Takes on a Plane

As I waded through all my photos from Saturday’s outing to some planespotting sites at Hobby Airport, I had a few thoughts I’d like to share, and I’ll throw in a few more photos to boot.

delta fence

I’ve realized I have zero interest in smaller, private planes. Yes, they can also fly, but the sheer size of a commercial jet or a military plane is what makes that act so impressive to me, I guess, while those little planes or private jets are so small they fail to wow me. I suppose what I’m saying is, when it comes to planes, size matters – at least to me. Plenty of little planes flew in to visit the museum’s fundraiser, and a few zipped past the observation areas when I had my camera out shooting airliners,so I snapped a lot of them – but I can’t bring myself to care enough about them to get them edited. Sorry.

southwest takeoff_final

I also noticed that when shooting the airplanes taxiing or taking off from inside the airport, all the heat coming off the ground distorted the image of the plane. Some of that can be cool if it’s strategically placed, like in the shot above where the heat can be seen distorting the picture from underneath and behind the plane, but when the whole jet looks squiggly it’s a problem. Not sure what to do about that in the future, but if I just shoot them in the air the problem is solved, so that’s one way to fix it. My photos, for the most part, didn’t come out as crisp as I would have liked them to be, but the truth is I only needed one really good shot to feel like I accomplished something with this sort of thing, and I think I got one this time out – it’s the one I shared at the bottom of yesterday’s post. For now at least, a lot of what I shoot will be sub-par, but if I end up with one real winner I’ll be happy.

I did take some time today, once I figured out how to find EXIF data on the new Flickr layout, to check out camera settings and lenses used on planespotting photos I admire, and it does appear I could have set a much higher shutter speed and reduced the hell out of my ISO and gotten better results – my shutter speed was generally about 1/250 and I had the ISO upped to 640, while most EXIF data showed shutter speeds of around 1/1000 and an ISO of 200. Oops. Makes me feel better to know this, though, because a lot of people in the know commented that I did, in fact, buy a great lens for this sort of thing, and I was wondering why I got so many soft shots. Not that I’m complaining; as I said, I got several really nice ones and more than a few that are still satisfactory even if they’re not stellar, but obviously I want to improve where I can and do better next time.

delta land

Also, aside from looking for clarity, I’m not yet sure artistically what to consider a ‘good shot’. I’ve always had an instinct with my portraits regarding what to keep and what to throw away, and can easily narrow down a set to the ‘best’ shots; but with these I’m rather overwhelmed. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on what I like, I venture out to the internet and find an awesome photo that breaks all the new rules I’ve just set up for myself  – at first I thought I only liked shots of the planes in the air, but then I saw some awesome stuff taken on the ground; then I thought I only liked close-ups, until I saw some cool shots of the planes disappearing into the sky. I know it sounds like I’m being crazy picky and analytical here, but not yet having an instinct for how to cull the best shots from a set is really overwhelming – I either think everything is good or everything stinks, and I have no basic preferences from which to start choosing. I think that’s partly because I really didn’t think I’d be able to take shots like this with any level of success; everything about it is so far out of my comfort zone (taking shots in public, of fast-moving objects, in an environment where I control very little about the shot itself) that I never really  believed I’d be able to do it. But it turns out I can – I have a lot to learn, yes, but even on my first outing I got some decent stuff, and I managed not to make a fool of myself while doing it. I kind of actually appeared to know what I was up to while I was out there shooting, and the fact that I might actually be able to get a grip on this surprises no one as much as it does me. I expected the shooting experience to be different, but wasn’t prepared for how overwhelming the editing would be. I guess you could say I’m a bit “in the clouds” about it right now. Moving on.

I was a bit surprised to discover a hangar going up in flames in the background when I processed this one

One more thing: I took some time this morning to search the internet for the registration numbers of these airplanes, and what I found was pretty awesome. For example, this jetBlue’s recent flight history is here, and you can see the actual flight on April 19th when I took this photo listed. There’s no real reason to find this cool, except for the idea that airplanes – and airports themselves, really – are all about connection, and journeying, and departing, and arriving; all sorts of magical human stuff that fascinates me about aviation in general. It never ceases to amaze me that humanity has figured out how to put these huge metal monstrosities in the sky, and take flight. So, being able to capture a second of that happening, to freeze it mid-flight then go online and find out where that very airplane has been, and where it’s going (as well as finding all the photos of it that have been taken by others over the years) is incredibly uplifting to me – no pun intended. I guess when I look at an airplane I’m still a little kid in awe of it all.

Tomorrow there will be no more plane photos to share, as I think I’ve exhausted all the ones I felt were worth editing. But I will show some of the museum, and talk more about how the day went in general. Stay tuned! Or don’t if you’re totally bored and pissed that I’m not posting about makeup and wigs. I’m sure I’ll get back to all that soon enough.

14 thoughts on “Takes on a Plane

  1. Logically speaking, makeup, hair or airplanes all have one thing in common. They all photograph beautifully. You do have more experience with makeup and hair, but it won’t be long where you will be just as comfortable with the big hunks of metal.
    In my opinion you’re already there, but I’m just a lady person and you see more of the technical aspect of the photo.
    Can’t wain for more.

  2. Love the flare on the SW plane. And, you’ve captured my Delta plane – I have taken about two dozen flights on Delta over the past three years and it is my second favorite airline (United is first). Love the simplicity of these pictures and they are quite clear to my (untrained?) eye. I don’t understand why all planes are not painted vivid colors, though ($?). Anyway, that SW shot you posted yesterday made it seem as if you were in a plane flying tandem with it. I thought that was quite clever.

    • What is it you like about Delta? I figure if you trust them, that is really saying something.

      Today on Facebook one of the aviation pages I follow posted a picture of an Australian plane with Smaug from The Hobbit painted on the side…that was pretty much the most awesome thing ever.

      • I go by the safety record of the airline, then the aircraft and then the engines themselves (like, I never fly Airbuses and avoid if I can Rolls Royce engines). Then, I look at the pilots. The pilots I want are in their early 50’s, fit (lean means disciplined), with alert and yet kind expressions. I always see this kind of pilot on United and Delta. I rarely fly anything else — occasionally SW when there is nothing else. Never American, no foreign planes after I put two people on Swiss Air just before that Canadian disaster. I would trust Lufthansa for the same reasons. I used to trust Varig (Brazil) but they have fallen in stature. Never any Asian airline, never Air France or Al Italia. But, this is driven by my phobia so I recognize that my analyses may involve only tiny percentages of difference. I do it so I don’t have to get toasted in order to fly! 🙂 But, I love planes as they resemble birds and I love birds, so … [I sound like a nut! LOL!!!]

        • I didn’t know you could check out the pilots – where do you get that information when booking flights? Knowing even what little I now know about the propensity towards “human error” when flying a plane, I wouldn’t mind knowing who the pilot is myself. 🙂

  3. I’ve thought that I most liked your blog because of your great photos and personality, but I think I also enjoy it because I’m always following your learning process. There is something really cool about that–watching your mind work.

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