My friend, Mark, suggested we head to the north side of Vancouver for a couple of the heavy arrivals. The light was not on the right side for shooting there but you can get a good angle on the arriving jets and, rather than fight the light, you can embrace it. The sun is behind the planes and on the other side so it is very backlit. It is the end of the day, though, so the sky does look nice.
The British Airways A380 was on the approach when we got there so a quick run from the car got us in place. The A380 is large enough that you often think you need to hurry more than you actually do because it appears closer in. Let the heart rate settle a little and be ready to get some shots. With the backlighting, it looked pretty impressive. Once it was off the runway, it did need to taxi back to the terminal so that brought it into some better light.
When the aircraft are approaching SFO from over the bay, they touchdown out of sight of the usual locations on the bay shore. However, the old control tower provides a better perspective on these approaches. While you are shooting through some pretty stout glass, you can get a good shot or two of the approaches. A good example was the Lufthansa Airbus A380. Watching it come in towards the land, drift across the shoreline and over the threshold before touching down a little way down the runway, you see things in a way that is not often achievable. Since the tower will shortly be demolished, I doubt I will get something similar for a while.
Emirates A380s are a regular feature at SFO. They usually look pretty much the same with maybe the occasional graphic added for an event or other. This one was a bit out of the ordinary though. Apparently Emirates must have some sort of promotional tie in with the LA Dodgers. The side of the jet was adorned with a large graphic about the team. The side of an A380 is pretty sizeable so there is plenty of real estate to adorn with whatever you want to include. In this case, they made good use of it.
The jets approaching SFO have their gear down long before they reach Coyote Point. However, if you look into the distance, you can see them lower the gear somewhere around the San Mateo Bridge. The A380 has a gear sequence that involves the outer gear coming down first followed by the body gear. I figured I would shoot at long range and then animate the sequence. Heat haze was not great but I think it shows the way things work. Maybe in the winter I will try this again and see if I can get a cleaner image.
Heathrow is an airport that was probably at the heart of the thinking of the Airbus team when they conceived of the A380. A busy international airport with tight constraints on movements, it is the sort of place that requires higher capacity aircraft for some routes. Therefore, it is of no surprise to find that plenty of the A380 operators bring their aircraft to London. I wasn’t hanging around at Heathrow on our trip to the UK but we were there waiting to head home. Also, at various times we were around the city and its surroundings so arriving and departing jets passed overhead.
Consequently, I got to see a few different operators’ jets while we were there. I wasn’t always well prepared for them. Wandering along the south bank of the Thames, I was not carrying a long lens and was caught out by one coming over the top turning on to final approach. Other times I was a bit better prepared. These images are some of the jets we saw while we were there.
SFO is becoming a popular spot for the A380s. Last summer Air France were bringing theirs here and over the winter both Emirate and Lufthansa were bringing the mighty beast in. With the new summer season starting, Air France are back and have been joined by British Airways. I have seen a few BA 380s in the past. We were next to one on stand at Heathrow when we last went to the UK and I have seen them at LAX as well. However, I haven’t had the chance to get a shot of one in good conditions.
A sunny Saturday afternoon came free so I decided to head along. Rather than go close to the airport at SFO, I opted for Coyote Point. It is closer to the approach path and less affected by haze. I needn’t have worried as it was very windy and the view from the point to the airport was remarkably clear. When the big jet showed up, I had plenty of time to get it approach, pass and land. It got to the gate just as the Emirates 380 was leaving. Just as well as I think they have to use the same gate!
While at Coyote Point, I was surprised to see how the wind was clearing out some of the particulate matter in the air and giving me a good view of things at SFO. A few times I watched the departure of some of the big jets including three A380s. They each lined up on 28R for departure. What I had never noticed before is how much their jetwash disturbs the water off the end of the runway. Once they get to full power and before they move too far down the runway, the water gets quite some spray in motion. Probably not a good place to find yourself if you are one of the many birds that live in the bay!
LAX is undergoing a multi-year program of rebuilding their runways. They have to make some federally mandated upgrades and they are taking the chance to relocate runway and taxiway alignments to accommodate the A380 more efficiently. This means that one of the four runways is going to be out of use for a long time. At the moment, it is one of the runways on the south side of the field which is the part most easily seen from Imperial Hill. Therefore, I decided to try something new for me which was shooting from the beach.
Most departures head out over the beach from LAS unless the winds are doing something unusual. For aircraft heading off the northerly runways, this is the only place to get a good view and, since those runways are located further west, the jets are lower as they come out. The hills along the shore used to be a series of streets which provided a perfect location for watching the jets. However, this whole area has now been closed off and is inaccessible. It is designated a nature reserve although I bet a few security issues helped with the process.
I hadn’t been down this way before so didn’t know exactly where to go. The combination of the hill and fencing makes the view a little restrictive. However, you can get some interesting angles on the jets as they take off. If the weather is nice, you also get some lovely evening light here although my visit coincided with a fair bit of cloud! I was also constantly guessing the flightpath to avoid the places with palm trees and fences – not always successfully. I include one shot through the fence to show you what you see, even if it isn’t good for getting a shot.
I saw a few of the big jets head out which was quite a bit of fun. If I find myself back, I will have a bit of further exploration down here to see what better spots (and weather hopefully) I can find.
I was in Los Angeles a little while back and managed to get a few shots of things at LAX between other activities. This is a quick picture post. The new international terminal has been opened and the big jets are often arrayed along it at the right time of day. The thing that I find funny about this shot is that the small fin in the middle is a Lufthansa Boeing 747-8. This is not a small plane but the Airbus A380 fins make it look tiny!
There are some shots that it is just hard to get. They are possible but it depends on what you have available. One idea that I have been trying to come up with a solution for is getting good shots of airliners as they lower their gear. The sequence for lowering the gear is pretty cool and the outline of the plane when it has flaps deployed but no gear is of interest to me too. However, to get a shot like that, you need to be high up further out on the approach. Unless you are in another aircraft, that is tricky to do.
From the normal locations on the ground, the aircraft is just too far away to get a decent shot. Not only is it in the distance and, therefore, small but you also have to cope with atmospheric disturbances like heat haze and dust in the air. It doesn’t make for a compelling shot! Instead, I decided to try something different. I would shoot the sequence of shots of the approach and then animate them. This would mean that the reduced quality of an individual shot would be lost as the sequence would require a certain amount of motion blur anyway.
What I didn’t realize until I tried this on an A380 was that this jet has an unusual gear sequence. I was looking at trying a 747 or an A380 since they are large and have interesting wing configurations when approaching to land. As it turns out, the A380 lowers the outer two gear legs first before the two center body legs come down. I had not appreciated this before trying this shot. Animating the sequence really put the computer under some pressure. Creating a file with over 100 layers and then adjusting each layer to align properly took some time and really made the machine work hard. Ultimately, I got the sequence you can see above.