Pushing the Envelope

Haneda airport’s domestic terminal actually has a very pleasant rooftop. If you are cool with the wind and the occasional whiff of jet fuel, it’s a beautiful place to shoot from. But you’ve gotta make a choice.

As a photographer, we’re always aiming for “good light,” and when the light’s good, you can’t be in two places at once. One side of the terminal puts you in a great place to catch planes landing, with a view of the other terminal, and Mt Fuji beyond that. The other one gives you a shot at getting a plane taking off in front of the Sky Tree. If the weather’s good. We’re photographers. We’re always dependent on the weather.

The problem with shooting those shots is, as a photographer, you’re sandwiched between two opposing forces. Anyone shooting a great sunset will tell you to get your camera on a tripod, and get a longer exposure time to really boost the quality of the image. And anyone shooting fast moving vehicles will tell you you need a fast shutter speed to make sure that your subject is sharp and beautiful.

So, what to do when taking photos of fast-moving vehicles at sunset? The painfully obvious answer is spend more money. If someone would care to donate a Nikon 200mm f/2 or 300mm f/2, I would happily put it to good use. You can spend all the money on lenses with bigger apertures, and cameras with better sensitivity at high ISO. I know I get suckered into spending a fair amount on such things.

And even with all the budget in the world, it’s still going to be that balancing act, shutter speed as slow as you’ll risk, aperture as wide as you can afford, ISO as high as it needs to be.

This particular trip to Haneda, there was just one shot. There was only one flight in that razor thin window between “too light” and “too dark.” And nothing says Tokyo more than a Boeing 777 in a United livery, right? … Right?

Ah, well. Them’s the breaks. But it’s not like the airport moves around. I’ll get another shot at it some day.