Last July I retired at the age of 71. My work involved aviation and therefore I spent a lot of time in “the big tin can at the top of the world”. I’ve also been passionate about photography since the mid-sixties. I first started using Leica cameras in 1969 and have therefore taken cameras on most flights.
“Chicago Approach” was taken from a United Airlines Airbus A320 on a flight from Seattle to Chicago. As we decended into Chicago, the weather deteriorated and it was extremely bumpy, which made me think that once we got through the cloud there could be a dramatic sky. So I got the camera out. Sure enough, I was delighted with the captured image. A large print also shows another aircraft on a parallel approach to us which, for me, makes the photograph.
“Heathrow Approach” was the complete opposite, with perfect flying conditions. I had been working with Air India in Mumbai (I still think of it as Bombay) and had helped them get a Boeing 787 back in the air. When I checked in for the “silly o’clock” flight back to Heathrow, they gave me seat 1A. As we approached Heathrow the following morning, we went into the usual holding pattern and I snapped a couple of images
I have captured many other images from commercial airliners but some of my favourites are those taken from a friend’s immaculate 1955 Cessna 180.
Mike and I had attended an aviation conference in Minneapolis and he had decided to fly the Cessna there from his base in Reno, Nevada. Having been tied up in a hotel conference room for five days, we decided to take the Cessna for a spin one evening.
We had intended to land in some small town about 45 minutes from Minneapolis, have dinner and then return. However when we got there the weather had closed in and we were worried that the fog would be too thick for a take-off after dinner. So, reluctantly, we headed straight back. The sunset on our return flight certainly made the effort most worthwhile.
In February a couple of years ago, I had been involved in teaching a “Damage Assessment & Structural Composite Repair Course” (sounds fun, doesn’t it?) which involved me spending a weekend in Reno, Nevada.
I love Yosemite National Park in California and the local guys knew that’s where I would be heading to spend the weekend. They realised I’d been there many times and so, for something different, they suggested I should photograph it from the air. Of course I jumped at the chance and, early on Saturday morning, we loaded the faithful Cessna.
The initial flight plan took us over Lake Tahoe and I grabbed this shot of Emerald Bay using a Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8, set at 62mm, with 400 ISO. If I remember correctly, I also used a polariser and three-stop graduated filter.
The first place I recognised as we approached Yosemite was the “back” of Half Dome, not normally seen unless one goes up to Glazier Point. I used a 10.5mm fisheye lens since I wanted to exaggerate the curvature of the earth and produce something a little different.
We circled Half Dome a few times, but not for too long as we didn’t want to disturb the peace and tranquility on the Valley Floor. Being Yosemite, this image had to be black & white, as are all the prints I’ve produced from this wonderful area.
Mentioning the Valley Floor, before we left and headed back to Reno I took another fisheye image, this time of the valley, with El Capitan in the foreground and just visible at the right centre of the image is Half Dome.
Yosemite is a landscape photographer’s paradise and I’ve been lucky to have visited it many times and during most seasons of the year. The summer colours are spectacular, but the number of tourists can make photography difficult; my favourite time is winter but the heavy snows do restrict access to some of the higher passes. In fact it was only on our fifth, or even sixth visit that Tioga Pass was actually open. We’re off there again at the end of November and, as it coincides with Thanksgiving, are hoping the park will be relatively visitor-free.
I hope you have enjoyed my brief insight into aerial photography and it may have inspired you to keep a camera ready next time you’re in “the big tin can at the top of the world”. You don’t need anything special, but I would advise you to get the camera lens as close to the window as possible (without actually touching it) in order to avoid any unpleasant reflections.