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Planeography or Photographing out the Plane Window

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Andros BahamaTravel Photography - The Start and the Finish and nothing in between. See other examples.

On a rainy Sunday while cleaning up my Lightroom keywords I noticed I had a lot of images with the keyword “airplane”. It seems I had paid very little attention to these images, very few were flagged and even fewer processed. I thought, “well this could be a project”.  I’ve been taking images out of commercial flights for a long time and have worked through some of the problems. If this is of any interest to you this is what I’ve learned.

1. Before you select your seat think about the direction and time of day you will be flying. You don’t want to be shooting into the sun all afternoon. If there is a sunset during the flight most of the time you can move to a west facing seat during that time, but don’t forget to check the east sky as some of the best stuff happens in the east during sunset.  Also think about what will be on either side of the plane during the flight. This isn’t known all the time but ask as you get on and be ready to move if possible.

2. Get a window seat near the front of the plane. Go online and book your seat in advance. Some web-pages will show you were the seats are located. Try to get a window seat in front of the wing. This works well on larger planes, most smaller commercial planes reserve first-class and business class near the front. This area creates a smoother ride and you don't have the airplane wing to block your view. Another reason to have a seat before the wing section, is that the heat shimmer from the engines will affect the quality of the photo. These seats seem to be in big demand and if you can’t get in front of the wing get as far behind it as you can. I usually sit on the same side coming and going as this gives me a view of both sides.

3. Keep your camera ready. I use my regular camera backpack with the camera at the top with the zipper open. Don’t put it in the overhead.

4. Don't use a polarization filter. This is the only time I remove my polarizer when shooting daytime landscapes. Plastic airplane windows will show odd patterns. When plastic is under strain it causes polarization of the material which will interfere with your polarizing filter.

5. Look for reflections in the window and try and reduce them by shading the area or moving back from the window.

6. Keep your lens close but not touching the window, vibration from the airplane will blur your shots. A 16-35mm this will allow you to get the big picture. Use longer lenses for details and abstracts.

7. Compose and Take your photos quickly, the plane is moving quickly, if you see something that you find interesting, shoot.

8. Watch for cloud and weather changes, use clouds to help composition.

9. Don't use flash photography. This will just reflect your flash back into your photo.

10. If you are thinking about a trip slideshow a short (5 to 10 seconds) video clip of the take off and landing make great bookends to your slideshow.

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