on a transcon flight, the earth below is snow covered from the high elevations of Eastern California all the way across the Midwest. Only the far East Coast is snow free and that is supposed to change soon.

 (DavidRaboin)

Strange summer looking showers in Pennsylvania during this unusual El Nino winter

But enough talking about the weather, what about the future of this blog? The last six or ten months things have been slow here, and it seems like half of the posts are just me lamenting my busy life and bloggy slowness. There’s good new though, with ten new planes added to the fleet my airline is hiring pilots and my seniority is moving up. My flight schedule is improving. January has been decent, and February looks great. If things continue on this trajectory, I should be back to regular posting. I’m excited. Stay tuned.

 (DavidRaboin)

Moisture from the Pacific tries to push into the desert between Los Angeles and Palm Springs

 (DavidRaboin)

Winter rain falls at SFO, getting ready to launch, first flight of the morning

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*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Two Types of Cumulus Clouds

 (DavidRaboin)

Sometimes you get lucky. We are taxing out for takeoff at Chicago O’hare amid rain showers and ominous clouds. The ground control frequency is going bananas. This time of day both United and American run a big bank of flights and air traffic control has just shut down all south and east departures due to weather. We’re headed west to San Francisco so we should still be OK. I always admire the efficiency of the controllers at ORD. Without taking a break to hear their responses, the ground controller broadcasts a machine gun blast of instructions to the affected aircraft. As we make our way to the runway it’s like the parting of the Red Sea. The line of traffic waiting for takeoff evaporates with plane after plane pealing out of line and taxing to hold pad.

“Better start engine two, looks like we’re gonna be number one sooner than we thought.”

We’re cleared into position on the takeoff runway. I tilt up the radar to probe the mysterious sky. It looks OK. Now we’re gathering speed. We quickly climb above the scud and then escape the rain clouds all together. To the south I see a massive thunderstorm sweeping across the flat Illinois landscape.

 (DavidRaboin)

A few hours later we’re flying across Nevada. Up ahead on the horizon I spot a massive cumulus cloud. It looks like a thunderhead but there’s something strange about it. Normally, in the Western US, these towering clouds form over a mountain range, and usually they form in groups or a line. I had never seen a single thunderstorm floating all by itself above the Sierras before. Why just one big cloud and not a cluster?

As we get closer I turn the radar back on to see if this cloud will show up. Nothing.

Could this be a forest fire? As we pass along side I can see that the cloud is stained brown. It has to be the Butte Fire. This type of cloud is called pyrocumulus. I’ve seen them before but never this tall. We are flying at 36,000 feet and this cloud billows up a few thousand feet higher than us. It is  amazing. And, it makes me wonder about accidentally flying through one of these monsters at night. It doesn’t show up on weather radar so it wouldn’t be hard to fly into one in the dark without noticing. Guess that’s something to keep in mind during fire season.

 

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Huron, South Dakota, The Place Where Evil is Born

We middle latitude dwellers expect our storms to unfold in a predictable order:  dark clouds approach from the west, a burst of wind, and then the rain and lightning.  That’s how thunderstorms unfold in the Midwest anyways.  But what if you’re flying a jet?  In an airplane, you’re just as likely to approach a storm from its billowy white backside as you are to fly up on it’s eastern storm shadow.

 (DavidRaboin)

We’re flying through South Dakota’s expansive sky, making our way from the West Coast towards Boston.  Up ahead, a cold front has sparked up a line of strong thunderstorms with a 55,000 foot tall supercell anchoring its southern flank.  We request a twenty degree right turn and run down a corridor of clear air,  Then, from a safe distance, we watch the storm play out in reverse order.  First comes the rainbow, then the torrents of rain, and last is the foreboding shadow.  Someone tell Noah to hurry up on his arc.  The rainbow is already on it’s way.

 (DavidRaboin)

As we round the sun-soaked crown of cumulus, the storm’s ten-mile deep shadow comes into view.  My first officer says, “Wow, that looks like the place where evil is born.”

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Gods of Thunder

 (David Raboin)

You can’t count on anything in aviation.  There are too many variables.  Weather, mechanical issues, global economic meltdown — any one of them could ruin your day.  We were scheduled to leave Dallas at 7:10 AM, but before my alarm went off, crew scheduling called to tell me that our flight had been delayed until 10:30 AM because of a maintenance issue.  And, there was good news too.  Since we would be running so late, they had to drop my last leg to Chicago.  I would finish a day early and still be paid as if I’d worked the entire trip.  Sometimes things work out for the best.  I turned off my alarm and went back to sleep.  Then, a couple of hours later, as I was mopping up puddles of syrup with my free-hotel-breakfast-buffet-french-toast, my phone rang again.  Our delay was being extended.  A part needed to be flown in and our plane wouldn’t be fixed until 8:30 PM.  I went back up to my room and got to work on some long procrastinated edits and updates to my blog.

Later in the afternoon, I left the comfort of hotel air conditioning and went for a run.  The Texas heat rode me like a sweaty bear.  Clouds piled up and I hoped for rain.  I ran past the Kennedy Memorial and the city jail.  With my recent focus on color combinations in my photos, I stopped for a quick phone-snap when I noticed some blue buildings under the towering Texas sky.   The sidewalk ran out on the edge of downtown.  Dallas wasn’t built with pedestrians in mind.  Undeterred,  I changed plans and did a series of sprints up a weedy berm underneath a massive highway interchange.  The clouds coalesced into one hazy mass and rain fell while I worked my way back to the hotel.

I met the crew in the lobby at 8:00 pm.  My first officer, John, looked dejected.  He explained that our delay was making him sleep in the crew-room in San Francisco.  He was supposed to be done working at 10:00 this morning and catching his commute flight home before noon.  Instead, we’d be finishing close to midnight.  My good news was his bad news.  As we loaded our bags in the airport shuttle, wind blasted through the canyons of downtown.  A storm was moving in.  Halfway to the airport, the driver had the wipers set on high and we could hardly see the traffic the downpour.  Our California raised flight attendants marveled at all the water.  Videos were uploaded to Facebook.

When we got to our airport, we were informed that they’d given up on fixing our original plane before morning so we were now waiting on an inbound flight, and this new aircraft was stuck in a holding pattern until the storms rolled through.  I bought a burrito, enjoyed a late dinner, and hoped the weather would break before our plane had to divert to Oklahoma City or Austin for a refuel.  My luck held and our plane arrived shortly after I finished eating.  We were airborne and bound for San Francisco an hour later.

 (DavidRaboin)

On the flight across, John and I plotted and schemed but we couldn’t figure a way for him to avoid a night in the crew-room.  We would land at midnight and his flight home left at 6:10 AM.  Going to a hotel or his crashpad was pointless.  He’d get more sleep on the crew-room couch.  On night’s like this I feel a type of survivors guilt.  I used to be a commuter.  The Bay Area is just too expensive for someone on first officer’s pay, especially if you have a family.  I’ve slept in SFO and ORD.  An aviation career isn’t fair.  John worked at the largest, most well compensated, regional airline for fifteen years — right up until they went bankrupt at the height of the great recession.   Now, he’s back on the bottom of the seniority list and living the life of a reserve commuter, the worst lot in aviation.  But, it’s not all bad.  It’s hard to fall into depression as you streak across the night sky above Northern New Mexico with some storms lingering over the Southern Rockies to keep you company, their lightning flashing signals across the high desert.

*All content created by David Raboin. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

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