I was running back through some older shots while experimenting with some processing techniques and was looking at some British Airways 747-400 shots. With them now retired from BA service, it was a moment of reflection to see the shots again. It was also a departure sequence which meant there was a good view of the way in which the QOTS main gear tucked away. A cool looking sequence but a lot less common these days. Thank goodness for the freighters and the remaining passenger jets.
At quiet times, I browse through older shots to see what I have shot in the past that might not have been the most interesting subject of the shoot but was worth another look. I had been photographing with a bunch of guys at O’Hare a few years back as the evening was drawing in. We were out at the west side of O’Hare and the evening light was great. An Embraer E175-E1 took off and turned overhead us. The low light angles picked up the underside of the aircraft as it turned. The bottom of a wing has a lot of complex curvatures to it and the low light angle really emphasizes that shape. This shot really appealed to me for that reason.
When putting together some images for a group online that I am involved with, a dug out a couple of shots of jets departing O’Hare I shot years back. When coming off 22L, some of the jets make an early turn to the south and you can get a view of them that is either quite level with the wing line or slightly above. When shooting them, they are climbing so it is obvious what you were shooting. However, as I looked at these shots, it occurred to me that they looked a lot like an air to air position except the angles were wrong because of the climb. Since I had shot quite tightly, re-cropping the shot required some Photoshop work.
Taking the image out of Lightroom and in to Photoshop, I selected the crop tool and rotated the image to be the sort of angle that an air to air shot might be. Doing this crops off the nose and tail of the jet. However, one feature of the crop tool in Photoshop is that, if you then drag the edges of the tool back out, you can expand the canvas size. You now have the whole plane in shot but have added some white space in each corner where no image previously existed.
It is a simple task to then use Content Aware Fill to add sky back in to these areas. The result is a shot that looks almost as if you had been flying in formation at altitude. Would you have spotted it? Having done it with an A320, I then had a go with a 757. The light angle makes it look a bit like we are flying along towards a setting sun. I was rather pleased with the trick.
More shots from a fun shoot a while back. If the wind is coming from the west, evening departures from O’Hare provide plenty of opportunity to get some shots. The heavy departures to Europe leave later in the afternoon and in to the early evening and, as the sun drops down things are getting better and better. The nice thing about this day was that we got a combination of good conditions. Earlier in the afternoon, while the light wasn’t as good, a storm had not long passed through and there was plenty of moisture in the air.
The result was a lot of vapor in the inlets of the jets as they climbed out at high thrust settings. Some of them had clouds sitting in the inlets for long periods of time. Others would just pulse with the vapor as they climbed away. They would also puff up little clouds over the upper surfaces of the wing as they fought to gain height. As the afternoon wore on, the air dried out a bit and the vapor went away. However, the light was then getting better so no reason to go just yet!
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.
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!
Getting an unusual perspective is one of those goals we set ourselves when out shooting. It is not tricky to get similar looking shots on a regular basis and this blog is often populated with such stuff. However, finding a new angle on something is cool. The view down the runway is one I like. It gives some context to what is going on when planes are operating. Usually a good viewing location is hard to find but a bit of elevation can be helpful.
In Rosemont, there is a road that goes over a bridge crossing some railroad tracks. It just happens to be pretty much in line with runway 22L. As the rebuilding of O’Hare’s runways continues, 22L will eventually disappear. However, it is currently used primarily for departures. While it is a bit far away, you do tend to get the chance to have one aircraft taxiing into position for departure while another is getting airborne at the far end. This emphasis on the busy nature of O’Hare is part of the strength of this location.