A Plane View – Travel Photography on the way to your Destination

For many years I did not bother taking images from the windows of planes as I flew across the US. But that has all changed…

as my iPhone is now my camera of choice while flying.

It was too much trouble to get my DSLR out of and back into my carry-on camera bag so that was out. I have long legs so sitting on the aisle is a bit more comfortable. Then worst of all, my early iPhones just did not do too great through the window of a jetliner!

But I started to take a few images with my iPhone 6s.

Some Images

On the way to Idaho Falls, ID – iPhone 6s

The images made with the iPhone Xs were slightly better so I started getting a window seat more often and doing a bit more shooting while flying.

On the way to Portland, ME – iPhone Xs

I look for interesting colors, shapes, and contrasts to capture a compelling image.

On the way to Pheonix, AZ – iPhone Xs

These next images are momentous as they are the last Plane View images I took with my iPhone Xs and they marked the beginning of the 2020 lockdowns. I was in Pennsylvania when everything shut down!

On the way to Philadelphia – iPhone Xs
Phew! Glad I made it home – Sunrise over Tampa, FL – iPhone Xs

All my other trips for 2020 were canceled so my photography was all earthbound and very close to home for the remainder of the year.

In May of 2021, I took to the air again to a photo workshop in Oregon (see my Oregon posts 1-6 for details of that trip).

In late 2020, I purchased an iPhone 12 Max Pro. Wow! this phone has a fantastic camera. There are 3 lenses and it can see pretty well even in the dark!

As we crossed the mid-west US I started seeing some interesting patterns so I started shooting and was floored with the images I was getting.

As we approached the Rocky Mountains I was drawn to the contours of the mountains, valleys, and rivers.

Then, as we got closer to the Northwest area, the mountains had snow on the peaks. I am a sucker for snow-capped mountains!

The topography was influencing my photography!

In some places, the roads were the contrasting element.

About this time the flight attendant told me that I should move to the other side of the plane to see Mt Ranier. Fortunately, at that time the planes were relatively empty so I could move to the other side at a window seat with no problem.

We landed in Seattle and a couple of hours later we took off for Medford, OR.

There were more mountains to see on this trip as well.

After attending the photo workshop on the southern coast of Oregon, it was time to head back home. The flight from Medford, OR to Salt Lake City, UT was all about color contrasts. But one last look at a snow-covered mountain! This Florida girl cannot get enough of the sight of mountains!

The mining operations in the Salt Lake City area show the colors of the rock that had been stripped away making for some great color contrast images.

Technique – Making the Image

To make these images with the iPhone is relatively easy. The phone handles all the settings unless you want to get more creative. The current iPhones do have the capability to shoot in RAW format which gives you all the info taken in rather than a scaled-down JPG or HEIC file. The iPhone 12 Max Pro did an amazing job with the glare and the inevitable texture on the window. My only recommendation is to try to avoid the glare caused by the angle of the sun and try to avoid airplane parts unless it is part of your story!

I place the phone right up against the window and start taking images. The iPhone 12 Max Pro has the ability to zoom in and out so I try shots at various zooms.

I take way more than I will use but with creative photography you need to take a lot of images to get the ones you want to go further with!

For all of these images, I used the native camera on the iPhones. There is a myriad of camera apps you can use to capture your images. In this case, I wanted to use the native camera to utilize the full benefits of the iPhone.

An added bonus is that if your GPS is turned on in your phone and you do not strip that info from the image when you download it, you will know where you took the image even from up in a plane.

From Lightroom Classic Map module – This shows where I made six images as we flew toward Seattle.

Technique – Post-Processing the Image

You can process these images using the edit portion of the Photos app on the iPhone or others like Snapseed and a zillion others. I prefer Lightroom. There is a mobile version of Lightroom but I don’t like to process my images on my phone or iPad unless I am just trying to play with a few of them. I even prefer the big screen of my iMac to the smaller screen of my laptop. So, I have all the images I make on my iPhone sync with Lightroom. It is a quick setting in Lightroom Mobile. Once that is set up I also set my catalog in Lightroom Classic to sync with Lightroom Mobile.

So once the files are synced, all of my iPhone images are in Lightroom Classic. I can create new folders on my hard drive for these images or add them to the folders I have created for locations (my ground shots are all set up like this).

Once in Lightroom, I can do to the RAW DNG images what I do to the RAW images that come out of my DSLR and Mirrorless cameras.

These images tend to be a bit hazy due to both the haze in the air and from shooting through a scratched airplane window. So, the Dehaze and Clarity sliders are my friends. Since some windows tend to discolor the image I also play with the color. Some images are so strangely colored that Black & White is the best route for them. Then contrast is the main aspect I am trying for.

We have been seeing Plane View images for a while and the use of drones for photography has given us another perspective of our earth. But to me, this perspective is so eye-opening and interesting that we can’t help but make those images. So, book that window seat, don’t use the window as a spot for your head and a nap (unless it is night and the plane is so high you can’t see a thing), keep an eye out for interesting shapes, colors, clouds, sunrises/sunsets, contrasts, patterns, and lights and get that phone out and make some images!

You will find that the flight goes a lot faster, you will have a phone full of images to review and process which add to the story of your journey. Plus, you get to enjoy the amazing sight of our beautiful earth in the future! I still marvel at some I took years ago.

So what is next? We made a week-long trip to the Asheville, NC area in late May, so get ready for my next post on the view from a bit lower. The house we rented was on top of a mountain and the view was spectacular. All that to come!

To see larger versions of these and even more images, please visit my Gallery.

That is all for now!

Lynn