Recently I have been to Snow Leopard Photography Expedition to Leh, India and as you already aware that drones are banned or not legal in India yet. However, I had a desire to get some nice Arial photographs of this beautiful area. Apart from hiring a private helicopter in Leh, I had only one option to get photos and that was taking photos from an airplane, and that’s what I did.
I did some research on flight timing and luckily most of the flights were departing Delhi in the morning, which was the best time to get some photographs as I thought the light will not be harsh and I will get some nice shapes due to shadows of mountains. Otherwise, in the afternoon time, light reflection from icy white mountains would be very bright and without shadows, it would look flat and makes it challenging to make good photos.
As you see on this map, Leh is on the north side to Delhi so while going towards the top, sunrise will be from the right.
Now, you got 2 options to choose your window seat, either left or right, unless you are a pilot and you are sitting in the cockpit. If you select right side seat then you can shoot towards the sun and get some nice silhouette type shots or you can choose to seat on left and get some clear shots. I was lucky and the airplane had few seats empty on left and right side. So I took both side images and let me show you both type of photos.
Sun was not straight but I could clearly see that I can get silhouette as I thought but I had few challenges to deal with
- Planes movement was causing blurry photos and I had to bump up ISO to get high shutter speed.
- Due to the sunlight falling on airplane window, I was getting flair which I was unable to avoid even after changing my position.
- Scratches from airplane window became bright due to sunlight falling on them and those were visible in photographs.
- I tried to underexpose image to get less flare and increase contrast but then I was getting the reflection of internal lights of the airplane in the window.
So overall I was able to get these images which were not good for my taste.
So even though it was looking lucrative to get a different style of images, but practically it was not the good side to choose from.
Now I moved to the o left side and difference was unimaginable.
- I could see the landscape with much more clarity than before.
- Same issue of planes movement on this side as well, so ended up using high ISO to get fast shutter speed.
- Luckily, No lens flare as there was no direct light towards this side of a window.
- Not much reflection from the internal side of an airplane, as I was covering myself nicely and not leaving a big gap between the window glass and my lens.
- Tip – Use your lens hood so that your lens won’t get bumped on to the window, causing damage to either of your lens or window and also cover any open area with hand or cloth or newspaper or magazine in order to avoid reflection from inside of an airplane.
- However I had one small issue, the center portion of airplane window had many scratches and those were clearly visible in the photo. So simply I moved and tried to take shows from the lower side of the window which was clear enough.
Tip – As these planes are on back to back journey, you may find that window is not clean and you may find some sort of oily residue on the widow. Hence I would recommend to use newspaper or tissue from an airplane and make sure to wipe clean the window before you start taking photos and believe me this small effort makes a lot of difference and adds more clarity to your photos.
Here are the photos from the left side
Clearly, when you going to Leh and if your flight is in morning then choose left side window and you will get way better photos than choosing the right side.
Now you may also want to know where in an airplane to select the seat?
Well, if you traveling by first class or business class, then try to a get seat from first few rows, and you will get more of front side view, and as the plane moves further and if you try to get backside photo then airplane’s wings will be visible in a photo.
On the reverse side, if you are travelling in the economy then try to get a seat from last few rows, so you will get more of the side and back view images without any wings interruption and if you try to take too much front side images then wings will be visible.
Obliviously, do not choose a seat from the middle as you will be seating on wings and you won’t be able to get any good photos.
For me, I took above images from the last seat of an airplane, caution, last seat does not fold back much but as it was the short journey I wouldn’t mind, otherwise, choose second last seat.
Which lens is useful?
Another question you might have is which lens to use?
Wide-Angle Shot –
I used 16-35mm f4 lens and it was wide enough, I used mostly towards 35mm range otherwise airplane’s wings would be visible.
Telephoto Shot -
I found that around 100mm range is ideal as you are not going too close and not too wide. You can’t get good photos by zooming in too much. So if you got 70-200mm then it would be an ideal lens, but I did not had it with me this one, so I used 100-400mm lens towards 100mm range.
If you need anything else about traveling to Leh, India then please mention in a comment and I’ll more than happy to answer your queries.
Lastly, just a quick note, I will be leading Snow leopard expedition again with limited seats in the coming year and in case you are interested to join then just send me an email on [email protected]