Sunday, April 01, 2007
Under a blood red sky
View on descent
From a Northwest Airlines 757-200 somewhere over Michigan, March 2007 [Click to enlarge]
The plane banks back and forth as it goes through the ritual dance of approach and landing. We're somewhere over the hinterland of Michigan, on our way to Detroit. Behind us is over 4 hours of flying from San Francisco. Ahead of us lies home, the end of a successful trip and a family that can't wait to see me again.
I sit in my seat, spellbound by the incredibly rich colors that play out in the painted sky before me. I don't think it's even possible to capture. The shuddering airframe makes a solid shot in this variable-light environment difficult to snag. Normally when shooting sunsets, I'd be planted firmly on the ground. Worse, I'd be shooting through a plastic window that's as scratched and pitted as any I've seen on a London city bus. It's the photographic equivalent of trying to win the lottery. Sure, you can buy a ticket. But you're virtually guaranteed a loser's trip home and a date with the celebratory bottle of flat root beer.
But I pick up the camera anyway. I have to try. Because not trying guarantees failure. Trying at least offers a hope, even if it's a glimmer. I get to work. Automatic exposure is useless. I flip to manual and ratchet off a few frames at one setting. Too bright. I dial down the aperture and try again. Better, but not perfect. I switch to a faster shutter speed, squeeze the shutter and check the results. Looks better, but I can't be sure. Was my focus OK? I won't know till later. The plane banks back left, so now I'm looking at a different patch of sky - with different light characteristics. I re-meter and try again.
As the plane dances in the air, I'm dancing with my camera beside the dollar store plastic window, working feverishly to come up with even one photo that allows me to tell the story of how I felt sitting up in the sky, watching magic unfold before my very eyes.
It's not often that a photographer gets to witness colors like this. I was privileged to have had exactly this experience on my way home Thursday night, and I was equally privileged to be able to snag it with a camera. I wish I could have had my family and friends with me so we could have shared the moment for real.
Your turn: Images and moments that move you. Please discuss.
One more thing: I'm framing this one for our living room. Please let me know if you'd like the full-res photo as well.