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L.A. Photographer Captures Dozens of Planes Taking Off From LAX

A Los Angeles-based photographer spent 16 hours capturing and compiling photos of every flight leaving LAX for an astonishing composite image of the airport.

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A composite photo shows dozens of planes leaving LAX, all photographed in one 16-hour stretch. (Credit: Michael Kelley / mpkelley.com)

Michael Kelley’s photo, titled “Wake Turbulence,” was posted to his blog on Tuesday.

The image was a spur-of-the-moment project Kelley took up on a nice day when he felt “like a total dork” for staying inside, working on a computer, he wrote.

An architectural photographer whose images usually “aren’t just snapshots of a single moment,” Kelley wrote on his blog that he had been at a Los Angeles International Airport the day before and thought he’d go back to try to capture “more than one plane in flight at once.”

He set up a tripod and shot every plane that crossed the frame three to 10 times. He got more than 400 images, and used those to build his composite.

Not every photo was used and not every plan was shown in the final image, of course.

“I took some liberties with the positioning of each of the planes in order to make a more compositionally interesting photo. True aviation geeks may say this is sacrilegious, but it makes for a more interesting and easy to view shot,” he wrote.

The image, he noted, was similar to one created in 2005 by Ho-Yeol Ryu at Hannover airport in Germany.

“My intent was to capture only planes that flew out of LAX – highlighting and emphasizing what an incredible airport that this city has,” Kelley wrote.

Prints are for sale on purephoto.com, with prices ranging from $400 to $1,325.