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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How to make aerial photos from the window of an airliner even better

This is a response to the comments posted earlier. It seems there is a lot of interest in this subject! Besides setting a low ASA, (which reduces the graininess) you want to get the best f stop at the highest shutter speed. I find any shutter speed ove 250th of a second guarantees I'll get rid of any vibrations (higher speeds are better in turbulence) and then I set the f stop for the smallest aperture possible without driving the shutter speed lower. As for focus, my camera, a mid - level Canon digital SLR style camera, will usually work fine on auto focus, but if it does not I set it to manual and set it to infinity.Hopefully the sun angle is low, like you would get from sunrise to around 10 am or 3 pm to sunset. The lower the angle, the more dramatic the shot as their will be more color possibilities and better contrast from shadow detail. Alas, we cannot always choose our flight for the sun angle!Your goal is to get the target image in or near the center of the image, with no parts of the airplane in sight. Try to shoot through clear sections of class if your window is smudgy, and if it is smudgy on the inside, you may be able to clean it a bit with a blanket or cloth. Yet capturing the image i just half the story. Think of it as capturing the 'raw data.' When you bring the image up on you computer, it will typically have a bluish sheen from reflectivity and shooting through the Plexiglas. If the details on the ground are strong enough you can significantly or even completely 'tune out' this image problem by increasing the brightness and contrast in even the most basic photo editor. The Google Picasa editor (free download) can do this for you, or you can use the Microsoft Photo edit suite, which I also use. The three areas I usually use to tweak a photo and dial out the glare are contrast, brightness and color temperature. Sometimes I sharpen the image with focus, if necessary. I hope that helps! If anyone gets an interesting shot they would like to share, email me at and I'll post your photo and give you photo credits.

onwards and upwards!
Rob Bremmer

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