Nothing terribly timely about this post. These shots were taken quite a while ago during a visit to Chicago. (At least they are so old that they are from when I lived there.) There was a time when the 747 was the freighter of choice. There are still missions for which the 747 is still required but few loads require the nose loading and the most versatile of the big freighters these days is the 777. (It seems that the 777 is taking over everything that the 747 used to do.)
One afternoon at O’Hare included a couple of 777 freighters. AeroLogic had one of theirs in town. I saw it coming in and also got so see it head out again. I don’t know where it was coming from or going to. Meanwhile, Air France also had one of their freighters making an appearance. It’s a shame that the 747 is not so prevalent anymore. It is a cooler looking jet and the 777 freighter is barely distinguishable from the multitude of 777s on passenger duty. However, that is the way it is these days.
My personal preference is to shoot planes tight. I like to see the detail up close and usually strive to get that in my shots. However, sometimes I remember that there is more to it than that and there is something interesting about the context of the shot. It doesn’t have to be a detailed shot of the plane. It can be a wider shot when no one is looking at the plane expecting to see the intricacies of its structure.
Having some nice clouds to play with is an important part of the story. Going wide when the sky is blue is not really going to add any drama. However, some nice puffy clouds will certainly be appreciated in this situation. In this case I was with some friends at O’Hare shortly after a storm had passed through. Things had cleared up nicely but there was still plenty of evidence in the air of what had been dumping water on us a short while before.
I doubt closer shots would have been much use anyway. With the amount of moisture in the air and the warmth that was quickly coming back now that the sun was out, heat haze would have destroyed an detail with a longer lens. Going wider was probably the only option. It was certainly worth it though. The texture of the clouds after the storm was there to see and to be emphasized in the shots. The plane provides a focal point to explore the image from but is not too important itself. You can’t just do this but, from time to time, it is good to fight your normal style.
To be fair, the lions are pretty flexible when it comes to affiliations. When the White Sox went to the World Series, they wore White Sox caps. Bears helmets and Blackhawks helmets don’t cause a problem since there is only one team for each sport in the city unlike supporting one or other of the baseball teams. However, the lions do appear to be fans of whichever team is winning! (For those of you not familiar with the lions, they flank the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago and they get into the spirit if a team is doing well.) By now, of course, we know how it all worked out! Let’s go Cubbies!
When I shot film I had a go at shooting lightning a number of times but never with any success. I would try and react to get the bolt but it was always gone. When you are using film and having a very low success rate, things get too expensive. Consequently, I gave up on it. The move to digital opened up a new range of possibilities.
My new approach doesn’t involve much skill (but then neither does using an electronic trigger). I set up the exposure to have a reasonably long shutter speed. Then I put the camera on continuous mode, plug in the cable release and lock the shutter open. Then the camera takes a steady stream of shots. Of course, when there is a slight gap between shots, you can imagine when the lightning will strike.
I used to shoot a lot from the apartment in Chicago. Set the camera up and go and do something else. Unfortunately, the heavy rains that would accompany the storm activity could result in the sky glaring out but you still had a chance. Some of the shots were okay and every once in a while you would get a really cool outcome. The Trump Tower was next to us and it would be struck occasionally but it was too close to get a good look at. You could hear it though!
If you want to go with a rather easily achieved photo, a shot of a Southwest 737 would seem to be about as common as they get in the US. I was staying in a hotel near Midway recently and, after dinner, I decided to see if I could get something a little different to my normal shots of a plane I spend a lot of time sitting inside! I wasn’t hampered by some rather helpful weather conditions.
I was close to the approach path so I wandered off to find what line worked best. My best results came from two spots. One was directly on the flightpath. The other was slightly offset to one side. At this location, the planes are just short of the field so are pretty low. I include a couple of shots that show the rooflines of some of the houses to give you an idea of the surroundings. The shots from under the nose are interesting but there is only so much you get from that angle. I was pleased with a few of the, but I did not spend a lot of time in this spot.
Being offset provided a more interesting angle. I only had one lens with me so I was a little limited in what I could try by having a longer focal length. Being full frame does now give me a bit more width at the short end of the zoom though. Therefore, I could get some shots from almost underneath that provide a slightly more dynamic angle.
Since it was evening, the light was getting better and better. What certainly helped was that there was a hint of storm activity in the distance and some clouds were bubbling up. They made for a far more interesting backdrop than the empty sky. Overall, this was a pretty satisfying evening. I did get some other arrivals that while I was there and I will possibly give them their own post at some time.
The Chicago Botanic Gardens open at 7am. This is something I was totally unaware of when we lived in Chicago. During our recent visit, we were staying a short distance away and had some free time in the morning. We decided to go early, have a wander around, get some breakfast there and then go back to the hotel to be ready for the day. We might not have been there spot on 7am but we weren’t much later.
Early morning is a great time to look around. It was a hot weekend that weekend so we were able to enjoy the gardens before they got too hot. We were also able to enjoy them pretty much alone for a lot of the time. The crowds have not shown up yet and the place is occupied by the regulars. In some of the more central parts of the gardens, the groundskeepers are still busy at work sorting things out before the majority of visitors appear.
We wandered around a good portion of the grounds. Heading towards midsummer, even that early in the day is long after the sun comes up so it isn’t the perfect light. It is a lot better than later in the day though so worth taking the camera. With so few people, the chance to get unobstructed shots is worth it in itself. Having not been for a while, the chance to walk the grounds again was a treat as well.
A work trip recently took me through Chicago Midway. I wasn’t there long before getting on my next flight. We were taxiing out to depart and were coming past the National Guard air unit based on the field. They operate a bunch of Black Hawks. A couple of them were parked up on the apron and one was on approach. My plane conveniently had to hold for a while so I got to see the Black Hawk fly its approach and land. I only had my phone with me but here is some footage of the arrival.
Getting some lovely evening light means the steady improvement in shooting conditions right up until the point when it all goes away. The light was on the nose of the departing jets so was good as they climbed out. Once they were passed our location, they were partially backlit but, since the sun was very low in the sky, the undersides of the jet were illuminated as it climbed. This provided some great options.
As the sun got even lower, the shade was beginning to be an issue for the front shots but the sky still provided a few nice options as the jets were heading away. The back of a plane might not always be the best side to shoot but, if the light is playing ball, it can be good. Of course, the transformation from great to gone is pretty quick so you make the best of it and then you can go home!
Every once in a while you see something and you have no idea what is going on. As a United 767 climbed out from O’Hare, it was streaming something from the fuselage. I saw it through the viewfinder at the time and figured it would be obvious what it was when I looked at the pictures. It turns out I still don’t know what was happening. Anyone reading this that has any ideas, please let me know what you think.
The early evening period at O’Hare is the time when the departures to Europe get into full swing. The flights to the U.S. Tend to arrive from lunchtime into the mid afternoon so a regular turnaround means they are ready to head out later in the afternoon for the overnight trip back to Europe for a morning arrival. When the winds are from the west, this means you get the low sun angle on the nose of the aircraft which is pretty ideal.
It is a great time to shoot. Everything heads out in a pretty compressed timescale so you get a lot of interesting aircraft in a short period of time. The variety o types has taken a bit of a hit in recent years as things tend to get focused on similar aircraft for the similar missions. However, you still get a mix of A330s, 787s, some 777s and even the occasional 747.
There are a few flights that run a little earlier or a little later which meant I didn’t get a comprehensive collection of what is on offer but there was still plenty to make the time well spent. The fact I was hanging out with a good bunch of guys made the whole event far more enjoyable. If there was a quiet time, we could spend it talking as long as someone was paying attention to whatever was taxiing out. At the western end, there are large earth banks which restrict the view of the field. Instead, you predict where the planes will appear and make sure you are ready. The noise is usually a clue!