Plane of Pools

Stupid title, I know. I was just trying to think of something to incorporate the two completely unconnected subjects of this post. Because last week, this happened:


I’ve never been so happy to see concrete in my life. The next step is to clean the interior of the pool and prepare it for the plaster, which will happen today – I’ve been envisioning some really crazy self-portraits in the empty pool wherein I don a ball gown and a snorkel, but unfortunately I’ve caught the first round of crud that circulated around the school  last week (in my case, it’s an upper respiratory infection, but I know others who came down with strep throat) and I feel lousy. I’m not sure I’m going to be up for taking photos for the day or two that the option is available to me, so it may be a sorely missed opportunity, but one I’ll have to let go if I’m still sick. Boo.

I stayed home from work today and went to the doctor for meds, and when that was done I processed more airplane pictures. At first I wasn’t to thrilled with the shots I got last Sunday at the new location; they definitely don’t allow me the super-close proximity the official observation spot provides, but they do allow for a lot more variety, due to my ability to shoot the planes coming all the way up the runway:


I’m farther away, but getting to snap the planes taking off over buildings or just lifting off the runway is pretty cool, and means I get bored less quickly while processing the shots:


Of course, I did have to hang out in what appeared at first to be a fairly suspect location to get them:

Looking back from the dead-end where I parked

For most of the time I was there, I was the only person at this spot:

My car at the bottom of a hill that provides a nice vantage point to see the planes 

But occasionally other plane-spotters stopped by, although I was the only one who went to the top of the hill:



So overall, it was a fine place to hang out, although I was pretty nervous at first, thinking it had to be a bad idea to spend time alone at the end of a fairly deserted road behind an airport. I felt plenty safe soon enough, once I realized it really wasn’t as deserted as I thought it was, and appeared in fact to be a little plane-viewing spot for a lot of people with kids who were trying to entertain them and out of ideas, I guess? Moving on. Next time I’ll bring a blanket or something to sit on up there, though, since the grass was pretty high and brushy and it wasn’t too pleasant the times I tried to sit down.

Severed head in a bag, or discarded Carl’s Jr.? You decide.

I got to this spot around 11:30, I think, and while I mostly shot United planes, I managed to snap a few others before I was done:




I also had a chance to snap some planes landing on farther runways, and although they were too far away for the shots to be great ones, I did want to capture how close some of them fly over before they land, since it gives me a nice sense of scale:

Low United

And I managed to snap this little bright-yellow Spirit Airlines budget plane (I definitely was able to get better shots of planes landing farther away from me than I can at the Lee Road location, too) :

Yellow Spirit

And then, of course, were all the United planes:




That last one really took me by surprise; the little hill I stood on overlooked two runways running parallel to each other, and for the most part they were all taking off from the runway farthest from my location. But this one used the closer of the two, and when it roared up overhead I was actually focused on a different plane and didn’t see this one coming. It’s positioning really gave me a nice shot of it’s underbelly passing over; with the landing gear already retracted.  I guess it took off a longer runway, or something. Moving on.


I planned to head for home no later than 1:00, since these runways were fairly busy and by then I’d already taken plenty, but at one on the dot it was as if United opened the floodgates (or plane gates, if you will) and sent an onslaught of airlines taxiing over to take off, and well, it was just too good to walk away from at the time. They must have been taking off two or three minutes behind each other, at the most, so I kept snapping until my 32G CF card filled up. That’s right – 2600 shots of airplanes, people. And many of them are worthy of processing this time! How will I ever get through them all…?


Of course I’ve got more to share later, but for now this is all I’ve got. Time to go lie down and let that Nyquil I slugged about 20 minutes ago work it’s magic Until next time, y’all!

Plane and Simple

So, here was my thought process this morning: I really should take some pictures today, it’s been awhile…I’m not in the mood to shoot any doll shots, though, OR get dressed up for self-portraits…it’s a gorgeous day out, I should get out today, maybe take Sherbet with me and do some weird doll shots out in the open…nah, I really don’t have any ideas for that right now, and I’m not in the mood, but I hate to waste this lovely day and all that great lightOMGAIRPLANES!!!

As usual, forgot to film with my iPhone in landscape mode, so skinny framing once again. I’ll never get that right, will I?

I called up my handy-dandy FlightRadar24 app, and sure enough, IAH was definitely using the runway across from the observation area. In fact, they were using the hell out of it, so I got my gear together and headed out. It was the perfect day for planespotting – not quite 60 degrees, a little breeze but not too windy, bright winter light, and just enough clouds in the sky to create interest in the pictures. Traffic was manageable, and I made it to the parking lot by 1:30 PM (slight delay caused by getting lost, which is par for the course with me). The only downside was my father could not join me; he’s been wanting to go back out there, but he couldn’t come along this time. Too bad, because there were a lot of people plane-watching and tons of air traffic to boot. Ah well. As I’ve learned, it’s hard to plan ahead for this sort of thing too much because you have to be sure the airport is going to use the proper runway in order to see much of anything, and that can’t be determined even a day ahead of time (at least, not that I can figure out). So, it’s a spur-of-the-moment thing, which certainly makes it harder to bring others along for the ride.

Lots of families there watching the planes

Each time I do this, I learn a bit more, so this time I kept myself calm so as not to go home with eight thousand photos of the same damn plane (in this case it would be United, when spotting at HOU it’s Southwest Airlines) only to run out of space on my CF card when something different finally shows up. And, I tried to get some interesting shots and unique perspectives, rather than just making getting the entire plane in the frame at least once as it passes by my entire goal. However, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t screw a few things up: I should have parked my car on the other side of the lot to at least attempt shooting on the same side as the sun, but I’m not sure it would have mattered; as it is, the sun was behind the planes which created some awkward lighting situations I’ll have to try and repair in editing. Also – and this was the big one – next time I need to remember to CHECK MY LENS and give it a quick cleaning before shooting; this is a totally unique screw-up to have, but believe it or not, there was a dang WIG HAIR stuck to the lens the entire time I was shooting! So far I’ve been able to edit it out of the shots I’ve processed in Photoshop, but honestly when I first pulled up the photos on my computer I nearly had a heart attack, thinking there was a huge scratch on my lens. Imagine my relief to discover it was just a strand of synthetic hair. Still, it’s a pain to get out of the shots, plus it obviously got blown around by the wind because throughout the shoot it moved all over the place. And, it totally ruined the video I tried to take with my 7D, not that it was much good anyway (you have to use Live View to film video, and in the bright sun I could NOT see at all what I was filming, so I just pointed the camera in the direction of the planes and hoped for the best). And no, I could not see that hair on the lens at all while shooting, even when stopping to chimp my shots – again, it was too bright to get a good look at them outside.

If you’d like an example of how it looks to have a wig hair stuck to your lens, well, here you go (I have no idea how to edit video beyond the free Movie Maker that’s on my hard drive, so I lack the skill to edit the hair out):

Obviously, there’s a lot more wrong with video than the wig hair – and damn, it looks like there were two of them!

I did catch some new planes while I was there (new for me anyway), although some of them were using a different runway and I could only get very distant, rather grainy shots. Still, I managed to snap a Volga-Dnepr Russian cargo plane, a Lufthansa, and a Singapore Airlines off in the distance, flying in over some trees and an airport hotel. Up close the big winner of the day was a huge British Airways double-decker 747-400 – it came by quickly, of course, and it was hard to get it all into the frame, but I think I got a few good ones of it as it passed by. I also got up-close and personal with Spirit Air, AeroMexico, and an American Eagle. So far, I’ve only processed an American Eagle shot:


I didn’t get the color quite right, because with the sun behind the plane it came out a bit dark and I tried to lighten it the best I could, but it made the tone a little warm and I spent some time trying to cool it down; not sure I totally succeeded, but for what it’s worth, there it is. I’m almost nervous to work with the rest of the shots, because I got so excited every time something other than a United jet flew by that I may have gotten a little twitchy and screwed something up. But I think I can get at least one decent shot per interesting plane, along with some close-ups of the cockpit or the underbelly on the plane that I tried to do. Oh, and I could also get some nice landing shots this time from behind the plane; the angle of the runway to the observation area at Hobby makes that impossible, but here it can be done since we’re directly behind it:

I wanted some people shots for perspective; I mainly liked the reflection in the puddles on this one, and the sky, not to mention the kid holding his arms out like a plane. In other words, I guess I like all of it.

Obviously there will be more to come; you’re either looking forward to it or already planning to avoid my blog for the next week or two. Sorry! I loves me some planes. And today’s jaunt was just what I needed; not feeling like setting up anything for a shoot + needing to get the hell outside and enjoy a pretty day = photographer satisfaction. Here’s looking at another, week, folks; hope you have a good one!