Sunday's aircrew was Check Pilot Cpt Ken Anderson, Mission Pilot Trainee 1Lt Ken McNaught, and Observer Trainee and photographer 2Lt Brenda Kononen. Thanks to them for doing this on their own dime, and taking pictures!
In the un-zoomed pictures, as seen with the naked human eye, the first thing that is visible is the orange / pink signal tarps that were in the meadow, west of camp. The next thing is the single orange tarp that was dragged from the meadow to the fire, since the fire itself is not visible. Tied for #2 visible is the orange pup tent that was the "supply" tent on the female side of camp.
The un-zoomed pictures were taken at roughly 2000 feet above ground level (AGL). This is becoming more typical in visual mountain searches (used to be 1000') as safety is stressed more and more. Ground targets must be large to be visible.
Notice in all these which tents are visible -- the brightest colored, the biggest, but mostly those out in the sunshine, or at least not in direct shadow. Of course the area "in the sunshine" varies by time of day, but there are areas where shadows will be minimal at all times - for example the large wide open meadow rather than within 100 feet of trees. Course those wide open meadows are windier and colder too :-)
Comments from the aircrew on how to make signals more visible:
Put them in the open, not next to trees or in the camp
Keep the messages away from sources of shadow if at all possible
Snow messages can be white on white. Try tree boughs or dirt for contrast if there is a lot of snow in which your message was made.
Learn how to build a smoky fire :-) Green, wet wood, tree boughs will generate a lot more smoke than dry wood. A "fire" is visible at night. "Smoke" is visible during the day.
"If you're really good you can find CAP in logs and snow but it's tougher than finding Waldo! I now understand how wonderful signal mirrors and orange shirts are. THOSE you can see!"
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger picture (~100k 800x600). The full-size photos (most ~ 900k) are available here.
|There's a campsite down there somewhere! Look closely just up and right from the middle... The first thing most people will see are the orange / pink signal tarps that were in the meadow, west of camp.||Looking straight down, camp is in the... bottom middle, almost in the blur.|
|Zoomed in: Most visible from the air: orange signal panels, orange pup tent. If you know where to look, the log letter "C" is visible, but the "AP" letters are in shadow. Even knowing they are there, they cannot be seen.||Also zoomed in|
|Zoomed in on the camera, looking straight down.||Looking south-west, not zoomed in.|
|Looking more west. Again the easiest way to find camp is to first find the orange signal tarps west of camp.||Similar shot to the above, south-west|
|Looking more true west, again back to the naked eye - what the airplane search crew sees. Single people in BDU's and even red coats are invisible.||Similar again south-west|
|Straight down, zoomed in. Notice how visible the tarps and orange pup tent in the sunlight are.||From the above picture, if you zoom way into the bottom-right corner there are a couple orange dots. That was Alpha and Bravo teams at the simulated crash site Sunday. One dot is multiple orange vests on the ground, another is Cpt Wolber "don't shoot me I'm not a deer" orange shirt.|
|Way way zoomed in on letters in the snow. It took the aircrew several passes and specific directions from the ground to be able to find these. When there is a foot or more of snow on the ground, this will be easier because you can use snow out in an open meadow -- in the sunshine -- rather than in the shade.||Straight down similar to the left picture.|
|Nice shot of the mountains to the west of Fort Collins.|
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