For some mysterious reason, two years Korean Air has chosen Prague as one of its 747 destinations. For a few months in the high seasons of the last 2 years, we have been enjoying our one and only passenger jumbo service, 4 times a week. This is a little unexpected adventure from the airport trying to capture this beauty.
About a month ago, I finally upgraded my gear after milking my old 600d for the past 6 or 7 years. I decided to step into unknown territory in the form of a Panasonic G9. My canon gear being thus rendered useless (until I get adaptor), I had to figure out a strategy to start using my camera while not spending any significant additional resources. I decided to gather a few old lenses and an M42 to MFT adapter to try the system out, and decide whether or not to stay with it.
In the past month, I got my hand on a Jupiter 135 mm f/3.5 (about 60e on bazos.cz), 2 Helios 58 mm f/2 44-2s (20e for the silver version), and both the Pentacon 30 mm f/3.5 and 135 mm f/2.8. This should be enough to test the sensor, handling and modes of the camera.
Incredibly warm weather presented itself out of nowhere in this mid october (in fact, the warmest day in the past 250 years) – perfect occasion to catch the jumbo. This sortie was my second time using the G9 (first time being yesterday).
On the way to the airport, the Koreans were somewhere about Wroclaw, at 36k feet. After parking hastily at near the football field in Dobrovíz, I quickly grabbed by bag and started a moderate job to gain some time on the remaining 2 km or so remaining to the spot at runway 24/30 intersection.
About 3 minutes into the journey, I felt something was wrong. Indeed, I left the tripod in the car! S#*7! No time to go back though. The sun was still quite high, it would be fine, at least for pictures.
About 15 minutes later, I finally arrived withing view of the spot, with a nice horizon view of the final approach. It was time to take out the gear, who knows, the 135 might yield some nice scenery shots. As I reached into the bag for the camera, I immediately realized what was wrong… The adapter, which was supposed to bring the old m42 lenses to life, was now uselessly sitting on a table at home.
After breathing it out for 5 minutes, I figured I might as well continue and enjoy the autumn aviation mood.
As I kept walking towards the spot, I kept thinking about the adapter. I had my phone, but the lens is too wide for planes.
Then I though maybe there’s a way to hold the lens in front of the camera somehow.
What would Mac do?
M42 lenses can be easily adapted to micro four third cameras, as their flange distance is much smaller than Full Frame cameras on which M42 lenses were used. Adapters such as the one I got are nothing but a spacer. I had my daily carry bag with me, so I realized between the regular gear I have and the random leftover things it might be possible to make something to space and somehow hold the lens away from the sensor.
As I arrived to the spot, facing West straight into the sun, put my bag down and started going through its contents. At that point, the 747 was about 10 minutes away, the clock was ticking. This would have to be a quick fix.
The first an only usable thing was an envelope (good thing I don’t empty my bag thoroughly). I knew the adapter was about 3-4 centimeters tall, so it was a question of folding the envelope enough time to get a cylinder tall and solid enough to get the job done.
Next, I knew I had a small emergency length of duct tape, which did the job of securing the ring and attaching it to the lens. I would then have to hold and position the whole contraption to the camera and hope the distance was close enough for the lens to be able to get a focus. It was risky, but worth a try. The Helios 44-2 58mm seemed like the best choice because it was the only lens with a decent magnification, but not too long to make it unusable with such a setup.
Bingo! After a few back and forths with the focus, it was getting pretty workable!
Not in time for the jumbo though, which gracefully touched down a few hundred meters away.
Fine tuning the poor man’s adapter setup
After it was clear that photos were possible, it was time to turn to the planes. This was the first try:
Not very convincing.
After a few more tries, and playing with the exposure, things were getting almost usable.
Here is the problem. Since there was nothing to hold the lens with its paper adapter to the body, the sensor was exposed to the elements, which made me a bit uncomfortable. As such, for the half hour that I used this setup, I kept holding the adapter and the lens tight on the body, which was not comfortable in the least. But, I could experiment more.
The paper adapter was not completely flat, which actually proved quite useful for ‘focusing’. Once the high point was placed on the top of the mount, it was possible to just slightly move the bottom part of the lens to of from the bottom part of the mount to focus (which actually proved much quicker and intuitive than ring focus!). In the beginning though, I couldn’t find the high point of the adapter, which meant the in focus plane was crooked relative to the horizon.
The following pictures are only resized raws, no edit or sharpening, resized to 1600px using bilinear downsizing.
Shooting with this setup was actually quite fun, but I was getting increasingly uneasy with having the sensor exposed is such a way. I gathered my breath and steadiness muscles for a last attempt at the Qatar 787 takeoff, this time with the adapter properly aligned, and proper exposure.
Not bad at all actually!
After the Dreamliner took off towards even warmer climates, I made two last attempts and gave the adapter back its original scrap envelope form.
It was hard to look at that light go to waste, but it was something different for a change.
Time for takeoff
I decided to head to the threshold of rwy 24 to catch the jumbo on its way out from from runway 06.
The spotter’s hill is perfect for these runway setups, as it is directly facing the setting sun at this time of the year.
A bit past blue hour, the 747 finally made its way to the cold night in front of us, with the runway lights reflecting from the belly, and its surprisingly quiet engines roaring into the darkness.
Til next time….
For record keeping sake, the current Korean Air time schedule: