Photographer Spends 2 Years Capturing Air Traffic In Airports Around The World


The sight of a plane taking off is pretty impressive, but it’s not exactly new. The sight of hundreds of planes leaving the runway at the same time however is definitely something we’ve never experienced before, until now that is!


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Take a look at this stunning series of “Airportraits” to see what we mean. They were taken by Mike Kelley, an LA-based architectural photographer who spent the last two years taking pictures of planes departing the tarmac at eighteen different airports around the world. Afterwards he compiled the images to create these stunning compositions that serve to remind us just how busy our skies are. “From some locations I had thousands of pictures that needed to be culled, color corrected, extracted, and composited,’ he wrote on his blog. “It was absolutely one of the most challenging projects I’ve worked on.”

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In the background, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. I shot this between 6-8am, when there is a rush of departures to all over the world.


Dubai International 12r (morning Heavy Departures)




Mike Kelley



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Planes depart from DXB’s runway 30R – with a background of ominous clouds over the neighboring Emirate of Sharjah.


Dubai 30r




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It took THREE trips to London to get these images. The weather there is no joke. It was very difficult to get a full day of clear skies, and even though the day I shot this image on was threatened by clouds, I got lucky and there was no rain or heavy shadow. It made for one of my favorite images of the series.


London Heathrow 27l (terminal 5 And Tower)




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This image was shot during the morning arrivals rush at London Heathrow as flights from Asia and North America descend on one of the busiest airports in the world.


London Heathrow 09l (100, 50, 40)




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This image was shot from the end of the runway as planes land during the morning rush hour.


Munich Airport 08r




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This is shot from Dockweiler beach in Los Angeles directly under the path of departing flights between the hours of 5-7pm, when light from the setting sun illuminates the bottoms of the planes.


Lax 24l - No Turn Before Shoreline




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Amsterdam’s Schiphol is surrounded by quintessential Dutch canals and plenty of green grass. Some stormy weather provided an interesting background for the image.


Amsterdam Schiphol, Polderbaan 18r




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This is the original image which was supposed to be a proof-of-concept for the series. It was extremely successful and convinced me to expand the project to airports around the world. This image shows a day’s worth of takeoffs from LAX’s south runways, though some aircraft have been omitted due to redundancy – i.e., we don’t need to see 84 737s!


Wake Turbulence: Lax




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A farm in the foreground provided a nice touch of yellow to contrast the blue sky and predominantly KLM departures.


Amsterdam Schiphol 24 (kaagbaan)




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Due to a complicated noise abatement scheme, Zurich Airport actually uses runways oriented in different directions depending on how light or heavy the winds are. This made for a very interesting photo when combined with the idyllic Swiss countryside that surrounds the airport.


Zurich Airport Runways 28 And 16




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