Reporter's Notebook

America by Air
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Inspired by our March 2016 cover story by James Fallows,How America Is Putting Itself Back Together,” readers share their best aerial photos from across the U.S. Submit your own via (Please provide the location, the story behind the photo, and the largest file size you have. Horizontal photos with a bit of the plane visible—a wing, the edge of a window—are ideal. Terms and Conditions here.)

Show 45 Newer Notes

America by Air: A Rainbow Tractor Beam

One can imagine a UFO lurking in the clouds:

Ed May

The image comes from a reader in Friday Harbor, Washington: “It’s a late-afternoon rainbow amid a rain shower while flying in the Class C airspace of Whidbey Island NAS, on Whidbey Island, WA.”

Betsy Andrews

A reader writes:

Fun series! This is actually an old photo from March 2008 flying into Barrow, Alaska. I’m a contractor/scientist at NOAA and am super lucky that I get to travel to lots of cool (and often cold) places to do maintenance on atmospheric instruments—for example, at their baseline observatory just outside the town of Barrow.

Barrow is on the north coast of Alaska, and while there’s open water in the summer, when I took this picture it was all frozen. The sea ice is the bumpy-looking snow between the wing of the plane and the town, while the snow-covered tundra is smooth.  

A previous view above the airport in Barrow is here, along with an explanation of why the area is under environmental threat. Less ominously, since May 10, Barrow has been covered in sunlight around the clock; the sun doesn’t set for three months during the summer:

Kevin Grambley

An absolutely stunning shot from reader Kevin, who doesn’t have to worry about traffic jams:

I love your “America By Air” series. I am an aerial surveyor by trade and hobby … and have amassed tons of photos over my 15+ years in the business. My office is currently a Bell 206B JetRanger Helicopter. I’ve worked in many different aircraft over the years and absolutely love the vantage point that flying gives. Combine that with a child-like love of aviation and geography and that’s me in a nutshell.

It was just on your latest edition that I saw the link to submit photos and thought I’d send a few your way. If you’re interested in more, I have plenty and I’d love to share.

Yes please. And if you have your own photo to share, even if we’ve already posted one, drop us a line: Submission guidelines are here, for increased chance of posting, along with some context on how this aerial series got started. Your photos just keep getting better.

Cristiano Valli

A reader sends the second photo from a blimp we’ve received so far (and the latest in our sub-series of shadow views):

So, this company decided to offer tours of San Francisco with zeppelins. They invited me and a bunch of journalists for the inauguration trip. But here’s the thing: Are you familiar with all the stuff they say about San Francisco and the wind? Those stories are true … the inaugural trip had been postponed for three months, on a daily basis—you know, wind—and the €600 tickets for the general public were refunded in full and the company went out of business in six months. Pictures were cool, tho.

I love this one of a scuttled ship, especially when juxtaposed with the shadow of the airship above:

Cristiano Valli

When I asked Cristiano about the vessels, he replied:

The bay is shallow, so there’s a lot of sunken ships, but they’re just too expensive to recover, especially around Alameda Island. I don’t think there’s any historical value, just life happens in the bay ...

If you have an aerial photo of your own and an anecdote to share, we’d love to post: Submission guidelines here.

A lush and colorful scene from reader Brian Burk:

Brian Burk

This photo was taken leaning out the open side window of a Cessna 172. The date is July 15, 2013, and I was participating in a “day in the life of Oregon” photography project called Project Dayshoot+30. Thirty years to the day before this shot was taken, a group of photographers had captured images from around Oregon on July 15, 1983, and a reprise of the project was organized in 2013 to commemorate the original venture.

This is a photo of a tree and plant nursery near the town of Monmouth, in the Willamette Valley south of Portland. The time is approximately 8:15 PM, and the midsummer sun is finally starting to set, nicely capturing the spray of irrigation spigots on the colorful plants.

This shot is special to me for many reasons. It reminds me of the natural beauty of my home state of Oregon and of the importance of the Willamette Valley to the history of the U.S. It is also special because of the wonderful day my father and I had shooting photos of Oregon from the air. Dad was in the back seat of the airplane, and my friend Jill Smith was next to me in the co-pilot seat. We finished our journey after dark at Troutdale Airport, my home field, just outside of Portland, where we had begun before dawn that morning. We were exhausted but joyful.

Margaux Fisher

Have a good aerial photo to share? Please send our way. The latest from a reader:

Hi! I’m submitting an aerial photograph of the Twin Span Bridge, which stretches across Lake Pontchartrain, connecting New Orleans and the neighboring town of Slidell. I took this on my first (and only, so far) flying lesson a few months ago. We flew out of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, which was built in the 1930s on top of a manmade peninsula overlooking the lake.

The bridge gets a mention in the piece Susannah Breslin wrote for us about her PTSD following Hurricane Katrina:

I drove across the eastbound span of the Twin Span Bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, and parts of the westbound span of the bridge were simply gone. I drove an hour through a destroyed forest, and when I looked up in the sky, I tried to imagine a thing so big that it could destroy so much.

But don’t get your hopes up, voyeurs:

Evan Day and Jarod Martin

Our reader Evan asked, “Any chance of a repeat, since this series still seems to be going strong?” Yes indeed—please send us your aerial pics even if you’ve submitted one already. Evan’s previous America by Air is here. His current caption:

This photo was taken from a Piper PA-28-161 Warrior just off the coast of San Diego, showing Torrey Pines golf course to the right and Torrey Pines State Park further up the coast. The beach below the golf course, Black’s Beach, is informally a nude beach, although the resolution on this shot is nowhere near high enough to require any reader warnings.

Pivoting off Caroline’s note from yesterday, reader Tim sends the above video:

If y’all are getting into “videos from your airplane window,” this timelapse cockpit-view of an LAX landing at twilight made the rounds a few years ago, but is as spectacular as ever.

The soundtrack does it no favors, though. So I recommend syncing the video with The Fall’s shadowy, glamorous “L.A.”:

It fits perfectly.

He’s right, and you can mute the top video and un-mute the bottom one to sync them up. If you have an aerial timelapse of your own, please send it our way: Here’s a great example on Instagram I spotted this week from a friend of mine, Dayo Olopade, flying into San Francisco’s SFO.

Now that our aerial feature has grown to include videos, I figured I’d throw a new medium in the mix: I snagged this (cinemagraph? Boomerang?) short video back in 2015:

That bright part on the righthand side? That’s Downtown Los Angeles. Here’s another grab from the same flight, as the plane neared landing at LAX:

Edward L. Ewert

A pristine view of the city’s waterfront comes from reader Edward:

I started taking airplane photos in earnest about five years ago when it dawned on me that people, including myself, were numb to the wonders of flying. It has become a rather unpleasant ordeal in the last 15 years or so, but the wonders that speed by still amaze.

I shoot most of my window seat photos with an infrared modified camera, which helps cut through the inevitable haze at 30K+ feet. It gives a unique look, and I’ve included one sample to give you an idea (on approach to LAX). The other is a more conventional color photo over Miami, Florida.

But how colorful it is! Here’s a less scenic but still really cool shot of Miami from another mid-flight reader. Send your own, as always, to hello@.

Alan Nelson

Stu Smith captured one halo rainbow for us a few months ago, but now Alan ups the ante:

Here’s a photo for your consideration: a nice double rainbow during our departure out of Philadelphia the other day, with the Delaware River below. Always remember to look out the window …

… or at least rewatch this classic YouTube: