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2000 Glider1

Views from Above

by Sarah Kelman ARPS

I am very fortunate that I am able to combine my love of photography with a love of flying.

800X533 Bicester

This was taken from the glider waiting for the start line to open at the national championships.  The airfield at Bicester is below me and I am sharing a thermal with one of my competitors as we circle up, in the same way that buzzards and eagles do, so we can gain altitude and glide further on.

The bright cumulus clouds act as markers to show where we should find our next climb so, for a glider pilot, this is an image of anticipation at the start of an epic flying day.

604X800 Ridge



Gliders can use the wind being forced up over a ridge line to sustain flight.  Here I was sharing such a ridge with several other gliders from the same airfield and we were enjoying skirting around the low clouds.

Vintage gliders are often painted in bright colours and I was lucky that this one was the photographer’s favourite shade – red!


800X532 Moody
800X600 Instructing

A gliding shot from another competition.  This time, I had just finished my race and photographed another competitor returning home from a glowering sky.  

As a glider pilot, this sky is not only aesthetically pleasing but also powerful as the conditions are tricky for glider racing and so it emphasises the skill of the pilot in completing the task and not having to make an unplanned landing in a field before finishing.



The atmosphere changes immensely through the seasons and the winter offers some of the most sublime still airs.  When the nights are clear and calm, an inversion forms which traps the pollution and moisture in a low layer whilst the air above is perfectly clear.  

I used a small compact camera through a vent in the canopy to take this dramatic contre-jour shot.



800X532 Glider1

This was taken on a rare organised photo shoot.  The glider is one of the largest and best performing sailplanes in the world and was launched first before I followed in an open cockpit vintage 2-seater to photograph them.  

Despite the discrepancy in performance, the time delay between launches meant that the subject was already well below me on our first attempt, but I love the way the glider is framed among the rides on the wood below.


Part of my day job is to avoid exactly the sort of weather that I seek out in a glider.

800X534 CB

Whereas I am keen to fly towards strong convective clouds to climb in their strong updraughts whilst gliding, I am equally keen to avoid them in an airliner as the associated turbulence and weather are very uncomfortable for my passengers.  

This is the view of a large cumulonimbus or thunderstorm cloud which we were giving a wide berth.  It is unusual to see one so isolated and admire the beauty of this powerful weather system.

800X533 Moonrise Red


My favourite time to fly an airliner is early evening on a full moon.  Once every few years, the upper levels have just enough cloud to cast surreal hues across the horizon and, just occasionally, the moon will oblige and perfectly punctuate the scene.




Air Traffic Control do a fabulous job at keeping many miles of separation between aircraft, but we usually fly similar paths so we only see our colleagues whizzing past in the opposite direction at high speed.  

Here, not only did the colours of the sunset paint the sky, but the lines of cloud streaks over northern France worked perfectly with the opposing trail of an aircraft below.  It takes quite specific air humidity for an aircraft to produce such a trail so again this was a special and fleeting moment.

800X534 Tides


My husband is a yachtsman and so I often admire the tidal flows around our sailing waters.

Here you can see the patterns in the Thames Estuary as the tide turns and the streaks from the mudbanks mixing with the bluer water in the deep channels.  The ship is making its way upstream towards Tilbury.

800X533 AMS


At some of our busiest airports, flights are often scheduled to arrive and depart at a similar time, but it is still unusual to see quite so many of the fleet all together on a normal day.  

The heavy sky really adds to the atmosphere with the bright colours of the livery punctuating the gloomy weather.



800X533 Snow
As I said before, Air Traffic normally keep aircraft well separated so you would rarely see another aircraft around you.  The exception is if we have to enter a holding pattern as we await our turn to land.  

Snow is infamous for causing this and so here I am holding for arrival into Manchester.  Even when holding, it is rare for aircraft to be flying in sync with each other like this so and I love the way the colourful Airbus is framed in the small patch of sunshine over the snowy moors.


Again, winter inversions also trap fog layers in central Europe.  I am so lucky that I always get to see the sunshine when I’m at work above the clouds, no matter how grey and dull the weather is on the ground. Here, the sun is setting as I fly towards the Balkans but the mountains on the border of Austria and Slovenia pierce the mists, appearing like islands in a tropical ocean.


800X533 Jumbo (Crop) sharing photographs, I can give others a glimpse of my amazing view of our world.



800X534 Forth


We often fly into Edinburgh and equally often the weather is cloudy.  This was taken on departure from the westerly runway early in the day where there was enough cloud to add interest but also still some low-lying mist in the glens.  

Avid viewers will be able to date this image as there were only two bridges across the Forth at this time.

800X533 Medway


Another early morning mist shot, this time just south of the Thames at the Medway.  The low sun gave the fog a wonderful golden hue and there was just enough breeze to form these flowing eddies around the power stations just penetrating through to the clearer skies above.

800X533 Sunset


As photographers, we know how fleeting bold sunsets are, and it becomes even rarer to have a flight when such a sky coincides with our final approach into land.

The runway is already lit for night-time operations and the two red and two white lights to the left of the threshold indicate that the aircraft is on the correct approach path for landing.

I am often asked what is my favourite airport to fly into, and my answer is always “my home base at the end of the day”.