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.