I love to travel, and I think travel and photography just go hand in hand. When I travel by myself, or without the kids, I always try to make sure I get a window seat (when the kids are coming with I let them have that window seat because I’m nice like that). I like that window seat so I can take aerial photos; I just cannot help myself.
In this article, I will share some tips for improving in-flight photos to help taking pictures out of that airplane window.
First, try to get a window seat near the front of the plane or in front of the wings for a unobstructed view. Seatguru.com is a superb resource to discover the seat locations on the plane so can be a valuable tool in getting your best chance for good shoots. Try to avoid the seats behind the wing, the engine exhaust can distort and create blur.
The most fascinating views, happen right after take off and shortly before landing, so make sure you have your camera out before the plane leaves the gate or risk missing at least one of these interesting views. Make sure to have the lens hood attached to the lens this will help in dealing with reflections on the window. It is extremely tempting to press the hood right up against the window, but resist this urge as it will transmit vibrations to the camera. Get as close to the window as you can without touching it. Turn off your overhead lights in your row of seats to minimize reflections and then use your hand to block off as much light as possible, avoid touching the lens hood with your hand if your hand is resting up against the window, and try to make some overlap between your hand and the lens hood. Do not use a polarizer, as these more than likely will produce color banding in the windows.
If the window got a lot of scratches or smudges, be prepared to change into auto focus, especially if the camera autofocus has difficulty focusing. A neat little trick to avoid getting the scratches and smudges visible in your image is to use a high aperture value, and in the worst case all that will show is a small spot that will resemble a dust spot against bright backgrounds like the sky, but nothing that the spot removal tool cannot easily take care.
Keep your camera to your eye and be prepared for when the plane banks, this will provide a marvellous view of the ground. If your taking off before sunset and land well after sunset, try to figure out at what time sunset is and keep an eye on the sunset. A sunset from 30,000 feet can be truly spectacular and looks nothing like a sunset seen from the ground. It is an extraordinary opportunity to make a sunset photo that will stand out from all the rest.
The above image titled “Leaving Las Vegas”As my flight took off from McCarran International airport in Las Vegas, NV was taken using these tips. I used a Sigma 24-70mm F/2.8 lens zoomed in to 44mm to get a bit closer to the Vegas Strip. The exposure made with a Nikon D80, was 1/125 sec, at f/8, ISO 100, since I got lucky and the plan was decidedly new, so the window had almost no scratches I could use a relatively low aperture setting.