Like many I saw the SF to Paris in two minutes video on Vimeo and thought “NICE”! I wanted to try it. So I did!
There was no way I could do what he did and put a tripod up I was also very conscious of not disturbing any passengers on this night flight so I used the quietest camera I own, the GH2 using a Delkin suction mount and a www.lensskirt.com to shield the copious amount of reflections due to the double glazing. It also didn’t help that the window was filthy outside. I asked one of the cabin crew to nip out and clean it. He declined. Shooting wide open will always help to get past dirt, both on glass and on a lens if it’s there but it’s not ideal. Stopping down would have meant a lot more crap on the window would have been seen.
Fortunately I was in the front row of Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic in a 747 downstairs so I had the perfect place to put the camera and not be in the way of people or stop me from sleeping!
The Gh2 had the 14mm F2.5 pancake lens on it (28mm full frame equivalent) and I had to change batteries 3 times during the 9 and a half hour flight.
It worked OK. Exposure was tricky, It got very very dark of course and I had to up the ISO when it got very dark. Even that at 1250 ISO I was still getting a lot of long expsoures which resulted in lots of streaks rather than any detail of the cities below.
The flight path unfortunately was pretty straight meaning no Northern Lights but you see Chicago (at 1.01) beneath and a lot of other US cities as orange blurs which look almost like lava. You think that high the city would not seem to move so fast but trust me it did, i really needed faster exposures for them…
I was in aperture priority mode and I turned long exposure noise reduction of the GH2 off due to it taking too long between shots to apply the noise reduction so I decided to do it in post.
I de-noised used neat video in FCP.
The Cabin Crew were suprisingly cool about it when they saw it during the flight and wanted to know more.
The opening timelapse of the plane taking off was using the iphone 4. I had it set up to do a few locked of shots on timelapse using a simple clamp onto my laptop whilst we waiting to board with the intention of not breaking FAA rules and turning the phone off when we taxied and took off. Unfortunately due to my accidentally selecting the dark screen option on the “timelapse” app I forgot phone was still on so I accidentally caught the take off of the plane. For the landing I was going to switch off the GH2 but I fell asleep and woke up and we had landed and I guess because the camera was so tucked away the cabin crew didn’t see it.
The lensskit did a great job of stopping most reflections but due to the big space between the inside window and the outside window I had to cover up the whole window using my coat and when people went to sleep my pillow to make the clicks quieter, although I am sure nobody heard them before. It’s a pretty quiet camera!
In the end about 2900 photos were taken, I removed about 5 or 6 due to me changing the battery. Fortunately due to the constant moving of the plane little jerks here and there added to it which in a normal timelapse would have ruined it!
So after trying it for the first time what did I learn? Well day to night flights are tricky. If it were a daytime flight then a go pro would have been enough but i needed long expsoures. Next time I will use my T2i or T3i with battery pack as it can do longer exposures better. Also a faster lens, maybe then the 5Dmk2 would be better with the 24mm F1.4…. Well I have a daytime flight in June from London to NY which I will GoPro then I fly back from SF to London, for that I will definitely try this again!
Music is Mercury by Gustav Holst. Licensed.
The inspiration for this is this video: