Photography from a Plane

Airplane Sunset

Airplane Sunset

I travel a lot, like, almost every other week.  Unfortunately I rarely go to interesting, exotic places.  Actually I rarely go someplace other than the place I’ve been going for the last four years – good old Indianapolis.

For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to take some pictures from the plane.  As I discovered, this isn’t as straightforward as it might seem.  First, obviously, having a window seat is helpful.  Leaning over a passenger or two sitting next to me with my big camera and lens would be . . . well, I might meet some new friends that way.  “Excuse me while I whip this out.”  The second concern is the window itself.  Often the plexiglass, or whatever it is, is covered with a patina from passengers past.  And that’s just on the inside.  Ice and other stuff can cling to the outside and prevent a decent shot.

Then there’s the question of having something interesting to shoot.  Cloud-cover and other weather patterns can present a very uninteresting subject.  The image here was taken while on final descent into Indianapolis International Airport.  Above the clouds, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset, visible perfectly in the opening between layers.  What I didn’t realize is that Indy was blanketed with fog at this time.  We descended through the lower clouds and didn’t reemerge until the wheels were almost on the ground.  It was exciting.

As for the settings, I decided to go with kind of an in-between f-stop so I would have at least a little depth-of-field but not so much that the scratches on the window were visible.  Since I was in Manual mode (checking the blinkies) and making adjustments, I ended up at f6.3.  In case you’re curious about the other settings, I was hand-holding on a moving plane, so I wanted a fairly fast shutter speed.  This ended up being shot at 1/400th of a second using ISO 640.

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