Since I returned to spotting around DTW, I’ve been shooting from the parking lot of the Marriott Hotel off Wick Road. It’s a well-known and pleasant location for catching arrivals on runway 22 right. But there are two airliners I want to capture that always land on 22 left. The first is Lufthansa 442 from Frankfurt, which is a Boeing 787-9. And the other is Air France 378 out of Paris, she’s an Airbus A350-900. Unfortunately, from the Marriott parking lot, both of these arrivals are just too far away to get a decent shot of. So, I turned to my know-it-all friend, Google. I searched “spotting around DTW” and came across “Spotter guide.net”. To my surprise, I found a location where I could capture arrivals on approach to runway 21 left. From all places, an abandoned gas station at the corner of Middlebelt and Goddard Road.
My Spotting map of DTW
During the extended Easter weekend, I challenged myself to chase these two European girls and get some images of them both. The Lufthansa Dreamliner is going to be first. She’s scheduled to arrive around 1:25pm. During the drive down, was a bit worried about the location. How close is the flight path? Will I get hassled by airport security, local police or some overly nervous passersby? Yes, it happens. I exited I-94 at Middlebelt, headed south and easily found the abandoned station. Was greeted with a good omen, another spotter was already there. I pulled into the derelict station and parked a respectable distance from the spotter so I’m not blocking their view of the flight path. I geared up, camera on, check setting, started up Flightradar24 and start tracking that Lufthansa Dreamliner. I got there about an hour before she was scheduled to arrive. There were a few arrivals before she graced us with her presents. A CRJ, a couple of A320s and a A330 from Amsterdam, all Delta airlines.
It was like a spring southern Californian day in Southeast Michigan, not a cloud in the sky, temperature was in the low 60s and winds were out of the south. As for shooting location, the sun is at your back from sunrise to about 4 or 5ish. By then the sun is parallel to the runway and starts to backlight the arriving flights until sunset. Which I was a bit worried about the lighting conditions for the Air France Airbus. She arrives much later, 6-6:30pm. But soon enough that attractive young lady from Germany was here and I was ready for her. The Canon 90D shutter blasted away like a machine gun as she effortlessly floated through the crystal-clear blue sky.
“The young lady from Germany”
It wasn’t until the following Wednesday that conditions were right for capturing the Air France A350. For her, I busted out my full-frame 50-megapixel Canon 5DSR. Which doesn’t have the advantage of the 1.6 crop factor of the 90D. Which makes my 100-400mm Mk2 when on the 90D into a 160-640mm. As I said earlier, from the abandoned gas station at the time she’s scheduled to arrive, the sun will be on the opposite side of the runway that I’m shooting from and backlighting her as she lands. My plan is to go to the abandoned station about 40 minutes before she arrives and see how the lighting conditions are. If it is manageable, I’ll stay and shoot. But if it sucks, I’ll jump on Google Maps and try to find a place to shoot from with the sun at my back.
I got there early, and the lighting conditions were as I feared, backlit. I shot a few arrivals before jumping into Google Maps. Thankfully, I found a visitor parking lot north of the airport which I would be facing East with the sun behind me but wasn’t sure how close the flight path to 21 left was. With about 20 minutes to spare at the visitor’s lot waiting for the next arriving aircraft. The first thing that passes by is a tiny Embraer Phenom that looks about all of 20 pixels in length through the viewfinder. And my thoughts instantly jumped to do I need to get closer? If so, where can I go? And can I find a new spot before the French A350 gets here? Or do I bite the bullet and go back to the backlit abandoned gas station? FUCK! Thankfully the next three arrivals calmed my racing negative thoughts. A Delta 737, a Frontier A320 Neo and a UPS 757. All filled up the frame more to my liking. Then right on time, that elegant French girl showed up. The 5DSR shoots noticeably slower but I managed to get the shot I was after. I’m going to return with the cropped sensor 90D and see if the extra focal length helps.
“That elegant French girl”
For more of my spotting adventures check out this post, “A Rekindled Passion: Three Spotting Adventures at Detroit Metro”
Thanks for stopping by,