I was looking to get some midsummer shooting in at Vancouver. The day was a lovely one but the evening promised so overcast rolling in and that proved to be the case. However, I thought I would give things a go. The lack of the strong evening light was disappointing but it did actually make for some softer lighting conditions and things weren’t all bad. The evening culminated (at least for me) with three quick arrivals. An Edelweiss A340-300, a BA A380 and a China Airlines A350-900. I quite liked the conditions as they provided something slightly different. Clouds shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent from an evening out shooting.
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!
Getting a good angle on jets lined up on the approach is a combination of luck with where you can stand and the timing of the arrivals to be in sequence when you can get them all together. It is also a question of whether you have the right focal length to catch them together but not so much that one is out of frame. I played with this a bit at YVR. Sometimes there would be a jet on the parallel approach too but combining the lot was more luck than judgement.
Shooting Dash 8s and Q400s at YVR is not going to be particularly interesting so I was able to spend some time playing with shutter speeds progressively lower and lower. Shooting very low shutter speeds on the 500mm handheld is a bit of a crapshoot but you never know what you might get. Besides, the evening light meant it wasn’t so bright that you were at ridiculous apertures with the associated endless dust spotting!
I was quite prepared to have got absolutely nothing from these shots. However, either my luck was good or my technique has improved – I think we both know which it is – and I got a few sharp ones with plenty of prop blur and background blur combined. Background blur always makes for a more interesting shot. However, when you want to make sure you get the shot, you aren’t always willing to risk it. Having something that is not a make or break shot means you can have a lot more leeway for experimentation.
When you get lots of similar jets arriving, you can mess around a bit. The 500mm was far too long for the touchdown shots for most aircraft but, when you are getting a bunch of Air Canada A320s, no harm in cropping in really tight on some of them. The CFM-56 reversers are a bucket type so they splay out from the nacelle. With the evening light, you can see lots of detail in the structure. I played with a similar effect on some of the other jets too.
The day I was at YVR, the BA A380 was a bit late against schedule. Since the light improves significantly later in the evening – nice soft light, warmth and more to the north side – this was considered a win rather than something to complain about. If all of the heavy arrivals could have been a bit delayed and shown up in the best light, that would have been perfect! There wasn’t any significant heat haze which made shots further up the approach surprisingly sharp which was nice. Then touchdown in front of you with all of those tires smoking in sequence rounds things out well.
Each evening sees a selection of Convairs making their arrivals at YVR. The freight location is on the south side of the field so they usually come in on the south runway. No good for where I was shooting from. However, one of them made its arrival on the north side. No idea why this was done but I’m certainly not complaining. With the Honeywell Convair now retired, my chances of seeing flying examples are going to be pretty limited.
Arrivals at Vancouver are often on a westerly heading and on the north runway. This is not ideal for photography at touchdown except in the height of summer. Then the light comes around to the north side quite nicely. I wasn’t in Vancouver at the peak time but I did have a visit when the sun had started to get to a good spot. I met up with my buddy Mark for a little evening shooting.
Unfortunately, not everything I wanted came to the runway. The glide slope was apparently unserviceable so some airlines chose to go to the south runway. However, enough came to the north to be worthwhile. The later it got, the better the light became. Some interesting overseas arrivals come in late enough to take advantage of this plus the regular local traffic to provide some nice opportunities. It was a nice evening of shooting and meant the traffic was far easier by the time I got on the road home.
Watching a bunch of arrivals at Vancouver, I got a lot of shots of aircraft reversing thrust. Current jets fall into one of two categories. Cascade reversers or bucket reversers. The bucket reversers aren’t quite as obvious as those fitted to the old 737-200s where they clamped across the whole exhaust but the effect is much the same. Bucket reversers look like they are doing the job to me. They hang out and you can imagine the flow being turned around as they power up. Cascade reversers are far more subtly as the nacelle translates aft and the flow is redirected out of the based of fins that is now exposed. I imagine they are similarly effective but I have no data to back that up. If someone knows more, please let me know as I am genuinely interested to find out.
One of the fun things about shooting at a different airport is the airlines you are not used to seeing. Interjet is a Mexican airline that I have seen occasionally at LAX and I believe now goes to SFO (too late for me though) but they do serve Vancouver. They are also an operator of the Sukhoi SSJ (although sadly not on this run). They arrive later in the evening so are timed well for the light to be good in the summer months. The A320 may not be as unusual as the SSJ but as a different operator to the norm for me, I was happy to get it arriving.