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Southwest Airlines Community

Shoot for the Moon

Explorer C

I have loved aviation all my life, but whenever I try to convey to others WHY I love it so, I often come up short. It was five years ago when I found that it was much easier to convey the majestic beauty of flight through images, and I've dabbled in aviation photography ever since. Most of my shooting is in and around San Francisco International Airport, although I do travel around the world to take in new planes in different environments through my viewfinder.


There’s so much about aviation that I love. Mostly, it’s a matter of being in a awe of the technology that allows us to overcome the nagging inconvenience of gravity, allowing us to soar high over the ground. When I am blessed to pilot a plane (small ones, mind you; I elected not to become a professional pilot), I look at the ground below and find immense peace in the serenity of it all. Rarely do life’s problems follow me when I’m 10,000 feet above them.


But when it comes to aviation photography, the thing I love the most is getting that one shot that (in regards to telling others why I love planes so much) does all my talking.


I happened to be just outside the airport, just capturing some photos of departing traffic against a rising sun when I noticed the Moon behind me to the west. It dawned on me that any southbound departures just MIGHT fly near Earth’s only natural satellite as they pulled a wide sweep left turn, as they so often do. So I kept a wary eye in that direction. I wasn’t exactly hopeful—with the Moon occupying such a small piece of a very big sky, the chances that they would get even that close were pretty slim.


Sure enough, I was eventually proven right. The first three airplanes were way off the mark, getting nowhere near that piece of sky. I couldn’t exactly be mad about it; it IS a pretty big sky, and I couldn’t just jump on a radio and tell those pilots, “Turn left ... more left ... THERE!” So I photographed a couple more aircraft.


Gotcha!Gotcha!Then a Southwest 737 left.


I watched it roar off, raise the gear, and rise majestically in a climbing left turn. Somehow, I had a good feeling about it, so I studied it closely. After its 180-degree turnaround, it settled on a path that looked ... GOOD. I turned around and raised my camera (equipped a with a 400mm zoom lens), getting a grin on my face as that feeling of hope turned into one of certainty. This 737 was going to be close! I was going to get my shot.


Boy, I had no idea just HOW CLOSE it was going to get!!!


Tracking the plane, I was astonished when it passed not only in close proximity of the moon, but RIGHT IN FRONT OF IT! For those of you who are not in the know, such a photo is exceedingly hard to get. Aside from the aforementioned reasons for lack of control, you also have to consider lighting conditions, sky conditions, and the ability of the lens to capture it in detail. Yet here I was, photographing a plane that I had no control over, with an early morning sun nicely illuminating the moon against a still dark sky, with not a cloud in the area and with a lens that could (albeit BARELY) get the details!


A photo that passes on the majesty of an aircraft high above the Earth ... so high it seemingly touches the moon!!!!!