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The god of Airplane pr0n
December 18, 2008 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Almost everyone is familiar with Airliners.net, but there's one fellow in particular who seems to manage to be in the right place at the right time an awful lot. He's been referenced (with his 17 million page views) as the Ansel Adams or Alfred Eisenstadt of airplane photography. Meet Sam Chui.
posted by pjern (49 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
The right place at the right time, hmm... Seems suspicious. Better throw him in Gitmo, just to be on the safe side.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 AM on December 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


The photo in the "right place" link is amazing.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2008


This is the first time I've seen the site, thanks!

I think Sam Chui should stick with pictures of aircraft, as his other pictures are really bland. While that particular link is to a review of his experience on Egypt Air First Class (and the food available pre-flight), it seems quite lacking. Then again, I might be overly annoyed by direct flash on close subjects.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2008


They are photos of takeoffs/landings, so the time and place are widely known. Cool photos, though.
posted by DU at 9:33 AM on December 18, 2008


Wow, I've never even heard of airliners.net...I must be living in a cave.
posted by Chuffy at 9:39 AM on December 18, 2008


Almost everyone is familiar with Airliners.net

I'm with Chuffy.
posted by rokusan at 9:40 AM on December 18, 2008


That aerial shot of the In n' Out is awesome!
posted by Chuffy at 9:41 AM on December 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Almost everyone who has read this thread is familiar with Airliners.net.
posted by gman at 9:44 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing you have to be into planes to properly appreciate these. I'm sure they were incredibly difficult to capture, but I don't find the end result to be very compelling. If he captured birds or animals as expertly as he captures planes, I'll bet the results would wow me. So the verdict is meh, but only because I'm not interested in the subject matter. Props for his technical skills!
posted by diogenes at 9:47 AM on December 18, 2008


How did he get the "right place" shot? It's obviously from another aircraft, so I'm assuming some sort of very long lens from a light plane?

I'm a little surprised you can fly close enough to an airliner to get these sorts of shots without needing a lens so long that the plane's vibration screws everything up. Very impressive.

They're the sort of thing I've normally only seen in PR photos done by the aircraft manufacturers themselves.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:49 AM on December 18, 2008


It's obviously from another aircraft...

I thought it was obviously from a tall building. But "airplane" is definitely from another aircraft (out the tail with no window? how?) so maybe you are right.
posted by DU at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2008


This shot was the one that made me go "Wow!" and decide to post.
posted by pjern at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


How did he get the "right place" shot?

Somewhere in my research, I read that he rents a light plane, and uses some kind of harness. I don't know if that means he's hanging out a door or what....
posted by pjern at 9:54 AM on December 18, 2008


Kadin2048 for that picture I'd place my bets on a tall building, a solid tripod and a LOOONG telelens. The picture is far too sharp to have been taken from a vehicle (even a balloon).
posted by Skeptic at 10:03 AM on December 18, 2008


Not sure about this guy (and while I'm underwhelmed, that's besides the point) but some aerial photographers use helicopters because they, you know, hover.

And I really expected the links for right place and right time to lead to spectacular images of crashes or something. Like DU said, they're taking off and landing. The right place is near an airport and the right time involves looking up a schedule... or just waiting for the next plane to go by, which I hear they do with astonishingly regularity.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 10:04 AM on December 18, 2008


TheGoldenOne, I doubt that ATC would leave an helicopter hover that close to an airliner landing or taking off. I'd expect that pilot licence to be shredded within minutes...
posted by Skeptic at 10:08 AM on December 18, 2008


Chase plane for the takeoff-from-the-front one. I haven't trolled the archives (and I'm not an expert) but the other stuff seems to be what you could get by hanging around an airport or the surrounding area.
posted by DU at 10:14 AM on December 18, 2008


Almost everyone who is pjern in this thread is familiar with Airliners.net.
posted by netbros at 10:16 AM on December 18, 2008


Like DU said, they're taking off and landing. The right place is near an airport and the right time involves looking up a schedule

Well, the 'Right time' link is of a somewhat notable take-off, though. There is no way that a plane that size routinely takes off within a foot of the end of the designated runway that close to water. No way at all.

The chances of witnessing, and capturing, a take-off like that is not the same as 'go to airport and take a few shots'.
posted by Brockles at 10:18 AM on December 18, 2008


Well then, Brockles, I stand corrected on that account. I don't know anything about airplanes other than these key facts:

They can fly
Sometimes they crash
posted by TheGoldenOne at 10:29 AM on December 18, 2008


I can think of nothing heavier than an airplane
I can think of no greater conglomerate of steel and metal
I can think of nothing less likely to fly
posted by FatherDagon at 10:34 AM on December 18, 2008


Wow, I've never even heard of airliners.net...I must be living in a cave.

Err, make that three of us.
posted by fixedgear at 10:37 AM on December 18, 2008


I also never knew about The Airplanes Channel.
posted by swift at 10:39 AM on December 18, 2008


I know EXACTLY where that 'right place' photo was taken, that's the In N Out right outside of LAX that i go to every time i fly into LA. There are no tall buildings in that area (it's in the friggan flight path of LAX!). That photo is the awesome. I got this photo on top of my rental car right outside of the place.
posted by Mach5 at 10:45 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure these are air-to-air photos (so he would be in another plane with the camera).

As for the how, the airspace around LAX is a big giant mess of various controlled areas, so there are a few "VFR-only" corridors that pilots of small planes can use to get around. Looking at the LAX TAC (a navigational chart for pilots), I see four that require contact with ATC and one that doesn't, and that last one lets pilots fly directly over the airport at 3500' (going northwest) or 4500' (going southwest).

There are gyro-stabilized camera rigs that, while expensive, are (apparently) at keeping a camera steady aboard an aircraft in flight; combine that with a sunny day and you can easily have a high enough shutter speed to get a nice sharp image. I'm sure it's a long lens but he doesn't leave EXIF data intact so it's impossible to know which one.
posted by Godbert at 10:47 AM on December 18, 2008


Here's 'right place' in google maps.
posted by Mach5 at 10:49 AM on December 18, 2008


Mach5: very nice.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:50 AM on December 18, 2008


Thanks for the map, Mach5. I'm definitely going to go there on my next trip out.
posted by joedan at 11:00 AM on December 18, 2008


Is there an "airliners.net" for rail?
posted by four panels at 11:03 AM on December 18, 2008


Mach5 is right, that's the In 'n Out on Sepulveda just a block north of LAX and there are no tall buildings around there. And I seriously doubt there would be any balloons allowed in the area, so clearly the photographer must have been aboard another flight.

Now I'm craving a Double Double.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:07 AM on December 18, 2008


Someone please make a fpp about that In n' Out Burger! Perhaps there should be a meetup there for people that have never heard of airliners.net, because you know, we've got cameras!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:33 AM on December 18, 2008


Is there an "airliners.net" for rail?

Of course! railpictures.net
posted by smackfu at 11:40 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember reading that he has a buddy fly a Cessna 172 or the like, and uses the obvious long lenses and image stabilization. Over LAX he could get as low as 2500' on the "mini route".
posted by exogenous at 12:15 PM on December 18, 2008


Yay. I know where In-n-Out is! :)
posted by rokusan at 12:16 PM on December 18, 2008


Wonder if he works for Google Maps as well?
posted by nicepersonality at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2008


Here's a shot that's a favorite of mine taken from that In-N-Out.
posted by zsazsa at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2008


gosh, talk about a blast from the past. I've spent endless hours during my college years sitting on that lawn opposite the In 'n Out on Sepulveda watching the 747's come down above me. seen sam a few times, too though I've never talked to him. there is a pic on a.net somewhere of him sitting in an open-door 172 on approach.

oh yeah, the a.net founder is a total dick. having experienced his style of running the site makes me appreciate how differently mefi is run.
posted by krautland at 1:22 PM on December 18, 2008


Yeah, now I want a double double with some animal fries...I used to go to that In-n-Out burger on my way out of town.

Cool pictures.
posted by schyler523 at 1:30 PM on December 18, 2008


The chances of witnessing, and capturing, a take-off like that is not the same as 'go to airport and take a few shots'.

It really comes down to how much time you spend at your hobby.
posted by dhartung at 1:58 PM on December 18, 2008


He's been referenced (with his 17 million page views) as the Ansel Adams or Alfred Eisenstadt of airplane photography.

Seriously?
posted by DakotaPaul at 3:18 PM on December 18, 2008


Screw the planes. I have always wanted to try an In-N-Out Burger.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:30 PM on December 18, 2008


Over LAX he could get as low as 2500' on the "mini route".

Exogenous, that site relates to VATSIM, a sort of MMORG of pilots and air traffic controllers. It probably deserves a FPP of its own.
posted by ryanrs at 10:33 PM on December 18, 2008


A 2006 article on VATSIM from the Wall Street Journal.

Dear WSJ: No free archive, no free link.
posted by ryanrs at 10:38 PM on December 18, 2008


It really comes down to how much time you spend at your hobby.Over LAX he could get as low as 2500' on the "mini route".
lower even. did this many times in helicopters. you wait north or south of LAX and ask the tower for a cross permission. they will tell you to line up with the tower and give you an altitude if it's possible. the LAX guys are actually really nice in that way. I have had altitudes as low as 1500 given to me.

and then of course there is the shoreline transition.
posted by krautland at 1:37 AM on December 19, 2008


It really comes down to how much time you spend at your hobby
something wrong in my html gulped one sentence: you realize he's a professional pilot, yeah? I think he flies for lufthansa cargo.
posted by krautland at 1:39 AM on December 19, 2008


Exogenous, that site relates to VATSIM...

Huh - I didn't even notice the nature of the site. I did confirm the route with the copy of the LA terminal area chart on skyvector.com, but it was easier to link to where I did.

A couple of other hardcore flight sim sites are FS-MP and IVAO. I never got into them so I'll leave the FPP to someone else.

I'm jealous of LA basin pilots. The airspace around DC is a real pain.
posted by exogenous at 9:35 AM on December 19, 2008


So, whenever I fly commercial in the US of A, I have to take off my friggin' shoes before boarding, yet any yahoo with a VFR licence may fly as low as 1500 straight over a busy runway in LAX?

Security theatre in-very-much-deed. Not that I don't like the idea of there still being such a quaint thing as the "mini-route", but, DAMN!
posted by Skeptic at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2008


Chui is good, but I really like Steve Morris, especially his pics of wake vortices.
posted by TedW at 7:24 AM on December 22, 2008


Cool stuff, TedW. In some of those photos the air movement seems unbelievably visible - I wonder if the photographer uses a filter to help. Polarizing maybe?
posted by exogenous at 1:41 PM on December 22, 2008


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