Trailing

Wanna know what I have been up to in terms of sanity projects? Don’t answer (ah well, you never do, anyway, you great big mass of anonymous lurkers people out there… ;-)) I’ll tell you anyway. While I am completely immersed in LF photography at the moment – both my current college project is being shot on LF and my final project (due next summer) will be done in LF as well – I am trying to keep Marky Mark occupied too. And so it was great pleasure that I went on a little night-time shoot with my esteemed friend J___ the other night.
J___ was keen on some action photography but gladly went along with my suggestion. You see, I have been having this idea in my head since the beginning of the summer. I want to take pictures of the night sky, capturing the trails of the planes on camera. This has been inspired both by some of my friends’ experiments with star trail photography, and my friend A___ shooting car trails for college last semester. When I came up with my *wonderful* idea, I had not taken into account a number of things: In order to catch plane trails you need a) clear skies and b) darkness. Sounds kind of logical, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately I am living in Ireland, where clear skies are a thing of rarity. I’ll only say clouds, rain and more clouds. And b): trying to catch planes against the dark sky in May is hardly possible as it doesn’t get dark until half past 11. And that is when the local airport shuts down. Fail-fail, you could say.
Well, it is six months later and the sky is dark by 7 pm. The skies are not much clearer, but if you are reasonably spontaneous, getting a clear night is eventually viable. And so it was that J___ and I set off an evening last week to the airport. We arrived in total darkness at one of the plane-spotting car parks at the circumference of the airport. Much to my surprise there were loooooads of cars there. So many, that we couldn’t even park our cars next to each other, actually. Well, apparently there is more going on in those locations than simply plane spotting, or so I have been told, but that is a matter for a different blog…
Suffice to say that there were some rather fast take-offs once J___ and I started assembling our tripods and putting large cameras on them. And I am not talking about planes taking off, here. In any case, we spent about an hour photographing the incoming and outgoing planes. My usual nonchalance as regards preparation caught up with me. Neither had I brought the remote release, nor had I familiarised myself with the B setting on the camera. Bummer.
And so I simply shot at the slowest shutter speed I could get (30 secs) at the smallest aperture (f22) to get as much general focus into the shots as I could without being able to focus properly. Some of the shots came out *interesting*. None came out great – for a number of reasons: We were photographing from the other side of the road so we kept getting traffic going both ways through our frame. The lightspill from the airport was considerable. And since I couldn’t remote release, there was always a bit of camera shake when pressing the shutter release and there is some blur in the images. But sure, here is one, just to illustrate:
Right, so what you see here is the *lovely* airport fence obscured by passing traffic: red from the left and white from the right (kind of politically correct, somehow…). The lines at the top are the aircraft flying in. The landing lights are switched on, hence the thick white line. Above that are the starboard and port winglights (red and green), punctuated by flashing white lights (hence the dots) and another thin white line from the taillights. Interesting how wobbly that line is…
Now, this could be done better and give clearer, less fuzzy and sharper results, if I brought a proper tripod and my remote release. But even with that in place, this shoot just didn’t yield the results I had hoped for. The location is simply not right. The lightspill from the airport is just too much. The traffic is adding distraction to that. Plus, I do not really want to catch four plane trails in one, I just want one clean line against the sky. For that I need to find a location further away from the airport. But not too far away because I need the planes to fly a big circle or so – a straight line is just boring. A slightly raised vantage point would be ideal, with a clear view of the flightpath. 
Well, if you can think of a place somewhere, please let me know. I might try it again, there.
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