I haven’t shot at Fisherman’s Park before and I am glad Hayman suggested it. The location provides a slightly different perspective on the planes coming in to SFO. It also seems to be the right angle to get lots of planes in one shot. Parallel approaches will give you two but you can also get the aircraft departing off the 01s in the background too. Sadly, they were often in shade as they departed but it still provided some contrasting shots. Then it was just a question of whether you could get two arriving and two departing jets in the same shot or not. Sadly, not this time.
Shooting parallel approaches at SFO is always fun. Despite the fact it is a relatively regular occurrence there, it is still a nice photographic challenge. So often, the approaches are not at exactly the same time and the planes end up being further apart than you want for the shot. Fisherman’s Park provided an alternative view of the approaches and also gave you new options. While the jets might be offset, you got them coming towards you, passing you and going away which meant you could use the different perspectives to bring the jets into one frame.
It didn’t hurt that there were quite a few parallel approaches while we were there. This provided plenty of opportunities to try out some different shots. It was also good to go wider sometimes to give some context to how the parallel approaches looked. This is lost if you go too close on them which is something that I tend to do.
Heading back to Hawthorne after my flight over LAX, another plane was coming in to the southern complex. I had forgotten it was due and, after moving to the south of the field, we could have got a good shot of it landing. Never mind. This Lufthansa A340-600 beat me but I was able to get a shot of him from a distance as we headed in and, since there was a parallel approach on the northside, I got his little cousin in the shot too.
Not too much description to go with this post. SFO is well known for its parallel approaches (and departures) and I have been seeing a lot of them recently. Here are a few of the examples that have cropped up. As an extra, I include a shot of two on approach with a departure in the background. Combine a parallel pair with the other traffic a little further out on the approach and the sky looks a little busy. However, while it looks interesting in person, it doesn’t make for a compelling shot.
Normally airliners stay quite a distance from each other. Getting more than one in a shot is the result of compression of the distance as they pass in different directions. What is more fun is to have each jet be replaced by two. SFO likes to have the parallel arrivals and similarly the departures are often involving two planes at a time. If you time it right and have the angles aligned properly, you can get four jets in one shot – two on approach and two taking off.
The parallel approaches to SFO are well known and have been the subject of previous posts here. This time I was looking for something different on this theme. I was at a favorite location of mine, Coyote Point. This is further out on the approach and a lovely park area. If nothing is happening, this is still a very relaxing place to be. It sticks out in to the bay with the result that you are much closer to the approach flightpaths. This makes for good opportunities to get shots of the aircraft and, in the warmer months, it reduces any problems with heat haze. However, it does change your alignment with the planes and the possibilities for parallel approach shots since the places appear to be stepped down from your angle.
This is not necessarily a problem so you can go vertical if you want. Also, it does make you well aligned for shots when the approaches are not happening in sync. You can find the second aircraft turning in further out is actually quite well lined up with the first since it is offset vertically as well as horizontally. The shots are not the classic parallel approach shots but they are still something a little unusual.
Getting a parallel approach that actually results in the two planes being close together is something that you always hope for at SFO. While I was waiting for the Qantas jet to arrive, I was given an abundance of parallel approaches. No idea why it was good on this day. Traffic wasn’t particularly heavy. However, it seemed like everything was coming in at the same time. Sadly the conditions were not ideal but it was still okay.
Sometimes, the jets are a bit further apart but, when they first line up, they overlap in the distance. Other times they seem to start out further apart but you know that the perspective is off and they will end up close together. I guess this was just a lucky day. It is good to have lens options on an occasion like this. My longest lens is a prime. It works well for many things at SFO but, when the jets are close together, they will usually end up being too much for the lens. Having a second zoom to hand is ideal in that case.
I like having more than one airliner in one shot as you have probably figured by now if you read the blog a lot. Since SFO has parallel approaches, getting this type of shot is not a rarity although you do appreciate it when it works out. In this case a Skywest Embraer E175 (operating for United Express) and a Southwest 737 were lined up on the approach. They were offset a bit so their relative position from my viewpoint changed during the approach which provided a nice variety of compositions.
While the world’s 747 fleet is progressively running down, United is still a big operator of the type and SFO is a focus of their operations of the type. Consequently, during the surge of departures to Asia in late morning, you will have a pretty steady stream of Jumbos taxiing out and taking off. While Roger and I were out, a couple of them taxied out at the same time. We had one holding short of 28L and the other was in the gap between 28L and 28R as incoming aircraft approached. I joked with Roger that the two of them should line up on parallel runways and depart in formation.
When the inbound jets had landed, both aircraft moved forward again and, sure enough, they lined up on both runways. We couldn’t help but laugh at this since they seemed to be following our instructions. You will regularly see parallel departures on the 01 runways but we couldn’t believe that we would have the same thing here. Sadly, we were right. The closer jet departed first and was then followed a short while later by the second. It would have been very cool to see them climb out side by side but that was a bit too much to ask.