191104 Catching Planes - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

This is an Airbus A380. It's also a good reason to be out of the house at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, giving me time to get to the airport and walk up to the foot of Runway 23 to meet it. There were even a couple of practice aircraft before it came in, but I already knew that I wanted to be right under it as it landed. This was shot with the XF 16-55 at its widest for a 24mm-equivalent view.

There were probably a half-dozen other people who were there to watch the giant passenger liner land, but they stayed farther back for the 380's distinctive profile view. And after it landed, inexplicably, those people left.

Of course the whole world can't be A380's – this one is on the other end of the spectrum. It's an Embraer E-190, which isn't the smallest plane I photographed on Saturday, but it's close. (A privately owned Beechcraft 350 King Air takes that award.) This is C-FNAW, and its sister aircraft C-FNAN is the one I use for the thumbnail image on the main blog page. 

I did add a Bombardier CRJ to my Planespotting gallery, but they were really slow getting Toronto their streetcars, so perhaps I'll add one of their planes to this post in six months or so.

I went out to the airport despite a weather forecast that was calling for rain. I was prepared.

The night before I renewed the waterproofing on my coat, boots, and Domke camera bag. I sealed the side doors of both my XH1 and XT2 with tape, put the grip on the hungry XH so that I wouldn't need to change batteries in the rain, and put the 80/2.8 on the XT so that its deep hood would keep rain off the front element. So of course it didn't rain.

Naturally, facing a long lull in heavy arrivals I did what any sensible person who hasn't been rained on would do, and walked the five kilometres south to 24R where the inbound action was. That's where the smaller planes land, leaving 23 free for departures.

And happily, pushing my luck worked. As soon as I walked past the last convenient place for me to catch an express bus home it started to rain, and it kept raining for hours.

As I was walking around the industrial area east of the airport, in the rain, I was thinking about the likelihood that I'd go to all that effort and just end up with photos of a bunch of Dash 8's. At least this one, C-GMON, is a Q300 that's smaller than the ones I routinely see at the waterfront. (The main gallery does include a Westjet Q400.)

After spending hours watching jets come in the design of these turboprops was really striking. The De Havilland Canada bush plane legacy really shows through with the high wing and the wide stance of the landing gear. They're excellent for rough surfaces, which can still come in handy as a small regional airliner.

After the A380 this was my favourite of the day. It's an old Delta MD-88, built in 1992, coming in with a cross wind in the rain. New and shiny is nice, of course, but there's something to be said for the old designs that have some character and personality. It's not a classic like the 747, or a brute like the 767's that I used to take to and from LAX when I was younger, but it's still doing its thing and working away.

And, not to draw an aggrandizing comparison, so was I. (I am eighteen years older than this plane.) All of the waterproofing I had done kept me comfortable and dry, and the cameras worked without complaint. 

There's a bus stop just south of this family restaurant, which is why I missed several buses. The rain did eventually taper off, but the planes kept coming, so it's hard to find a good time to leave. I'd see something interesting on my tracking app, like a 767 or this A321, and head back under the flight path. 

While it didn't work for every flight, I was also using that app to record each aircraft as it was coming in. This means seventy screen shots as I tried to log them all, but it let me identify planes even without being able to photograph their registration numbers. I'm not quite sure how that will work with the film photos that I took, but that will have to wait for another post.