Long Exposure Shots of Aircraft Light Trails

photos of light trails of aircraft over water

Jet streams are always able to attract your attention. The white smoke trails billowing out of aircraft engines with their afterburners on full throttle draw trails in the sky that can fascinate for hours. American landscape photographer Kevin Cooley has ventured to capture not just jet streams but similar and more fascinating looking streaks in the heavens. The light trails he captures using long exposure photos is a fascinating collection that has the skies drawn with these mystical looking lines of white in varying intensities. Some are straight lines that look like cosmic highways, while others appear like intersecting freeways and flyovers that are part of a celestial network of roads. Kevin calls the series Nachtfluge, meaning Nightlights in German.

light trail over the beach

light trails over house

To capture the surreal images, he uses a Linhof Technikardan 45s large format (4×5) camera outfitted with a 135mm Schneider Apo-Symmar lens. Aperture settings are at f/22. To capture the streaks of light, Kevin leaves the shutter open four or five minutes for each shot. In some instances it is left open even longer. Most of Kevin’s photography takes place at major airports in and around the United States. Notable locations where he shot most of his impressive works are JFK and EWR in New York, ETC in North Carolina and LAX in Los Angeles. Kevin shares his thoughts on his chosen subject to photograph:

“Photography is by nature an exploration of time. The blink of an eye may be frozen by the shutter. Or in the case of this series, many minutes or even hours add up to construct a single image punctuated by the paths of commercial airplanes traversing the night skies. These white streaks, the only aspect of the planes visible in the photographs, are created by the landing and navigation lighting on every plane. Each line represents the amount of time it takes a commercial flight to pass through the frame.”

light trails of aircraft over buildings

light trails of aircraft over water

light trails of aircraft over trees

light trails

light trails over seaside city

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.