This is another in-flight image, taken in December 2012 on the approach to Denver, Colorado. I was experimenting with using a physically short 60mm prime (fixed focal length) lens, so as to have a more flexible range of movements in a cramped seat, than what is possible with a telephoto prime or zoom. At least three negative compromises arise from this: significant loss of framing choice (the ability to concentrate on a selected area of the whole scene); loss of “reach” (the ability to zoom closer to distant subjects) and the benefit of vibration reduction, which many modern zooms provide.
That said, when photographing from the air, I generally give up the opportunity of vibration reduction in favour of speeds significantly above 1/500s, which is the effective limit of utility for VR. High speeds are needed to defeat the huge vibration felt in the cabin and the effect of the speed of the aircraft over the scene being captured. Even though I had set for Aperture control in this case, the combination of scenic conditions, ISO and aperture still generated a very satisfactory speed of 1/6400s.
Given the above difficulties and the additional deterioration arising from unclean or scratched Perspex windows, the resultant image has a surprisingly good level of sharpness.
I found the experiment to have been a success, although this is largely due to the landscape nature of the scene, with its focus on wide spaces and sky, rather than on any particular detail. Were I to have needed to focus in on elements taking up a fraction of the area covered by that lens, I would have definitely missed the reach of greater focal length. That said, the D800’s 36 megapixel sensor delivers high resolution, which, when used with a good quality lens and technical rigour, delivers image sharpness at high image magnification.
If you view this image on my website at its full size, you can view a trail of tiny dots leaving a cattle station in the bottom left of the image. They reach a clearing and fan out into several lines of “dots”. Magnified to 300%, these turn out to be cattle, perhaps bison, which are densely farmed in Colorado, rather than running wild, as in other states.
Peeping into that level of detail is entirely unnecessary for appreciation of the image, but it was a validation for me of the experiment, which I had made with a mid-level prime lens.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: 60mm f2.8D Prime
Focus Mode: AF-S
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/6400s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 800
I encourage you to always fly with a camera in your pocket and to try and “bag” a window seat. The results can often be very satisfying.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015