Plain Spotting

Saturday morning, I got up early and decided to zip back out to the viewing areas I visited last week with my father and get some better shots of planes, in spite of my resolve not to do so and save my arm – I wanted to try out the higher shutter speeds and lower ISO settings I mentioned in a previous post. However, this trip was a total bust, at least in the sense of getting any new photos. It was a boon, I guess, in that I learned a few valuable lessons I can take with me the next time I venture out.

Lesson #1: When it comes to spotting planes, the details matter. I was given a false impression of how easy it is to pull into the parking lot of a viewing area and start snapping away when it all fell together so easily on my first outing. There were literally planes flying right over our heads every other minute that day, so I mistakenly assumed that would always be the case at this airport. As it turned out, arriving early in the morning was a bad idea, because the airport was not busy yet. And furthermore, due to the direction of the wind at the time, the planes were not even utilizing the runway where the two observation areas were located. So, I pulled into the parking lot, put  my camera together, and waited. And waited, and waited. I could see planes taking off and landing a fair distance away, but they were nowhere near close enough to bother photographing. After driving back and forth between the two viewing areas for about an hour, hoping to catch a plane or two somewhere in all that time, I gave up and drove back towards home without one decent photo to edit or show. Later in the afternoon, long after I’d returned home, I checked the airport with the flightradar24 app on my phone, and sure enough by that time planes were all over the runway that would have produced results had it been in use that morning. So, lesson learned – check the radar app before leaving, and maybe make plane spotting trips in the middle of the day instead of getting to the airport early, to be sure traffic will be high. Moving on.

Lesson #2: Dress for a lack of success. Because I decided to head out to the airport at the last minute, I just threw on a t-shirt and some hiking pants (never been used for hiking of course) and some flip-flops, stuck my hair into an old ballcap, slapped some SPF onto my unwashed, makeupless face and headed out the door. The weekend before I’d gotten sunburned and sweaty taking photos of planes, so I figured there was no reason to gussy up this time. I was just going to snap photos for a few hours then come home, after all. Except, as was explained in Lesson #1, that isn’t what happened. After accepting defeat, it was only 10 AM, and I could have done any number of things with my day at that point since I was already out and about, and I had my camera. But I looked too disheveled and frumpy to bother. I’m not above zipping out of the house without makeup from time to time, but at this point my hair had not been washed in two days, my outfit was pretty tacky, and I just felt blech overall. I could have gone to the mall just a few miles up the road and done some shopping, had a nice lunch, then still been in the area when the winds changed direction and head back to the observation areas to snap pics, but I was too grody to make a day of it. In the future I need to take time to get ready for the day before heading out, in case I have to go do other things for a while and wait for air traffic.

Lesson #3: Plan ahead. This ties into Lesson #2, but I now realize these plane spotting trips are not spontaneous outings, at least not for me as I live quite far away from either airport in our city. When I got home I read a lot about the observation area at our other, larger airport, and it sounds much busier and better than the ones I saw last week, but it’s an hour away while Hobby is only about 40 minutes. I was pleased to read this one has portable toilets, because let’s face it,one of the things I have to plan ahead for when driving an hour away to sit for another several hours in a parking lot is how I’ll go to the bathroom when I need to do so (my solution to the Hobby airport situation is the mall located not too far away). Not only do I need to plan what lenses to bring, and where to pee when the need arises, but I probably need to bring snacks and water and some sort of diversion to entertain me when there’s a lull in the action. Plane spotting, at least for me starting out, is probably going to be an all-day production to pull it off properly, and I should plan accordingly, and plan ahead.

All in all, I don’t mind telling you that I was seriously bummed once I realized I’d be taking no plane pics that day. I was in quite a funk as I drove home, but since I was out and I had my camera, I did stop by this lovely, busy park that’s not too far out of the way on my trip home; it’s one of the first places I went when I got my first DSLR and I’ve always considered going back now that I know what I’m doing. But there were lessons to be learned here as well. #1 is that my 70-200 lens is a real attention-getter. As previously stated, I looked a mess, and therefore was not feeling particularly social (plus I was bummed). But everyone who walked by wanted to ask me about that lens – one guy even yelled “70-200! Yeah!” at me as he jogged by, as if my lens was some sort of hair-band celebrity; another guy chased me down to tell me about the bird perched on a branch in the middle of the bayou that I ought to go photograph (ME: “My lens doesn’t have quite that much zoom,” HIM: “It doesn’t? Well it looks impressive enough to do it.”) So, I wandered about snapping a few pics un-enthusiastically until it started to freaking rain, and then I said to hell with it, I’m done for the day.

I tried to process the shots when I got home, but couldn’t whip up a whole lot of interest for more than a few – like this one of the aforementioned bird:

park shot 3_Snapseed

That’s actually a damned nice picture, and certainly not the sort of thing I usually photograph. The other one I liked was this one, taken as another dude at the park with a camera was lining up family members for a group shot in front of a fountain:

park shot 1

It came out a bit too bright and blue, but I like that the little girl is looking right at me. I tried this one in black and white but it was too contrast-y, so I stuck with the color.

And that’s it for now – although in the evening, I decided to pull myself out of my ongoing funk the only way I know how: I gussied up and jumped for the camera! But I’ll share those photos later. And I still have to finish editing the pics of the aviation history museum I never shared. As usual, more photos to edit than there are hours in the day, so let’s get to it.

13 thoughts on “Plain Spotting

  1. These two pictures alone are worth the effort! Is that a crane? Anyway, what a lot of work. How about the time we got all geared up, drove 90 minutes to Santa Barbara on the coast only to find out that Geoffrey left the camera battery at home in the charger. So we had an expensive lunch, bought chotchkes (sp?) we didn’t need and didn’t get even one shot. And, why is it when I have no makeup on that someone snags me for a long conversation, like some neighbors when I was out sweeping yesterday at 6 am in my pjs, in no mood for socializing. Looking forward to the jumping shots and future plane spots, lol. 🙂

    • I have no idea what sort of bird that is, but it very well could be a crane. It stood like that for a long time, if that’s a crane-like thing to do.

      Yeah I’ve been there – left the camera or forgot an extra battery, all sort of mishaps. It happens!!

    • I know, I hate it when I get fooled by having a super-easy experience the first time at something, then thinking it’s always gonna be that way and learning the hard way that it isn’t!!

      • The problem is it leads to the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” syndrome. I had that for the longest time, thinking I shouldn’t think anything was that good or that easy as something “else” would happen.

  2. My Dads worse photo experience was a day excursion to Venice, he’d bought a special light bag to fit the camcorder and camera in and thought he’d packed the bag in a back pack he carries, only when we got off the boat and Mum wanted to get some pics of St Marco Sq. He realised he hadn’t packed it! We had to buy a disposable camera and all the photos were bad.

  3. Wow, I didn’t realize that plane photography was so much like work. Isn’t that the truth, when you look your worst, everybody wants to talk to you. Ya know, each of the airlines have fantastic pictures on their Web sites. Cut and paste, no makeup or clothing worries. 😉
    Do really like the bird picture.

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