Thursday, March 29, 2007

Those ugly cloud streaks...I could love them.

The skies show us graphic reminders of the innumerable plane flights taking off and landing every day. For most people the condensation streaks are simply a reminder of the expansion of air services over the last decade. For photographers it can be either an uncontrollable irritant or a welcome addition to their craft. Let's look at these two similar pictures.

Most photographers will say the perfect outdoor sky would have blue sky and white, fluffy clouds. Some will actually shoot clouds and sky and later "photoshop" them into their pictures that have bland skies.

The picture above has a pleasant blue sky and soft white clouds. But these clouds were actually formed by the jet vapor streaks! Over time they disperse and may form pleasant linear patterns.

This is similar view taken a short time later. Now there are well-defined jet vapors criss-crossing the sky. Air traffic runs in lanes much like car traffic. These air lanes are in the sky and are consistent and regulated. Since I live near a highway (I-422) we can see distinctive vapor streaks every day. These flights are part of the westbound approach to Cleveland-Hopkins that you see when you sit at a ballgame in Jacobs Field or from I-480 near I-77.

The vertical streak running from the upper left corner of this frame comes from a northbound jet about to make a big turn in order to drop into the Hopkins landing lane. It will be awhile until the vapor cloud disperses leaving an unnatural-looking cross-hatched cloud pattern.

The dilemma for photographers is that they are at the mercy of these patterns from jet vapors. Sometimes the streaks are beneficial but usually it means the appearance of an unnatural element in their photographs. Or, even worse, lots of "photoshopping" in order to clean them up.

As you might expect, Flickr has a group dedicated to Vapour Trails. Enjoy!

Copyright 2007 James D. Fisher
All Rights Reserved.


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