When Aviation Becomes Art


Whether a love of airplanes began when a little kid looked to the sky, or as a first time traveler looked out the window in a plane that was speeding down a runway – there’s an excitement, a drive, a need to travel and experience more that hooks them forever. There are aviation enthusiasts who make a career of their passion by working for an airline, an airport or a civil aviation authority, and there are those who pick an entirely different path who wear their passion through their travels and hobbies.

Mike Kelley is a Los Angeles based photographer who spent nearly two years of his life photographing airplanes and airports; meticulously planning how he would capture moments: coordinating extensive travel arrangements and tricky logistics, tracking aircraft movements and weather and wind patterns.
Image: Mike Kelley
Image: Mike Kelley

In March 2014 he captured the first image in his Wake Turbulence series, which showed an entire day’s work of aircraft movements at Los Angeles International Airport.

A day of aircraft movements at LAX. Image: Mike Kelley

It took Kelley 16 hours to bring the first piece together, but it was an image that created a concept, that took him on a journey around the world. As he captured departures and arrivals at airports in Sao Paulo, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Sydney, Auckland, London, Dubai (and others), he captured the quickest moments of aircraft that were carrying passengers and crews, each with their own story, after maintenance crews had signed off and as controllers were tracking their movements.

Image: Mike Kelley

Coordinating his shoots took mindboggling planning. And patience. Accessibility, dubious smog and rain were obvious factors, and post production editing was just as intricate, as Kelley carefully adjusted colours and compositions and retouched the images until he knew they were done.

To read more on Mike Kelley’s passion for aviation, photography and plane spotting adventures, visit his blog: http://www.mpkelley.com. For a behind the scenes look at his round-the-globe adventures below, watch the video below: