A full day of airliner photography at Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

This was actually my second attempt for a photo shoot at ORD. Several weeks prior, I had actually cashed in some of my Mileage Plus miles to do it but I decided not to go at the last minute. I had reserved a red-eye out of SAN that would have put me in ORD at 6am – which was great, because I could take pictures all day from the terminal windows, and then hop back on a flight to SAN later in the evening. It was a brilliant plan – I wouldn’t even have to pay for a hotel!

But it wasn’t meant to be. Work was very busy on the days leading up to my departure date, and I wasn’t feeling well at all. But I had planned to go ahead with the trip anyway, and I even went as far as checking in for the flight and passing through security. 10 minutes before boarding began, I decided to cancel – I wasn’t feeling well at all, and I thought the last thing I needed was a red-eye flight and being awake for the next 24 hours. Going home to sleep would be a much wiser choice.

Feeling much better, I attempted it again this past weekend. It was the exact same itinerary as before, and the weather was forecast to be absolutely perfect. I was very excited about it at the time, as I kind of felt that I had totally deserved it due to my botched YYZ trip just a few weeks prior. On top of that, I was anxious to take pictures somewhere other than SAN or LAX for once. Redemption time!

American Airlines 767-300

American Airlines 757-200

Canadian Airlines 737-200 Hybrid Livery

Comair CRJ-200

Trans Meridian 727-200

United Airlines 747-400

United Airlines 737-200

United Airlines 737-200

The flight time from SAN to ORD was a short 3.5 hours, which wasn’t hardly any time at all to catch a little sleep. I tried though – I knew that I’d be pretty darn tired after taking pictures all day and then immediately hopping on a flight to return to San Diego.

To say that I felt like a kid in a candy store would be putting it mildly. I spent the entire morning walking ORD from end to end taking pictures of all the interesting things we don’t get to see in southern California. Mostly charter stuff: Transmeridian 727-200’s, Apple Vacations A320’s, Canadian 737-200’s, United 737-200’s – wow! There were a lot of great airliners to take pictures of and I really had a good time seeing stuff in real life that I had only seen on airliners.net.

Then, something happened. I’m not sure what exactly triggered it, but it was a feeling that suddenly changed my perspective and attitude on aviation photography as a whole. I was taking a short rest after lunch just watching aircraft coming and going from the international terminal when I had an instant feeling of how much of a waste of time taking pictures of airplanes was. Yes…I think I had officially burned myself out! Really – the thought of taking one more plain side-on picture of a common everyday airliner in mediocre light didn’t appeal to me at all anymore.

I didn’t really understand the significance of my feelings right at that moment, but it was a rather important change of direction for me. It was from that moment on that I no longer had much interest in taking pictures of airliners for archival purposes. I am now starting to crave the “special” shots – you know, like very dramatic nighttime images and rare liveries. I put the camera away and sat and thought about my plan for the next few hours until it was time to board my flight back to SAN. I came to ORD as a “shoot everything you see no matter what” hobbyist, but I returned to SAN as a picky aviation photographer who demanded perfection.

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