Aircraft Photos and Aerial Photography

October 3, 2006

Flying presents a lot of great photo opportunities, so I never leave the ground without my camera. Here are some of the best (in my opinion) photos my passengers and I have taken, both from the air, and at the airport.

I have a lot of pictures in my collection, so I’ll be adding new pictures regulary. Check back often to see what’s new!

Click on any photo to see a larger version.

Airplanes and Airports

Airports are great places to take pictures, both on the ground, and from the air. There’s always something interesting to see, whether there’s something special going on, or it’s just another day at the field.

From the Air

The great thing about flying in a small plane is that you’re much closer to the ground than in an airliner, and you don’t have to look, and take pictures, through a tiny porthole made of two layers of scratched Plexiglas®. You can see things from above, but up close.

Cameras and Techniques

These photos were taken with a variety of good quality consumer digital cameras. There are a few tricks to getting good aerial photos, and the most important ones are:

  • Use a fast shutter speed. 1/250th of a second or faster is required. 1/500th is better if your camera can do it. Any slower than 1/250th and you will get blurring caused by the motion and vibration of the aircraft. If your camera doesn’t have a shutter speed setting, see if it has an aperture setting, and if so, select a wide aperture. Or, if it has an “action” mode, use that.

  • Presetting the focus to infinity means that you don’t have to wait for the camera to focus every time you press the shutter. It also reduces the risk that the camera will focus on something closer, like a wing tip or a scratch on the window.

  • If possible, shoot through an open window. Aircraft windows are often scratched or dirty, or tend to reflect objects that are inside the plane. If you’re not the pilot, be sure you have the pilot’s permission to open the window.

Don’t be afraid to post-process the pictures in a good photo editing program. Even on clear days, aerial photos tend to be washed out and afflicted with a blue haze. The Auto Levels command in Adobe® PhotoShop® or the I'm Feeling Lucky button in Google’s PicasaTM are often a good first step, and you can play with the levels and colour balance from there. If you want to do a better job, there’s a very good description of how to do it at the Lunacore Photoshop Training web site.

Finally, if you’re the pilot and are taking pictures, don’t forget to scan for traffic and fly the plane.

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4 Comments

  1. Bill Bilhou
    October 28, 2009

    Stefan, you are a very interesting guy. We share many interests. Hammond Organs, Electronics, Gen. Avaition, & Models, would make a good start. I was just checking out your photography. Very nice. You give good advice and write some good stuff. I’m a Hamtech member too. Glad to make your acquaintance. Bill Bilhou Lemoore, Ca. USA

  2. Stefan Vorkoetter
    July 15, 2011

    Hi Frank! It’s been a long time! Yes, that was a wonderful flight! I still remember watching the clouds literally roll in from the coast.

  3. Frank Hugger
    July 15, 2011

    Hi Stefan, greats from Lisbon! Still remember our flight, special light that afternoon. Hope you are well. Cheers, Frank

  4. Matthew Reiman
    November 05, 2011

    What a great site. The Paia material is amazing. You seem to be a man busy with what he loves to do. Cheers to that.

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