Over the Alps

May 20, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


I seem to have missed all of the "end of world weather" that the BBC and tabloids keep reporting, so for a pilot I guess I've been pretty lucky. The past few months have seen some beautiful flying conditions however, and as the clocks have sprung forward, we in the skies, are rewarded with longer evenings and superb sunsets and evening twilight skies across Northern Europe.




As always, flying in Europe only, some of the most picturesque scenes and skies are crossing the Alps. I fly across the Alps rather regularly, but it is very rare to get those picture perfect days. In winter, the snow is so deep (yes, even with all this global warming), that most valleys and mountain peaks are hidden. And with regular low cloud and fog, all we usually see is a white carpet.




In the summer, the snow melts away from all but the highest peaks, and the UV index soars to create rather murky and hazy skies - not great for photography. Unless, you happen to be flying the first flight North bound of the day. Then you may just get lucky...



This one above is crossing from Northern Italy and into Switzerland. With the iconic Matterhorn dominating the skyline in the centre-right.


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My favourite route across the Alps is always coming out of Torino/Turin, Northern Italy, on a clear early morning. Around spring time is perfect, you hit the ideal balance between winter snow and summer haze. The result is low-lying mist clinging to the valley floors as the sun bursts through and starts to heat the earth. The colours are still very cold, with a hazy blue glow throughout the image, but as summer approaches you can recover more greens and warmer colours from the valleys by using manual white-balance control.




Once I find the manual-settings that work, and with a high contrast image profile (on the Nikon D700), I can pretty much get print ready images straight from the camera. In the past, all of my flightdeck shots used to need a lot of work in Photoshop to pull back the curves. But the Nikon D700 is so reliable, that with the right settings and a bit of work and experience on the profiles in-camera you really get the results.








Plus, I now have a new secret weapon... the amazing Nikon 24-120mm f4 VR lens. Wow. I just love the thing. I have struggled (like most photographers) for years, with my choice of main working lens when I am travelling. There are loads of "all in one" lenses on the market, but unfortunately, to make one the manufacturer has to sacrifice quality somewhere. So really it's not possible. So its about compromise. I had the 24-120mm in mind from Nikon, but the web is full of negative reviews. But like other photographers out there, I'm convinced that most of those reviewers have never owned this lens. Because it is superb. Now, it is very very high in contrast... but I love that. As you will see if you have browsed any of my work... I LOVE high-contrast images. What's more, high-altitude (ie. flightdeck) photography lacks contrast.... so this lens is just perfect.

Plus, it has a very practical AND usable range. From nice wide-angle shots at 24mm (full-frame on D700)....




To the telephoto range with 120mm reach...




And... its sharp... (best stepped down 3 stops)... f10 is oh so sweet...




View my current online collection of photography "From the Flightdeck" here. More being added every month!



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