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Airplane Photography

Monday, October 26th, 2009 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography
 
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Airplane photography is a lot of fun to do. However, there are also things to consider. Check out this to-do list before you start to shoot your memorable aerial shots to fill up that travel album!

1. Do the focussing yourself.

Since there are many factors that cannot be controlled while photographing from a plane, it is best to change from auto-focus to manual focus. Adjust it in such a way that you can lock the focus at the precise point and then start taking your pictures.

2. Start shooting as soon as you are in the air, realize the ground!

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When the plane has been flying for too long, due to the weather conditions and pressure variation, there might be fogging of the glass, or there might be too many clouds which will prevent you from shooting. Start shooting during the start of the flight itself, click your pictures and be done. Weather can change with height and at any point during the course of the flight. And if you are crossing seas, you will be above water for a very long time, so if you miss out the early part, you will have to wait until you reach land to continue.

You have very limited time during the take-off and landing. Even when you are steadily flying, you don’t have too much of a scope to shoot from whichever angle or position you want. Be ready for the moment when you have to click the picture, be it at whichever point in time during the journey.

3. You definitely do not need the flash.

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If your flash is on, then it will get reflected from the glass, and your image will be a huge blotch of white and yellow. Turn off your flash. Although the light from a flash loses its strength as it travels through free space, here the light has no region to propagate.

4. Shoo away those reflections and vibrations.

The airplane walls are constantly vibrating, so if you touch the camera to the plane window, hold it firm and think that your picture will be unaffected by those shakes, then you are unfortunately wrong. In fact, the shaking will have a greater impact when you are actually in contact with the walls of the plane. The reflections will be cut-out nonetheless. A digital single-lens reflex camera with a lens hood can be an excellent idea. You can have a variety of lenses to pick from and you can get the exact preview of the picture just before exposure. Get as close to the window as you want, without letting the lens frame touch the glass. But they might be cumbersome because the window is small as it is. Sometimes it might not even fit in there. After this, close around it using your free hand in order to prevent the lights from the foreground from impacting your operation. Use a PL filter, switch off your overhead bulb, and cover the space around your face using a cloth or jacket, and you totally avoid reflected light in your photos.

4. Make the shots attractive and intriguing.

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The views of the earth below are spectacular with the myriad hues of the changing landscape, the buzz of the life, the buildings, roads and plying vehicles, as well as the endless skies that roof everything that is below. Pick up a theme from the simplest things available around you or down below. Centre your picture on an irregular coastline, or the ends of the plane’s wing. Clouds give a misty, dreamy feel to the picture. If you are flying early in the morning, catch the first rays of the rising sun. Evenings mean a dying sun and night lights in a city. The starts of land after you start flying into it from above the sea; or a rare case when you might find another plane flying. All this will add oodles of life into your shots!

5. Where to ideally position yourself?

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A seat right in front of the wing or a little ahead is ideal. Make the wings a part of your photo and enjoy the mechanism by which the wings change structures while the plane banks. But sitting behind the wing is a bad idea because the engine exhaust will surround the plane with a haze. You do not need a polarizer here. The plane window has atleast 3 layers of glass that is polarized. A fourth one will result in unnecessary colours in the picture due to cross-polarization. This is the purple rainbow effect. Avoid it. A Black & White IR filter helps you prevent the ultraviolet and infrared light from interfering with your image. If you’re travelling towards the northern hemisphere in the morning, get an ‘A’ seat because the sun rises in the east. Besides all these considerations, the flight crew will be able to tell you the exact points from where you can shoot to get brilliant photographs of the most breathtaking views.

7. And don’t forget to scrub your windows to bag those perfect moments!

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A fast moving shutter is indispensable as there might be fast-moving views that have to be caught; this is a rare phenomenon, but not to be overlooked. The window glass next to you must be impeccably wiped. Pay attention to these nuances and you’ll find your way to getting each and every to be flawless and sensational!

~Zahid Javali

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