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August 19, 2014 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Back in 2012, fashion photographer and filmmaker Milton Tan shot a time lapse film over a six month period, of planes overflying Singapore's Changi Beach on their way to and from Changi airport. After his "The Air Traffic" video went viral, managers at the airport made Tan an offer: six months of access to a restricted runway for a second film: The Air Traffic Two. (Via)

Vimeo
The Air Traffic One
The Air Traffic Two
posted by zarq (11 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love this. Reminds me of the opening to House of Cards, which holds the distinction of being the only title sequence I don't FF through.

Any tips DIY on balancing the excessive background/stationary light with the fainter moving sources? Is this done by composite images in post production?
posted by Keith Talent at 10:09 AM on August 19


This is beautiful and you are beautiful for posting it.
posted by Jairus at 10:09 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


This is beautiful but also a little bittersweet because I live in light-drenched L.A., in the flight path of LAX, and this was just a reminder that the planes are my stars.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:48 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]



Any tips DIY on balancing the excessive background/stationary light with the fainter moving sources? Is this done by composite images in post production?


Not an issue for this, this isn't long exposure shooting. It's shooting a frame every x seconds but the shot is a straight camera shot (correct exposure for the available light.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:41 PM on August 19


This is too much like warfare to be beautiful to me - lights coming in at that speed to a city? Seen enough footage of urban bombardment that I can't escape a shudder.

Which is a shame.

A long time ago, I was at an event in the top-floor bar at the Park Lane Hilton, overlooking Hyde Park, late one evening in London. It was a busy event and I'd had a couple of beers and talked to people, but it was also a PR event and I'd had enough of beer and talking. So, I drifted over to the window and looked out, over the city. The main approach to Heathrow is along the river, just south of the hotel, and I could see the landing lights five or six aircraft, following each other about two minutes apart on finals. As one disappeared into the final dark blue of the post sunset sky in the west, another smoothly slid in to take its place. It was so precise, so orchestrated... and yet, I got to thinking about how random it was, how each aircraft came from a different place, how the hundreds of people sitting next to each other a thousand feet up and falling came from different places, and how the machinery of flight combined determinism and randomness...

And I had a moment of awareness. I could feel that global machine - all the computers and radars and sensors and planning and control - that was stringing those particular beads onto that particular wire-that-doesn't-exist, and the pilots whose unthinkably different lives had brought them to being in-control-but-not-in-control as they followed each other down, and the massive machines floating in mid-bloody-air burning prehistoric sunlight in our very-much-now-air, and how the whole bizarre symbiotic construction was dripping clots of humanity into London to dissipate like raindrops hitting limestone... and none of this was built out of separate thoughts, it was a perception of an enormous whole in space and time that I could turn effortlessly in my mind as each facet and fracture caught the light.

You don't get many moments like that in life.

It stuck, naturally, and I can't do anything involving flying now without that filter. But a big part of it was those lights moving along in real time - the only aspect of it that synched with my immediate perceived reality - and perhaps that's why I can't see timelapses of aircraft landing without it jarring really rather a lot.

Or perhaps it's Baghdad or Syria or Gaza.

Whatever. Yes, those videos are beautiful. But I do not like them.
posted by Devonian at 4:47 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


Beautiful video.

Nothing like warfare.
posted by modernnomad at 5:28 PM on August 19


What struck me is that the managers at the airport must feel that this says something about their job, something beautiful and amazing. Which flight is. However, we don't generally think of beautiful and amazing when we think of airports and air travel. To capture some part of that magic must have made them feel very good.
posted by amanda at 9:05 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Any tips DIY on balancing the excessive background/stationary light with the fainter moving sources? Is this done by composite images in post production?

From the description on the second vimeo link.. Making of on Milton Tan's blog. Apparently 4-10 second exposures at 0s intervals.
posted by Ahab at 9:43 PM on August 19


This is beautiful, but what I found strange was that it never really got dark. Was that a part of his film processing? Was it deliberate? Did he not find the sight of planes moving in more darkness to be aesthetically pleasing? Or is there too much light pollution?
posted by TrishaLynn at 6:50 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Ahab: "However, we don't generally think of beautiful and amazing when we think of airports and air travel."


More airport videos from metafilter posts:

This one has great music, and the planes remind me of hovering hummingbirds. Watch for the landing gear popping out.
metafilter: Cleared to Land And it's youtube link: London Heathrow Approach Time-Lapse

---
A whole day in 30 seconds, landing like a flock of birds.
metafilter: Landings at San Diego Int Airport Nov 23, 2012 And it's youtube link: All the landings (warning, much louder than the Heathrow video.)
posted by jjj606 at 2:30 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the props jjj606, but it wasn't me who said the lovely thing, it was Amanda!

But I do love the Heathrow video, there's definitely something incredibly bird or even puppet like about the floating quality you get looking straight down that approach path through a long lens.

This is beautiful, but what I found strange was that it never really got dark. Was that a part of his film processing? Was it deliberate? Did he not find the sight of planes moving in more darkness to be aesthetically pleasing? Or is there too much light pollution?

Bits of most of that, TrishaLynn.

Partly truly colourful night photography (vivid colours, luminous colourful skies, bright foregrounds with star lit background skies in which you can see the tint of individual stars, etc) is just one aesthetic possibility among many that developed (if you'll pardon the pun) with the arrival of low grain high sensitivity colour transparency film in the late 60s and early 70s and then exploded in popularity as digital took off around the turn of the century or so.

With the high quality digital gear Tan is using, a 10s exposure at f/4 would be sufficient to show the blue skies and stars that, eg, you see at 33s in the second vimeo video. That'd be the case even in an intensely light polluted environment. I think there's little doubt it was his deliberate intent to have that blue with visible stars because he's let the highlights in the sodium or mercury vapour lighting around the terminal blow. He could have exposed for that lighting, and had a black (or near black) sky with no stars, but he didn't.

On the processing artefact side, in that same group of shots around 33 seconds, you have purple sky. The sky is actually violet (for real, we just see blue). But it's rarer to photograph natural violet sky in full darkness than it is to have it arise as an effect of colour temperature correction of raw digital image data for scenes lit by sodium or mercury vapour lighting. The fact that the purple in that little scene forms an aura around the lights of the terminal suggests very strongly that it's an artefact. Sadly, it's not a curious little patch of high altitude ice crystals or something.

Similarly in the photos that form the segments around 36-40s, and 1m06s-1m12s the terminal is properly exposed and relatively neutral in colour. The control tower and terminal, yellow at 33-35 seconds, have become nearly white. And a partially cloudy sky is now a uniform deep blue (the one or two stars in it are also blue tinted). That suggests the classic fix for sodium vapour - you treat your subject as you would an environment lit by tungsten incandescent lights and filter or correct for a colour temperature of 2700-3000 Kelvin. The fact that the tail of the SwissAir plane is deep purple is also a bit of a tell there. In short, the sky in those segments is black, but colour correction for the yellow tint on the planes and terminal has made it blue.

On the light pollution front. Excessive ambient light doesn't necessarily destroy your ability to take photos of black skies with stars in them. Tan has caught a couple of stars in the terminal shots just mentioned. He's also got people on the tarmac in those shots. But that's something spectacularly rare and special. The brightest stuff and the dimmest stuff (even in ordinary urban lighting environments) is generally too far apart in terms of tonal range to hang together in the same picture. Light pollution is also what produces the brightly lit undersides to the low cloud you see at 1m00s or so. Clouds lit from below are another aesthetic choice. Some people love em and some people hate em.

Personally, I like the flexibility and new colour palettes that digital has made possible, dislike high contrast and very low key night photography (it's been around for 140 years and I feel like it's time that aspect of the genre moved on), hate heavy cloud mist and fog (also done to death and rarely compatible with vivid colour), and don't want to see people in my night photos. Not at all. I love the feeling that the night is a colourfully lit and slightly gaudy empty stage upon which anyone might imminently leap and play.
posted by Ahab at 1:19 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


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