Leveling Out At 35,000 Feet – Photography From A 777 Window …Yes, in Coach.

by John Downey

On my return to Ethiopia from the States, I had the privilege of flying in a brand-new Boeing 777, non-stop, from Dulles to Addis.  Privilege because Ethiopian Airlines recently upgraded, something you probably won’t see with US carriers anytime soon.  Lots of space (average human beings fit in coach seats), personal widescreens for every passenger, a USB charging port, and the recline leaves you and the person behind you way comfortable.  But I digress, this post is really about photography and the marvel of staring out of the window from almost thirteen miles above Earth.  Window passengers take note, there’s a lot going on up there for photography – the color and abstract forms are extraordinary.  Recently, my good friend and fellow photographer, Craig Corl, posted about minimalist photography and these speak to that kind of composition. What was even better about this flight in particular was brand new, clean windows, allowing some nice shots at sunset and sunrise.  I sat next to a quiet guy from Togo who was amazed at the color once I had them on the laptop.

“I had no idea you could get it just like from the window.”

“Yep, pretty cool, huh?”

The shot above is a composite, just to make you feel cold.  If I’m not mistaken, dry ice forms around negative seventy.   I bounced this from Lightroom to Photoshop and photographed the screen in front of my seat for the trip details.  Cropped the info part and applied that as a new layer on top of the window shot with ice crystals, then blended that layer using Multiply.  This made the black background disappear and leaves the Flight Information floating on the window itself, much like a Heads Up Display.  Minus sixty-eight and change blasting by me, less than one foot from my face.  Maybe that’s why the stuff they serve in those plastic trays covered in aluminum never really heats up well enough in the middle.

There we go.  Feeling warmer now?  We’re still at about minus sixty, but over the Gobi Desert at 0530.  All of these were taken with a point-and-shoot.  Those of you who know me can probably guess what I used, but that’s immaterial.  Keep yours handy for the next flight and get some great shots! BTW, use a blanket to cover the window from distracting cabin light glare.  This will also increase contrast and saturation, much like a lens hood.  Don’t feel odd about it, it’ll just look like you’re sleeping.  And if the guy from Togo asks, just show him your images.

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