from the window seat

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”  (Leonardo Da Vinci)

I fly a great deal. The press of business and  family imperatives all compel me to be in the air more than ever. I take my camera whenever I fly, find a window seat and snap shots of the world below. A long flight is over in a relative instant and it feeds my fascination with the world below as seen from above. “More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination.”  (Wilbur Wright)



I have learned a few simple things from the experience of photographing while flying. Shutter speed is king and depth of field is relatively irrelevant. So, wide open and fast shutters prevail. Exposure is not what it seems at 30,000 feet. Between the glare of the skies and the refraction through the little window, there is a tendency to overexpose, and there is a loss of contrast – all easily corrected.

Exposure is simply fixed in the camera by underexposing one or two stops with exposure compensation. Contrast can be restored in post processing so the final product looks like what my eyes saw, or better. I use HDR, CS5 curves, and Topaz Adjust to remedy these issues, enhance, and create.

Lately, I have gone up in a helicopter to further this fascination I have with the world below. My door was removed to allow for better shots. I was at the same time exhilarated and terrified. “Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society.  The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.”  (Gil Stern).  By contrast, an airplane pilot I know says that the helicopter is only for optimists.  So, maybe I am an optimist after all.


“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste to the sky as well as the earth.”  (Henry David Thoreau).  Indeed from above, the world below is devoid of the waste we inflict.. .  or at least from a distance, it all looks peaceful and pristine.

“I think it is a pity to lose the romantic side of flying and simply to accept it as a common means of transport.” At the window seat, it is anything but common and even the common below appears uncommon. (Amy Johnson)


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