Photoessay: Window seat II

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One day, I promise I’ll do a post of images shot through dirty windows, but it’s just not as interesting most of the time – and it’s difficult to not make it come across more like a hipster filter. I don’t know if I’m the only person to spend most of the flight anxiously gazing out of the window in case I miss something interesting (and annoying the passengers around me who are trying to sleep by having the only open shade in the cabin) – but at least the scrolling scenery makes the flight go a bit faster. As we’ve discussed in the past, picking the right side of the aircraft is crucial – you don’t want to be shooting into the sun simply because all of the crap that’s going to reflect off the micro scratches in the windows, robbing contrast and leaving all sorts of strange artefacts. I’m also increasingly finding myself torn between a larger format for better color (not dynamic range in this case; the windows lower contrast to the point it doesn’t really matter much) or a smaller format for higher shutter speeds (f2.8 on M4/3 is sufficient to keep everything in focus at infinity, and lenses are usually very sharp cross-frame by this point too) as the light falls. I’ve had good and bad results from both options in pretty much equal measure. The one thing I haven’t been able to do consistently yet – because of the aircraft motion – is get a decent image in very low twilight or at night; there’s both simply no way to get enough shutter speed or block out light from the cabin. As with all things, more practice is required…MT

Shot over far too many flights with a wide variety of hardware, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III – you can’t do SOOC JPEG for these because there just isn’t enough contrast thanks to all that glass and perspex.

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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 unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved


  1. Very nice pictures.

  2. Love the wake of the mountain top in the clouds, it’s exactly like that of a rock in a current

  3. Great work, like always! What focal length do you use the most? More, like what range do you think is useful? I thought about taking my Panasonic Lumix LX 100 Mk2 for that purpose, as it is small enough and light enough as a second camera. Focal range is 24-75mm. Or maybe better something with a longer focal range?

    Best wishes Jan

    • Wider than 28 doesn’t work so well because the windows aren’t large enough and you’ll get an engine or wing into the frame, over 100mm or so and the distortion of the perspex becomes very obvious, plus you’ve got to start counter-panning to compensate for the forward motion of the aircraft.

  4. Very refreshing, Ming! Thank you!

  5. Wonderful series. I love photographing from the window too. After that I also want to know what did I photograph. That’s why geo tagging helps (I run a geo tracker separately on phone and tag the pics in post with geo tag). The geo tags need to be corrected by an offset due to angle of the view (airplane is in a different location than the picture). I have discovered interested places this way. Lots of fun! 🙂

    BTW, Happy New Year Ming!

    • Thanks – does this work in the air though? The few times I’ve tried to get a GPS signal/lock in mid-air, I think the capabilities of my phone have been exceeded…

      • Sorry for late reply. I had been busy.
        Yes it works beautifully, I use the phone GPS app (gps4cam) that tracks the path with gps markers that I apply later in LR. My phone (iphone) is in airplane mode saving battery and I let the app track my motion for the entire trip. I have used it over Europe and USA. There is no reason why it should not work in other places.

  6. Bill Walter says:

    One of your best series Ming. A treat for the eyes!

  7. Great Pics Ming.
    I sometimes find that the inside of the window is a problem, (nose and forehead prints, ugh!), or just a light buildup of grime. I always have a few Zeiss lens cleaner packets in my pocket along with some Kleenex. It amazing the difference it can make sometimes.
    Happy 2019!

  8. Ming, great series! I also love photographing out of plane windows. I did a series called Human Drone. All black and white. Ming, any tips on how to chose the correct side of the plane for the best views. There’s got to be an App or a website for that?! Best, Mw-

    • Thanks. Practically: try not to shoot into the sun, you land up seeing all the scratches in the window, or worse, being unable to remove yourself from the reflection!

  9. Taking photographs from the window seat is a tricky affair I would say- a split second’s lag and one ends up getting a bit of the window or the wing in the frane!

  10. Dieter Kief says:

    Thanks. Quite a lot of very interesting shots. Groups of clouds are so beautiful. I think of Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. The cloud, which looks like a ship, plowing through a sea of clouds!
    I hardly fly, though (haven’t flown in this century at all). My means of transport when taking pictures are my bike and my feet, most of the time (90%+).

  11. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I love this kind of photography – for a start, it’s completely different from being the billionth tourist taking the same shot of the Eiffel Tower – it surely qualifies as “travel photography” and much of it as “available light photography” – and as you draw our attention to it, the learning process involved in capturing some of these images.
    Not to mention sharing your knowledge on how best to approach it, where it sit and why, and the choices of the most suitable gear.
    Thanks for yet another great post! And all the best to your family and you, for 2019.

  12. Amazing images!

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