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and to the skies

wing 6
wing 6 by Tim Caynes

Having got my hands on my little Sony, I proceeded to take to the skies, both literally and metaphorically and probably also hypothetically and hyperbolically. one of the simple pleasures I was instantly afforded after adding 2 AA batteries and boarding a plane was the ability to settle into my window seat and stick my camera through the window at anything that moved, which was everything, once we got going.

I’m not particularly a creature of habit unless you count being hunched over a flat-panel screen for hours on end watching pixels change their luminosity as a result of reducing opacity by 1% increments but that first flight with a digital camera was the start of a compulsive pattern of behaviour that demands a certain set of criteria be fulfilled before a flight is considered successful from a photo-opportunity point of view, if that’s not a tautology in of itself. I simply can’t book a seat without:

  • it being a window seat
  • it being in front of the wing
  • my knowing the direction of the sun at the time of travel


in addition, when I’m sat in that seat I have to have the correct environment which needs to include

  • a clean window
  • which is in line with the seat
  • and a shirt without stripes.


Normally I can get the booking right using a combination of online booking, priority check-in, google earth and a compass or sexton or something, but the environment is usually less predictable. I’ll normally spend the 30 minutes before taxiing with a wet wipe and a packet of tissues and the arm of a fleece to get the window clean, regardless of what the person sat next to me is thinking, which is normally ‘can I move?’. if the window is slightly right-of-centre, I know I’m going to get a neck-ache, but maybe some nice shots of the wing. If it’s slightly left-of-centre, I’ll probably get a backache and a line down my face where it’s been pressed against the seat in front of me when the seat in front of me has been hyper-reclined into my lap. If it’s centrally aligned, bingo. The shirt without stripes thing I always forget, so I just spend the entire flight wrapped in a British Airways blanket which gives me a rash.

When you get it all right, then armed with a inconspicuous little point-and-shoot, you don’t really attract much attention, other than the blanket thing, oh, and the pathological window cleaning thing, so you’re free to capture until your memory stick throws a wobbler. the best times are take off, climbing, banking, and landing, but the actual flying bit in the middle is also good, so 13 hours later, I’ll land in San Francisco or Denver or somewhere, with a head permanently fixed at 90 degrees and a shoulder colder than is reasonably possible. But I’ll have 150 images of wings, mountains, clouds, airports, runways and iced-up windows, which will take me 200 hours to sort through and post-process of which I’ll take 1 and post it to flickr where nobody will notice except me. And it’ll be worth it.

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