Over the Runways: Photographing LAX from the Heavens

In keeping with my philosophy of creating memorable experiences and capturing unique images, I arranged a bucket list spotting trip to Los Angeles International Airport which many simply call LAX. Which has numerous well-known and outstanding spotting locations that aviation enthusiasts from around the world flock to in hopes of capturing their favorite airline. But what’s going to set my images apart from others? Well, I’m glad you ask. Based over at Hawthorne airport which is a quick 15-minute drive from LAX, is Star Helicopters. Which offers tours, flight training, and aerial photography. Which includes flights over LAX itself. Leading up to my trip I took note of arrival and departure times, via Flightradar24, of the airliners I wanted to photograph from the air. Next, I figured out what would be the most opportune time to schedule flights that would maximize my time over LAX. I then scheduled two flights on different days as well as at different times. This would be my first time doing such an extraordinary feat of photographing from a helicopter and my first time flying in one.

Star Helicopters is the only private flight operation allowed to offer photo flights over the restricted airspace above LAX. And has three areas to operate over the tremendous airport. One north of the airport overlooks runways 25 left and right, another south overlooks runway 24 left and right, and the area which I chose, is right over the terminal itself. Which from this perspective, I can capture arrivals and departures from both the north and south runways. Along with capturing the tarmac action and routines of pushing back, the loading and offloading of aircraft from such a unique position.

Orbit areas and viewing directions to the runways

Star Helicopters was gladly accommodating to help me capture the numerous wide bodies I was after. Along with during each flight, precisely timed our orbits over LAX so that I was facing the direction at the right moment to capture take-offs or landings of airliners of interest. The brief time I spent over LAX was priceless. I can’t put into words just how incredible the experience of photographing from that vantage point was. Looking back, the heavenly perspective, the abundance of stunning subjects, and the unseasonable clear skies leaves me speechless.

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From all the great spotting locations around LAX, I chose Clutter’s Park. Mainly out of nostalgia and the superior lighting conditions. The small park set above the Imperial Highway offers a spectacular view of departures using runways 25 right and left. The location does have a few obstacles but can be easily overcome with a bit of situational awareness. Along with my favorite YouTube LAX spotter broadcast from there. L.A. Flights, “The Home of One More Plane”, has always been open to their followers hanging out with them during their live streams. And I can’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday than to plane spot from Clutter’s Park with the L.A. Flights family. Heck, even Captain Ken, a Delta 757 pilot and frequent visitor/cohost showed up. Along with it is a great place to meet and talk to other aviation enthusiasts and photographers from all over the world.

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This unbelievable adventure has fiercely intensified the fire within me, that burning desire to continue exploring and expanding my world of aviation photography. The memories I’ve created during this journey will forever be etched in my heart, reminding me that the sky is not the limit, but a boundless canvas for my passion to take flight.

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A enthusiastic shoutout and tremendous thanks to Philipp from Star Helicopters for his amazing piloting skill and welcoming hospitality. I highly recommend any aviation enthusiast or photographer to check out Star Helicopters if you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable experience.

Until the next adventure,


Gear used:

Canon EOS 90D DSLR

Canon EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

iPhone 11 Pro Max

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