Wednesday, April 08, 2009

L Is For Large

You'll Never See Windshield Wipers This High Up

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Yes, I know it looks like I've just taken a standard windshield wiper shot. But think again. It's not every day you get to stand in front of one of these huge beasts. Let me just say I used my long lens to achieve this view and I had it at full stretch (300mm) for the first shot of this sequence.


Here's a slightly different focal length. I was still standing in the same spot, but shot this with the lens fully retracted (70mm). Now you're starting to get an idea of exactly what my subject was, right?

Let's take a good look at the nose and you can actually see the weather-beaten look across the matt paintwork. Now you know that I’m shooting an aircraft, and not a small one at that. Can you identify it at this stage, or do you need to scroll down a bit further?


This shot brings you a slightly different aspect. Now I’ve pointed the camera further up and along the fuselage, back from the recessed canopy. You can actually see the detail on the metal skin that runs along the spine of the fuselage, but let’s see if the next frame (below, taken at 85mm) gives you a big clue.


The distinctive T-shape of this huge, high tail (above) should give you a big clue. Yes. It’s a C-5 Galaxy of the US Air Force. The heavy lifter has a wingspan of 222.9 feet (almost 68 metres) and is 247.1 feet (75 metres) long. The tail that you can see in this shot is 65 feet (almost 20 metres) above ground. I guess those statistics also tell you how hard you have to work to get your camera angles just right.

This shot gives you an idea of just how bad the late-evening light was while I was photographing the Galaxy. That single factor was crucial in my decision to shoot close-ups using the long lens, rather than the 18-125mm lens I normally use.


Because the light was fading so quickly, I decided to shoot the Galaxy as if it were a piece of outdoor architecture. It’s an interesting approach, but because of the huge surface area, there is no shortage of arresting angles to capture. This was shot from under the starboard (right) wing.


This too, was shot from behind the inboard of the two huge engines on the starboard wing. Each of the four engines is 27 feet (almost 9 metres) long and the diameter of the air intake is 8.5 feet (2.6 metres) and, given the beautiful bulbous contour of the body, I was able to frame the curves against the sky, using the trailing edge of the wing as a strong horizontal point of reference.

Midway through this photo sequence, I happened to glance up from behind the towering Galaxy towards the eastern sky, where there was one solitary burst of pastel colour. I composed this shot very deliberately, using the wing as an artificial horizon, when a single bird flew into the frame.

I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, but I realised I had to hit the shutter immediately to capture the perfect symbolism of a native Australian bird silhouetted (and dwarfed) by the largest manmade bird in the US arsenal.

Sometimes, you just have to recognise a moment of good luck.


For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

42 comments:

Ananda girl said...

It's a bird... it's a plane...I think you might be superman! Fun. I love the one under the starboard wing with the shadowed angles. ; )

katherine. said...

a bird on the wing....

airplanes are a huge draw for me

Lene said...

Funny... At first you fooled me. An optical illusion. I was sure this wipers was on a toy or something, lol ;)

Oh, yes - I can see they really are on a toy - a LARGE toy :) Facinating serie! Great L post :)

Have a good day :)

Janet said...

I just love your airplane pictures.

richies said...

In my work i change a lot of windshield wipers, but never any that high up.

An Arkies Musings

lakeviewer said...

What great images; good lesson about lighting.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Fabulous shots!!!! Bravo! Encore!

Eddie Bluelights said...

Out of the world! In fact out of this Galaxy! Wonderful shots David.
Eddie

Breeze said...

Wow...those are amazing! Great shots!

Breeze

Cheffie-Mom said...

Wow, that's a big airplane! Great photos!

introspection said...

I think I will have to get a professional camera soon. With such wonderful lessons in phography it will be a shame not to make use of them in daily life. I will need some advise on choosing the camera, but I will mostly shoo outdoors and flowers. Aerplanes are likely to be out of my range. These are amazing pictures...!!!
t

Anonymous said...

Such unique perspectives; five stars!

(it's a C17, rather than a C5, btw.)

Cath said...

That is a fantastic sequence. I love hearing you tell us how you achieved the shots. Boy but that lens is good!

I would never have been able to name the type of plane, but I knew it wasn't a commercial one and I knew on the first shot that it was a plane.
I think I got the clue from a previous post of yours.

Excellent post.

Kat said...

Glad you like my Air Force's handy work. My husband flew home on one of those bad boys when he came home from a deployment. They are LOUD!

RuneE said...

There were many moments of good luck here, but then good luck comes to them that are prepared for it.

Digital Flower Pictures said...

That is one big bird!

Anna said...

David excellent sequence of shots. The wipes look big, but then when you see the plane, not anymore. Cool shots again, Anna :)

Artist Unplugged said...

Amazing photos!!!

Rinkly Rimes said...

Your Largeness has intimidated me! I'm going back to bed!

Sylvia K said...

I think we're all thinking the same -- it's a bird -- i'ts plane -- superman, superbird???? Whatever they are fantastic shots -- as always!

imac said...

Plane Talking here David. lol.


Care to call in for a Finger Dip.

Life with Kaishon said...

What a creative L shoot! I love your pictures. Like always!

Craig Glenn said...

Great shots David, I really enjoyed this series.

Craig Glenn

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

It's funny because by focusing on the wipers the plane seems to have a character, maybe it makes them seem like eyelashes. Or maybe I've been watching too much Monsters V's Aliens!

anthonynorth said...

A huge beast. Great shots.

Kelly H-Y said...

Such great perspectives ... and the last one is incredible! What a shot!!

Babooshka said...

You really have nailed the way to import humour and idiot proof guides to getting top notch photography. I really like debunking photography myths so all can enjoy.

Janie said...

Interesting how perspective and angle make so much difference in how we perceive what we see.
I love the bird seen through one of the angles of the Big Bird.

Tumblewords: said...

Superb!

Lew said...

I could tell it was one of the big transports from the windows and wipers in the first poto. The tail was the real identifier. The C-5 is a monster. Great sequence, especiall with the bird in the last one!

Paula Scott said...

Timing. It is all about timing and most certainly running with it!
What a monstrous craft that is! Much like a flying whale, I'd say.

Mary Elizabeth said...

Wow, really amazing shots.
perspectives are great!

Mary Elizabeth Blog.

Shadow said...

now, for some or other reason, i didn't think those guys even had windscreen wipers....

mrsnesbitt said...

I remember the very first aeroplane journey as a 10 year old. The plane looked wonderful from a distance but as we got closer it didn't seem to shine so much. Close up I was amazed it took off let alone flew over the channel! Happy Days! lol! Great shots David, very creative

ANNA-LYS said...

Love the different perspectives and angles. Very dynamic shots!

Nessa said...

The shot under the wing is ominous.

Mojo said...

I've flown in these beasts a few times, and you really can't describe in mere numbers just how enormous they are. Even when you're up close you don't get the sense of their size until you watch one being loaded or unloaded. I was in an aviation unit in the army in another lifetime and we were deploying on a training exercise with the USAF giving us a ride to California. And I finally realized just how massive these aircraft are as I watched the crew load eight fully assembled AH-1S attack helicopters and three OH-58 (Jet Ranger) observation helicopters in the belly of one, and there was still plenty of space to walk through the cargo bay. And to top it off (literally) go up the ladder at the front of the cargo bay and there's a full-sized passenger cabin above the load floor. Seating is limited, (but spacious) but forget about aerial shots. There are no windows.

That bulbous shape of the fuselage isn't just for interior room though. The shape actually provides about 10% of the overall aerodynamic lift that gets the beast airborne.

On the way to California we learned that we were grossing over half a million pounds (228,000 kg to most of the world). And there was room left over.

Now that? Is impressive.

Russ said...

Very cool series! I particularly like the first shot.

Daryl said...

Clever ... a dreary looking day tho ...

Jay said...

It looks like a lucky thing that you were forced to concentrate on detail! There are some lovely shots in there - and it certainly is large!!

I could see it was an aircraft, and as the images progressed, I was thinking Hercules transport, which we often see flying over our house. I'm not sure I know the Galaxy.

Sarah Laurence said...

The windshield shot is funny- almost a bug’s face. I like the second vertical shot best of all – pleasingly abstract and well composed. Good job dealing with tricky lighting.

Leslie: said...

Great series of shots!