Creature from the Blog Lagoon 15: “Bird Droppings”

I’ve had a few people ask me how I got this photo of a 747 dropping fire retardant drop while fighting the Valley Fire in eastern San Diego County. (Note: This is very nearly full-frame; I only cropped in a little on the right side to make it symmetrical.)

It was made with a 500mm f/4 Nikkor lens on a full-frame (35mm) Nikon D850 mounted on a monopod (too danged heavy for this weakling to manage handheld for very long). The camera and lens combo was tracking focus continuously with a single focus point centered on the aircraft. I was far enough away that I didn’t get a single drop of retardant on me. I’m terrible with estimating distances, but I’m going to make a rough guess of about a mile from my location to where the drop started, and the photo was shot near the end of the drop.

Using the photo of the two firefighters and trucks as a reference (they were a hundred yards or so closer than I was; my position was further back when I shot the airplane photo), my location was maybe half the image frame’s distance more to the left. That little bit of mountain at the left edge is the beginning of the ridge they were flying over.

Watching a 747 with full flap extension fly overhead at maybe 500 feet (again, I’m terrible at judging distances) is an amazing sight.

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