Plane Plan

This past Monday, I woke up thinking about airplanes, so I checked my Flightradar app and saw that – yay! – IAH was using the runway over their observation lot for arrivals. There were a few interesting planes coming in that day, so I quickly packed up my gear and headed out.

#EI-DRE – AeroMexico Boeing 737-700, landing at IAH on June 8, 2015

Since I’ve done this a few times now, I did a better job of being sure I had what I needed and knew what I was doing before I got out there (in other words, no wig hairs on the camera lens this time). But I did make one awful error – in between spurts of plane landings, I would get back in my car, turn the air conditioner on (since it was about 95 degrees outside with what felt like 100% humidity), and switch my camera off to save the battery. Just as I was about to leave, I saw the largest plane of the day heading right for me – a British Airways Boeing 777. I grabbed my camera, flipped it back on, and got out just in time to take some great shots as it passed over. Unfortunately, as I got back into my car I noticed in my LCD screen that all the shots I’d just taken were nothing but bright white light; apparently when flipping my camera’s on switch my finger had accidentally also switched my camera mode from Aperture over to Manual, and the camera let in way too much light and blew out all the shots. Blurgh! (as Liz Lemon would say). The only thing that kept me from pulling my hair out in agony was that I did manage to snap some nice pictures of a different BA Boeing 777 on my last outing to IAH back in January. But still – bummer.

Welp, there it is.

There was another 777 that landed that day, but it was using a different runway that’s too far away for my little telephoto to reach. I tried to get some decent shots of it, but this was the best I could do; in looking at it here, I guess it’s not too bad, just not nearly as close or clear as I would like. I’ve read a little about shooting using a telephoto lens, and everything says you lose a lot of clarity if you zoom all the way in when taking a shot, so I tried not to do that this time when taking these far-away shots even though it meant I couldn’t get quite as close as I would have liked:

#F-GSQA – Air France Boeing 777-200

I was also getting blurry shots at first, so I got on my phone and did some quick research; ultimately deciding to try using Aperture Priority mode instead of the Shutter Speed mode I always use. This actually helped to get clearer shots on a regular basis, so I’ll need to be sure to remember that next time.

#N509NK – Spirit Airlines Airbus 319-100

As I mentioned before, it was pretty damn hot out there, and I didn’t even get to the lot until around 11:15, but the sky was nice and blue and there were plenty of clouds to create more interesting pictures,so I’m glad I went ahead and tried it out in spite of the heat. Especially since it looks like we have another week of rain coming and who knows when I’ll be able to get back out there again. It’s also good to know that, unlike Hobby Airport, anytime I choose to go out there I’m guaranteed to get at least a few planes other than the regulars (United Airlines at IAH, Southwest Airlines at HOU) – as long as they’re using the right runway, that is.

#N618NK – Spirit Airlines Airbus A320

Supposedly there’s another good planespotting location around IAH that isn’t an official one; I can’t tell if it’s still available to park at or if it’s been cordoned off – I get conflicting information on different sites where I’ve looked for information. Since it’s not an official observation area I am still a little chicken to check it out, but sooner or later I’m sure taking photos of the planes in always basically the same position in the sky is going to get boring. For now it’s OK though, because I get a little better each time at getting the whole plane in the frame once it gets closer. Well, except for when I accidentally mess up the camera settings and over-expose the hell out of my shots.

#N703ABV – Avianca Airbus A319

I also caught a few small private planes as they flew over; if you click this  next one and magnify it you can see the dude in the passenger seat staring right at me, LOL:

#N500HY – Beechcraft Beechjet. This one must have just gotten a new paint job because in all the other pictures I see of it online, the tail is plain white with brown stripes.

#N281SE – Piper Malibu Meridian

That’s all the planes I’ve edited for now, but I will have a few more to come. I haven’t processed any of the United Airlines ones yet, and there’s a few more I took that were using that other runway that I think I may be able to process and get decent results. We’ll see.

Other than plane photos and wig videos, I’ve been watching tons of documentaries on Netflix – documentaries are a serious weakness of mine, and I’ll watch just about anything if it’s in that category (proof? I watched an entire documentary about a font. Yep). The most bizarre one so far is called Room 237, and it’s dedicated to some of the more obsessive and outrageous analyses people have come up with to explain Stanley Kubrick’s hidden messages in his movie The Shining. Yep. While I didn’t actually believe any of the theories, it truly is fun to take a Kubrick movie and pick it apart for visual symbols and motifs, but I’m still convinced he just did it because he was obsessive about visuals and then he just let everyone interpret things however they wanted. My favorite theories were that Kubrick made The Shining to confess to the world that there was no actual footage of the US landing on the moon, but Kubrick was contracted to create such footage so the world would actually believe we did go there. Want proof? Well, there’s Danny’s sweater for starters:


Oh, and also the inclusion of the Tang powdered drink on the shelves (used on space missions) and something about that key containing the letters not just for “room” but also for “moon” and, the number 237 represents the 237 kajillion miles (technical term) Earth is from the moon. And one woman also pointed out that in the super-creepy scene there where the dead twins roll that ball to Danny, the pattern on the carpet reverses, which had something to do with the reversal of time and how the movie was meant to be watched backwards, or something.


Oh, and for the theory that The Shining was meant to be viewed backwards, the documentary actually plays a bit of the movie moving forward as it should while superimposing it playing backwards on top of it, and I have to say that was pretty cool although the idea that this was what Kubrick actually wanted rather than the theory of someone who’s gotten way too into decoding this film isn’t likely. Still, a fun documentary overall, especially if you are a fan of the movie as I am.

An example of what you see when playing the movie backwards and forwards at the same time. Coincidence? Yeah probably, but still cool. 

Some other great ones I’ve seen this week are Dear, Zachary (do NOT watch without an entire box of Kleenex, because you’ll need it – trailer below):

The Queen of Versailles (voyeuristic view of an uber-rich family attempting to build the biggest house in America that turns on a dime after the crash of 2008 and ends up really being about clueless rich people trying to function without their private jets and 15 servants. SPOILER: apparently rich people do not know how to potty train, or clean up after, their dogs):

All This Mayhem (two young skaters from Australia and the tragic yet spectacular fall from grace they experience when the money and the fame dries up):

The Source Family (a hippie cult in the 70’s made unique by the inclusion of quite detailed video footage taken by the cult’s “historian”):

Bridgend (haunting and bizarre story of a small town in South Wales where almost 80 teenagers have committed suicide by hanging over the past 8 years):

And perhaps the best one of all so far, The Imposter (story about a guy who actually convinces a family that he’s their missing son, even though he’s not):

All of these are currently streaming on Netflix, and I can’t recommend them enough!

6 thoughts on “Plane Plan

  1. What a wonderful mini documentary of topics meshed into a single theme. You have a creative exploring mind and depth to your observations. Your pictures of the planes are so clear and close up, you can see the smaller plane’s underbelly looking a little beat up. I didn’t realize there were so many foreign planes, being used to the big airlines one tends to see. Thank you so much, Cynthia, for the beautiful flight of the planes as well as your insight into The Shining. I too like documentaries as they are a study of reality vs entertainment. Lovely photography of an inquiring mind at work. You are quite the artist. Thank you, Deb

    • Thanks Deb! Yes it’s amazing how dirty the underbellies of planes are when you look at them. We picture them being all shiny and clean but NOPE. And living in a big city makes planespotting fun for that reason – we get to see all sorts of airlines and all sizes of planes. I have an app that tells me what flights are scheduled that day and that shows which runway IAH is using, so I can time my visits appropriately. 🙂

  2. Ah –wonderful as usual. AND, I live by a small airport here in NJ (Allaire) and often wonder and marvel at the (previously unknown) Piper Malibu..that comes and goes on a rather regular
    basis. Lots of private jets. Of special note are those that take off so quietly , almost a whisper
    compared to. As always, many thanks.

  3. Very informative. You really put in a lot research and time on the entry. Great plane photos.
    Keep up the good work.

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