I was picking up some family members that were coming to stay. I got to the airport a little ahead of their scheduled arrival time and, since it was some time near an airport, I figured a bit of photography wouldn’t go amiss. They were coming in on a Virgin 787-9 so I knew I would shoot that. The heavies come in on the inner runway, but the rest tend to go to the outer. You can still get them, but it isn’t so close. I figured a few shots on a cloudy day was worth time to experiment with exposing high and playing with the shots in post.
My cloudy Vancouver shoot also gave me the chance to play around with some lower shutter speeds. I have done this for the turboprops before but this time I decided to play with some of the jets. A really low shuttle speed can blur out the background and give a nice impression of movement but it is a problematic shot to make. You don’t want to do it on something that you are keen to get in case you get nothing! It is also something that results in very small apertures if there is much light which can make for a lot of dust spotting in post! A cloudy evening is a good time to try and a bunch of boring regular jets are good targets for a trial!
It’s always a nice combination when you can get some light on the foreground subject of the photo and have a really dark and menacing cloud structure in the background. The brightness of the foreground exposure is much higher than the background so it makes the clouds look even more dramatic when exposing for the subject. Having a play with post processing will also help to make things look more dramatic. This Wildcat was parked on the flightline at Chino for Planes of Fame just as the lighting worked to my advantage. I may not have been happy about the weather conditions but this was one of the upsides to a cloudy sky.
Sometimes you have an idea about something that will work out really well. Unfortunately, you are not always right in that assumption. I was up early one weekend morning and was over in San Francisco. My reason for being there didn’t quite work out – this day is turning out to have a theme – so decided to go down to SFO. The weather was not great with a lot of cloud about at low levels. However, I had in mind that it might be cool to try and get shots of the jets coming in with lots of moisture around them in a moody form.
I got the shore and the planes were easy enough to see as they landed but it was just grey so nothing special or dramatic. I decided to head a little further along the shore as I have previously seen the jets streaming vortices as they approached which then disappeared as they got closer to touchdown. I figured that the moisture content of the air must change along the shoreline. I was certainly right but not in a helpful way. My next spot gave me a good location to be when the planes were finally about to get visual with the runway. As they passed me they were still in the bottom of the clouds and only just breaking out. Consequently, they were heavily obscured and not easy to see let alone photograph.
My grand idea did not work out well at all. As they got further away down the approach, they may have been showing some moisture but there was so much between us, it was hard to tell. One United 747 did put on a good show with some serious cloud activity over the wings and flap system as it passed but that was as good as it gets. After a little while, I accepted defeat and headed home. It is true you won’t get something different if you don’t try something different but that doesn’t mean it will be worth it!
Our journey home came through Kansas City. We got the airport in plenty of time so were hanging around waiting for our flight. The clouds were working their way across the sky and the beams of light that cut out of them at times could be quite attractive. An airport ramp is not the best foreground for that type of shot but you don’t ignore something because of that. Here are a couple of examples of how it looked.
While we had our friends in town, we asked what they wanted to do. One of the things they had in mind was a trip up the Hancock Tower at the end of the day to see the city before and after sunset. Sounded like a good plan. We headed up that way with some time in hand and got to the ticket line. It was quite short and we thought we were in luck. However, a quick peek through the window to the line for the elevators revealed a different story. The line was very long and there was no way we were going to be up the tower until long after the light had gone.
We decided to save this for another day. Sadly, that day turned out to be the one with the best of the weather. When you only have so much time at a place, you have to go with what you can get so we made a second trip. This time a lot of the tourist had gone home after the holidays but the weather was more cloudy. At least this made for a short line.
The view from the Hancock is a good one. The light can be tricky since you spend a lot of time looking south but with more cloud that was less of an issue. However, the cloud did obscure some things and the moisture in the air made it harder to see things in the distance. There were still some nice things to see though so it was worth going up. Just a shame we didn’t manage to be there when the conditions were at their best!