The Story Behind an Image, Part 8

Ever since 2004, I’ve had a passionate love affair with photography. And come to discover that I have a fondness for photos that comes with a story. Over the years, I have shot a few of them. Here’s the next installment in “The Story Behind an Image” series.

Part 8: Capturing the Magic: Unveiling Mother Nature’s Canvas

So, this year I’ve returned to my love of aviation photography. As a birthday gift to myself, I upgraded my gear and have been spotting all around Detroit metro airport (DTW). And before I shot a single frame, I had an image in my mind that I know I wanted to capture. It would be of an airliner landing either at sunrise or sunset with a dramatic sky in the background. The aircraft would be most likely silhouetted but recognizable. And from the start, I never gave much thought to what airline, or the type of aircraft was going to be in the shot. I wanted some type of emotional background to be the subject. Also had no idea exactly when I was going to take the shot. Having to wait for Mother Nature to do her thing to make the shot possible.

My first attempt at the image was back in February, soon after I got my new camera/lens combo. I purchased the 90D along with the 100-400mm Mk2. Spotting for me is my cheap and easy way of getting back into the routine of photographing aircraft. I can grab my gear, and some snacks, drive down to DTW, and I’m only out a few bucks in gas money. There I can get back to being comfortable in my shooting stance, reconstituting that muscle memory of changing settings without looking at the camera and just enjoying the time behind it. Nevertheless, to say those few outings were cold and brief. And from the location I was shooting from, the sun was setting low on the horizon due to it still being winter.

Now that it’s springtime and I’ve been regularly spotting at DTW. Over the long Easter weekend, I found a couple of new shooting locations and became infatuated with two European young ladies, Lufthansa 442 and Air France 378. The following week, my enthusiasm for spotting continued, and found myself back at my new favorite spotting location, an abandoned gas station at the corner of Middlebelt and Goddard Road. And after a busy work week followed by afternoon spotting, by the time Saturday rolled around, I was tired and hesitant to go through the motions of spotting.

The weather had been great all week, but Saturday had a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. All day long, I kept a watchful eye on the weather forecast. Then about 5:30, a fragmented line of storms started popping west of DTW and slowly heading east. Growing thunderstorms definitely qualify for an emotional background. And Air France’s lovely A350 is just about an hour away from touchdown. And with the imagery of a brilliant gloss white Airbus contrasting with the dark gray of afternoon storm clouds was plenty to motivate me to gear up and do some more “spirited driving” down to DTW.

As soon as I merged onto I-94 West and saw the darkened and moody clouds in front of me, I enthusiastically said out loud, “Today could be the day!” My only growing concern was that the storm either blow through before Air France passes in front of my favorite shooting location or they die out before they get there. After exiting the interstate, I made my way to the deserted gas station. Unfortunately, it wasn’t looking like the storms were going to stay together for much longer. But the sky behind the airport was still dramatic. But Air France was still another 25 minutes out and that damn star was playing hide and go-seek with the fading thunderstorms. It would be a gross understatement to say that the sky was magical.

And sure as shit, when Air France shows up, Mother Nature started throwing shade. The Sun hid behind a substantial size cloud and the atmosphere visually quieted down as she glided past in slow motion. My expectations had gotten the best of me, and I felt like it was a lost opportunity with no help from Mother Nature.

But moments after the French Airbus landed, Mother Nature decided to show off once again and I wasn’t going to just pack up and go home. Who knows when or where such rare lighting conditions will happen again, and will I be there to shoot it? I stayed for another hour, photographing some of the most stunning images I’ve had the opportunity to capture. Even on the tiny LCD screen, I knew I had something special. Arrival after arrival, the light, and the tonal range just got better and better. In between flights, I feverishly chimp and was blown away. Amazingly to my fortune, I was the only spotter there photographing the light show.

One thing that I’ve come to understand about photography, especially when it comes to aviation, is that you go out aiming for a particular photo, but the reality is you must accept what you get.

Until next post,



< The Story behind an Image part 7

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