Impressive Composite Captures 8 Hours of Departures From LAX in a Single Frame


Now this is a composition. Spending an entire day just outside of LAX and another “eight or so hours” in Photoshop, photographer Mike Kelley put together a photo he’s calling “Wake Turbulence” — a composite that documents an entire day of departures from LAX.

Bearing resemblance to Cy Juckenbaker’s composited time-lapse of departures from San Diego International Airport, both photographers were inspired by the same photo: this image by photographer Ho-Yeol Ryu. Kelley’s still composite, like Ryu’s, manages to perfectly frame dozens of airplanes just getting into flight.

He describes the process of capturing the source material on his blog:

In order to capture the shot, I set up a tripod and photographed every single plane that flew across my frame anywhere from 3 to 10 times. Using sandbags to ensure that the camera didn’t move and coming as close to peeing myself as I ever have in my 26 years of existence from not wanting to leave my camera unattended, this resulted in over 400 images from which the composition is built, but not all of them were used.

Here are a couple of un-edited frames:



Kelley goes on to say that he “took some artistic liberty with the angles of attack to make a more interesting photograph,” but that, for the most part, “this is all very similar to how it would appear if you were to go and watch yourself.”

For those of you who would like prints, Kelley has put some up for sale. Coming in at $400 for an 18″x36″ and going up in price with size, they’ve been called a bit pricey, but they are printed on Hahnemuhle archival quality fine arts paper, after all.

The amount of time and dedication it takes to capture and create composites like this is always a little mind-blowing. He’s reached out to LAX to see if they’re interested in using the image, but he’s yet to hear back from them. Fingers crossed he does and we’ll be able to see a massive print of this beauty the next time we make it to LA.

(via Reddit via Laughing Squid)

About the photographer: Michael Kelley is an architectural and fine art photographed based in Los Angeles, CA. His work can be seen at and prints of the shot ‘Wake Turbulence’ can be purchased at

Image credits: Photographs by Mike Kelley and used with permission

  • wickerprints

    Mental note: next time, adult diapers. XD

  • Elanfx

    Reminds me of Hanover Airport in Germany by Heo-Yeoi Ryu.

  • arachnophilia


    “single frame”

  • Louise

    Original image by Ryu is much more interesting. This is a photoshop fail.

  • dustin dowell

    No offense to him, but there’s no reason this composite should have taken 8 hours. Most of the planes aren’t even touching. A quick blurry mask would have been fine. The only difficult part would be where the planes overlap with each other. I’ve done self cloning composites before with myself and a tripod and with only 10 “me”s it’s only taken maybe an hour.

  • Darren D. Stoner


  • Dba

    Same here. Anyways is always nice effect.

  • dba

    *a nice effect

  • Bearr

    “…both photographers were inspired by the same photo: this image by photographer Ho-Yeol Ryu.”

  • Tom

    Why is it a photoshop fail? Or is it just because you couldn’t do it yourself.

  • Guest

    $400 is not pricey. It’s about right for this scale of work, and perhaps a bit undervalued. As a stand alone one-shot experiment there may never be an opportunity to become known for it, but as a prelude to other frozen-compressions-of-time experiments or stylistically similar photos, the price could definitely go higher.

  • imajez

    I saw a much better version of this done years ago. On film.
    Sadly I cannot find it as I don’t recall photographer’s name.

  • Burnin Biomass

    I would have thought in 8 hours the light on the planes would have changed more dramatically.

  • V-man

    I suppose he could not make planes take off faster. If there is no plane – you wait. doing clones of yourself is different, since you don’t need to wait till “another you” comes in the shot.

  • dustin dowell

    He said, “another 8 or so hours of photoshop”

  • EW

    Very cool. Wish I could see it larger though!!

  • Mike Kelley

    Appreciate the kind words, Darren.

  • Mike Kelley

    Hi BB,

    So did I! Or, I would have, at least – the runways at LAX are actually situated perfectly in front of the sun this time of year. The sun made nearly a perfect arc around the back of my head from about 10am to 5pm.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    Try Google-maybe you can find it.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    How about a link?

  • gefundenwerden


  • Mike Kelley

    Hi Dustin. I, like you, thought it would be a much, much faster job to do this in Photoshop. Unfortunately I was very wrong. As the light changes, so does the exposure and color of the sky. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use a blue channel mask or anything because (annoyingly) the predominant color of the airline liveries was…you guessed it, blue, which would blend with the sky. I’ve been using Photoshop day in and day out for over ten years now and tried everything in the book to make it faster. The pen tool provided the best results, bar none. In addition, I took some liberty to move the planes around and having the pen tool create a precise path ensured that there was no artifacting or otherwise ugly spots around the edges – ensuring I could line everything up as I desired.

  • mohawksan

    Mike, I think it is fantastic idea and very nicely done. I am pretty sure it was difficult to get the exposures right especially when merging into a composite image.

  • Frank

    Ugly copy

  • imajez

    Google, what’s that then?

  • Melvina Roselyn

    That looks really neat