Plane and Simple

2014 isn’t halfway over and I’ve already fulfilled my photography bucket list – I held a real photoshoot in an honest-to-god studio, and now I’ve taken pics of airplanes. I wonder what I need to do next? I have no idea, but I am happy as hell with the airplane shots I got today. All in all, I completely filled up one 32G CF card and put a serious dent in the second, much smaller one I brought along just in case. About 1400 photos in all, and some of them were exactly what I was hoping for!

Photo Apr 19, 11 37 59 AM
My dad and I behind the aviation history museum

The aviation museum was great, and I got some photos of the space, but I haven’t processed those yet because I was most excited about the commercial jet photos. Once a month the museum opens up the back tarmac to incoming planes and serves food as a little fundraiser; it provides photographers a pretty close-up view of a nearby airport runway. That was cool, and my telephoto lens served me well, but honestly, the best shots were to be had at the ‘family viewing areas’ located around the airport.

One of the two airport viewing areas opened to the public around the runways

It’s late and my arm is killing me, so I’m going to share some shots and keep things brief for now, but I’ve got loads to say about the day with my dad. It was tons of fun and we are raring to hit up the much larger Intercontinental Airport soon, which also has viewing areas where one can take photos, so I can get shots of a bigger variety of planes. Since Hobby Airport is home base to one particular airline, almost all the planes I shot today were this company’s jets. I’ll see if you can guess which one it is after you see some of the shots.

southwest nose_final
One of the shots taken at the end of the runway right behind the museum

The runway behind the museum was pretty busy with planes taking off, and each time one taxied out to the end of it, it would turn around and face directly into my camera for a few seconds before turning off to the left and throttling up the engines. So I got loads of nose shots like that. Then one time this happened:

Have you figured out what airline it is yet?

I like the heat waves radiating out from the underbelly of the plane, and the placement of them, obviously. As the planes took off, the runway angled farther away from me, so I didn’t get any decent shots of them lifting off – I took a ton, but the plane is too small for them to be exciting. However, I did snap a few good ones as the planes sped by:southwest takeoff_final

Even though most of them were blurry, I thought this one looked nice, and the blurring of the grass shows the speed at which it was already moving. The sky wasn’t all that pretty here, but as the day wore on it got better. Also it got hotter, and unfortunately I am now sunburned as I didn’t think to put on sunscreen.


This plane is called the “Kangeroo Crew,” and it partners with Texas Children’s Hospital to fly children in need to and from its’ medical facilities. It just happened to be taking off while we were still at the museum, and the volunteers there were all very nice men and women who were sure to alert me when an interesting airplane was about to take off – even if they had to chase me down to be sure I knew about it. Great people.


Believe it or not, there actually are other airlines at Hobby Airport besides Southwest, but to be honest, this American Airlines plane just wasn’t photogenic. The Southwest planes really stand out, and this one blends into everything so much that it provided very little visual appeal – at least, that’s how I feel about it. Still, I took pictures of it anyway, so there you go.

two planes_Snapseed

I really wish this shot had come out better; it’s a cool placement of the two planes, but it’s pretty blurry and the color was blah. We were at the museum during the brightest part of the day, so color was tricky. Still, almost a cool shot, and the only decent one I have of wheels leaving the ground.

viewing area

Now, onto the shots I took from the viewing areas – these were where I could catch some real winners (and as is always the case for me, I’m saving the best one for last).


I did not manage to get this entire Delta plane into any of my close shots; they moved too fast and came in at an odd angle that made it hard for me gauge ahead of time how much zoom to use. So, this was the best I got, but look how close it is! Way better than what I could get at the museum. Check this one out:


I mean seriously! If the pilot had known I was down there, he could’ve waved at me and I would’ve caught it. These shots were taken at the end of the day, when I was sunburned and tired (due partly to the minor disaster of me locking my keys in my car at the museum – erm, sort of – more on this later) and almost out of memory on my camera, but next time I’m going straight to the viewing areas and hitting up the museum for french fries later. I have an app on my iPhone called Flightradar24 which tracks flight traffic all over the globe (but only if they emit from a certain type of transponder or something, still, it’s an amazing amount of flight traffic to monitor) and my dad sat in the car watching it while I stood outside with my camera ready; when he saw something heading our way he’d shout out where it was coming from and what it was, and in that manner we team-worked our way through the shoot. As I may have mentioned, my father is an airplane fanatic (although WWII airplanes are his thing) and he is as obsessive about his interests as I am, so he was totally game for all of this. In fact, I was the one who eventually conked out and had to quit – we were all about the airplanes from 10:30 AM to 3 PM.

And now, without further ado, the best damn shot of the day. This right here is THE EXACT SHOT I was going for – I didn’t care what type of plane it was, I just wanted to get this shot:


BAM! Perfection! At least in my eyes it is!! Notice how much nicer the sky is here, and well, that the rest of it is awesome.

Much more to come, including shots of the museum and a JetBlue airliner, which everyone at the museum made a very big deal out of when it lined up to take off, so it must not be a plane that regularly flies out of this airport or something. My telephoto lens made me proud (lots of planespotters at the museum confirmed I’d made a wise choice for this kind of photography in buying it) and my dad and I had a real blast and are ready to try it again. I’m just going to have to remember to wear sunscreen next time, and to not (sort of) lock my keys in my car.

12 thoughts on “Plane and Simple

  1. What a wonderful hobby. Love, love, love those shots – crisp and vivid. SW has beautiful planes but all the ones you took are great. (Love your sandals, btw.) The tarmac is so pretty there — great patterns! I am always such a nervous wreck when I fly that I am in and out of the airport as fast as I can go and I never look at the runways or take-offs/landings, for fear I will chicken out and waste a ticket, lol. Nice that your dad shares your enthusiasm for aviation. Great set, can’t wait to see more.

    • My feet now have that sandal pattern burned onto them :(. Did you know Birkenstocks are big this summer? All the Nordstrom models were wearing them in the newest catalogue. I knew if I kept wearing them for 20+ years they’d come back into fashion.

      it was great fun to watch the planes takeoff and land, even if not taking photos. Lots of people just sitting there watching the action. Fun stuff for sure and a nice thing to be able to share with my father.

      • oh-god, I don’t even remember what Birkenstocks look like now. If they are like clogs, I can’t walk in them (or Dr. Scholls, can’t do those either – small, weak feet, I guess). I am still steaming over a pair of platform shoes I bough in Italy 25 years ago and gave away like a damn fool. And, I cannot tell you the bad burns I got when I was too young to realize it (Irish-English skin). I am nervous about what will pop up out of the blue some day…

  2. Pingback: Takes on a Plane | mareymercy.

  3. My friend Gill bought her husband a flying lesson for his 60th birthday, he absolutely loved it, the plane was big enough for four people so Gill went up with him. Would you like to fly one?

    • I wouldn’t mind doing something like that once, but I’d never pursue my license or anything like that. I don’t think I have the right skills to even qualify!

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