Photoessay: Window seat

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On the last two overseas trips of 2015, I lucked out on the airplane: not only did I have some spare air miles to put me in the front of the plane, but the aircraft itself had what appeared to be new windows marked with ‘DO NOT POLISH: CRYSTALVUE COATED’. Interestingly, whatever coating they did apply to the windows appears to have worked: very little dirt stuck, there were almost no swirly marks, and transmission – even at an angle when shooting downwards to the ground – was remarkably good. Less color correction than usual was required. Please put your seats upright and stow your tray tables… MT

Side note: in case you’re wondering why months go past between the time I shot something and the time it’s published here, it’s because I find that that duration is optimal for me when it comes to improving objectivity of curation. Unless it’s something very time-sensitive, I generally like to have some ‘sitting time’ to be sure that the final set presented is really what I want.

This series was shot with a mix of the Canon 5DSR and 40/2.8 STM Nikon D5500 and Zeiss 1.4/55 Otus, and post processed with Intro to Photoshop Workflow (not Workflow II: reason being above average color correction is always required for aerial work, necessitating reversion to the previous workflow that incorporates this). You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. My flight this morning will be a window seat. A short jaunt from Pittsburgh to NYC — fingers crossed for crystalvue windows!

  2. Pixelgreat says:

    The starry sky is an amazing image. I know some newer planes have the ability to fly higher than average eg Boeing Dreamliners- wonder how much higher they actually fly….?

  3. On the image which shows the stars, it looks to me as if you were actually in low orbit, not just a few miles above sea level. Great work.

  4. Great set Ming! 1, 2 and 12 are my favorites. I have to ask, where these shot from 787’s? Or a mix of new 777’s and 787’s? The probability of getting windows so clean and with the latest coatings is pretty slim.

    • Actually, mostly A330s and A380s I think. A few 777s. 787s are not good at all because those fancy dimming windows have some strange waviness between the electrochromic layers.

  5. Absolutely lovely photos Ming. I wish that I had more opportunities to travel.

    Your work, as usual, is striking.

  6. Martin Fritter says:

    Really very nice. This is one of my favorite of your themes. I also like your b&w’s of vintage planes. Echos of Burtansky (of whom I’m sure you’re aware). Given the chance, I’d love to see you rent a small plane. You have a very good feel for the technological sublime. I am also very fond of your pictures of people eating!

  7. Always a pleasure to see some of your window seat shots. Maybe its because I spend so much time on planes but its some of my favorite work produced by you. Based on your reviews I picked up the 40 STM for my 5DSR and it really is a sweet little lens and great for shooting out of the window. Using your processing techniques really has added more pop to my airplane images as well. The biggest thing i struggle with is that I am 6’7″ tall and prefer exit rows from a comfort standpoint but as you know they are generally on the wing and poor for photography. I try to balance it out. If I fly at night I shoot for exit rows, if I fly during the day I go for an optimal window seat and deal with complete lack of leg room. Every once in awhile I luck out and get upgraded to first class. Thanks for posting these awesome images. Inspiring stuff.

    • Thanks – yes, totally understandable. I go for an aisle if at night or a long flight; otherwise window if I can get one that isn’t blocked by wing or engine heat turbulence.

  8. Well done, Ming. How is the 5DSR for clarity from that high above vs. the D5500 and Otus? I also have a series of window seat photographs, but mostly from the dry Southwest U.S.

  9. I have never been inside of an airplaine, but I can imagine you can make beautiful photo’s!

  10. Alex Carnes says:

    They’re fantastic! One can only salute the skill and enthusiasm that made those photos possible.

  11. Chris Huff says:

    Looks fabulous! But let’s be honest, you were strapped in a harness and out on the wing. Another sign of a professional verses an amateur. 😉

  12. Very nice! Not that I have that much hope of repeating this, but which airline were you on? 😉


  13. Wow ! First i thought it’s dust on my screen… But stars (!) Absolutely stunning ! I still dream of making one day such perfect shots from a plane. Great work, thanks for sharing !


  14. I love the picture of the stars. Well done! How did you manage the 6 second exposure?

  15. Very lucky seat assignments! The stars (6452), 0772, and 1317 do it for me. All from 3 different cameras, too. 🙂

    • Thanks Andre – looks like I used up all of my luck; didn’t get anything at all on the last six flights despite careful planning 😦

  16. Speaking of putting a filter over your lens, that is a thick element in front! haha, beautiful shots none the less.

  17. This is a interesting idea for a project. Some killer cloud images. I have enjoyed your camera reviews in the in the past, keep up the good work.

  18. Beautiful, all of them. The one with the starry sky is particularly breathtaking!

    • Thanks – sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t – on my last trip to/from Europe, I had six flight legs but only two during daytime, neither of which had clear skies. The night approaches were fantastic but unphotographable (for obvious reasons). Go figure 🙂

    • Ming’s Hasselblad ambassadorship earned him a spot on the ISS. 😉 They’re all lovely shots, but that starry sky shot is a real stunner… quietly powerful.


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