Still Learning To See

Flying high…

We’ll soon be headed to North Carolina to be with the family again. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled by air a great deal in my time. I always sit by the window and I never pull the shade down. Some don’t like that because it ruins their movie! I can rent those kinds of movies for a buck or less but the “movie” I see out the window is nearly always remarkable.

I enjoy making photographs through the window too. I rarely do anything out of the ordinary and I’ve gotten, among many bad images, some astounding ones. I typically use the short end of my 70-300mm zoom in the center of the window where there is less distortion. I also always select my seat with care to minimize sun glare and to see what I want to see. I don’t worry about shutter speed, but certainly keeping it faster than 125th second and concentrating on begin steady, works best. Of course there are many airplane windows that are totally abraded and impossible and there are times when the clouds are complete, gray and pretty boring.

The salt marshes just off Delaware Bay, even if in "soft" focus, form stunning patterns. The wake of the boat just adds more interest!

The opening image on my website is one that really blew my mind when I processed it. I was headed home from Puerto Rico, saw this scene far below as we headed in over the Keys and managed to make two quick images before it was gone. I find it essential to have my camera in hand and ready to go. While I don’t look out the window 100% of the time, when the scenery is of interest, I’m constantly checking and looking ahead for what might be coming. I also carry a small map and typically find it very easy to know what we are/will be flying over.

The setting sun lights a large cloud.

Often I can’t see the ground or conditions are not great so I turn my attention to the clouds, sun and moon. On a recent flight I was fortunately to see moon dogs—a very unusual event! Clouds are so often simply marvelous, especially at sunset—if you are the correct side of the plane! Sometimes it feels like I can just reach out and touch them. Wow. And few things in life are more beautiful than a new or full moon rising or setting in a crystal clear sky seen from an airplane seat.

My friend Julia posted a comment about a remarkable aerial photographer, Yann Arthus-Bertrand. If you are unfamiliar with his work, please take a look. He has long been an inspiration to me, especially when I’m in the air!

This entry was published on December 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm. It’s filed under Clouds, Patterns, Photograph and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Flying high…

  1. Yes, the view from the air gives an entirely different perspective if we are open to it. My favorite aerial photographer is Yann Arthus-Bertrand, whose amazing work EARTH FROM ABOVE simply took my breath away. He has used planes, helicopters, air balloons–all to show us our amazing earth. I’m sure you’re familiar with his work, but I hadn’t heard of him until my children took me to an outdoor exhibit in Chicago of HUGE prints of his images.

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful cloud picture–for us fearful flyers, who are white-knuckled the entire trip, you are kind to let us have a glimpse of what we are missing!

  2. Thank you. Yes, I know Arthus-Bertrand’s remarkable work and recommend it highly to anyone who is reading this blog. I absolutely credit him with helping me “learn to see” from the air!

  3. John
    How nice to get the directions and some guidelines for taking photos from window seats on planes and then to get a few stunning examples. I am going to try it out on the way back home!

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