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Author Topic: Contrails - friend or foe?  (Read 4810 times)

dreed

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Contrails - friend or foe?
« on: May 24, 2012, 04:09:12 AM »

Is various parts of the world (especially the USA), contrails in the sky are close to impossible to avoid. Sometimes this is seasonal, sometimes not, but it most definitely depends on the weather.

At first a contrail is a white line in the sky but given a bit of a blowing by the high altitude winds, contrails can expand. Given enough time, one line becomes many lines and a blue sky becomes "clouded".

So this makes me wonder... are contrails a friend in that they develop into something that can turn into something useful for photographers or are they our foe, in that those dastardly white lines are an eye sore?

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Tony Jay

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2012, 05:22:08 AM »

Thankfully in my part of the world - Australia - contrails are not a particularly big issue although when living in the UK I remember the sky being covered in them - when it wasn't cloudy of course!

Regards

Tony Jay
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graeme

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2012, 07:38:59 AM »

Thankfully in my part of the world - Australia - contrails are not a particularly big issue although when living in the UK I remember the sky being covered in them - when it wasn't cloudy of course!

Regards

Tony Jay

Was it like this? ( Yorkshire / Lancashire border, late afternoon )

Graeme
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jgbowerman

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2012, 09:46:01 AM »

For nature photographers, contrails distract IMO. They are not part of nature. Foe!
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stpf8

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2012, 11:28:04 AM »

I wish I could count the number of times when, just as the sun was sinking below the western horizon and the sky was lighting up with deep blues and reds, a single contrail opened up across my seamless, colorful sky.  I think they have a jet whose sole purpose is to follow the sun westward and open up the contrail-producing equipment whenever onboard enhanced radar detects a photographer on the ground.
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Justan

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2012, 11:42:20 AM »

I dunno if anyone remembers, but right after 9-11 air traffic was stopped completely, for a little while in the US. The result of that in this area was the clearest blue skies for the first time in decades. It was amazing, and showed just how much the sky has been hosed by all the air traffic.

Contrails add a phenomenal amount of haze to the sky and have robbed us of what a blue sky really looks like….

dreed

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2012, 11:46:42 AM »

Contrails add a phenomenal amount of haze to the sky and have robbed us of what a blue sky really looks like….

But how often do you see a photographer saying "Gee, I wish the sky was all blue"?

As a quick "for example", if the clouds in Michael's Eclipse 2012 were the result of contrails from a long since gone jet, would the photographs look the same?

So I am given to wondering, just how often do contrails "fill in" the blue sky with material that photographers use vs material that ruins it?
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cybis

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2012, 12:37:02 PM »

Contrails are beautiful and magical up close, but more often than not, they are a problem for photographers. Airliners don't always form trails, it depends on humidity. So there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy contrail-free sky anywhere in the world, not just in the days after 9/11.

Also Contrail can be forecasted:
http://www-angler.larc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/site/showdoc?docid=33&cmd=forecast

Caught this one in the act:




cybis

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2012, 12:54:59 PM »

It seems the Nasa tool for contrail forecasting is currently not working; the last forecast was on May 1st. Not sure what's going on.

Tony Jay

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2012, 06:00:38 PM »

Was it like this? ( Yorkshire / Lancashire border, late afternoon )

Graeme

Yes I have seen similar in the UK except that it was in the south around London.

Regards

Tony Jay
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opgr

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2012, 04:58:08 AM »

+1 for the foe-camp.

However…

I happen to be exactly as old as the Boeing 747, and in my not so humble opinion, the 747 represents men's single greatest achievement of all time. It even trumps a moonlanding by far. It's one thing to blast 3 people with several million pounds thrust into space, while closely being monitored by several hundreds of people. It's entirely another to transport 300 people safely across continents for over 4 decades, while theoretically being controlled by a single pilot.

It's majestic beauty has a certain appeal emphasized by the sheer wonder of such a large mass of men-made steel and aluminium slowly rising off the tarmac into the air.

And I have personally experienced the wonder throughout its lifetime. When there still was a first-class, which served champagne before take-off. Being a kid, I had to fly unaccompanied over the atlantic, which, at the time, meant I was allowed to sit in first-class so the stewardesses could keep an eye on me. They let me drink champagne…!?

Not to mention that stewardesses in those days weren't exactly an eye-sore. Yes, I'm very likely biased because of it.

So, I don't like the excessive sky-pollution it can cause in western europe, but I immediately have to admit that i absolutely loved what it represents. And that is love in past tense, because with all due respect to aero-space engineers these days, a plastic airbus which just cramps more people in less space with even less comfort, isn't exactly what dreams are made of…

I have passed on photographic opportunity several times because of this pollution, but sometimes, very rarely, it contributes to the theme.


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DeanChriss

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2012, 01:03:49 PM »

Foe - and Monument Valley is probably the crossroads of the USA for aircraft. The number of contrails there can be astounding.
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Peter McLennan

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2012, 03:49:49 PM »

Foe - and Monument Valley is probably the crossroads of the USA for aircraft.

Agreed.  And Zion Canyon.  Jet traffic there is nearly continuously audible, if not visible.
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luxborealis

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2012, 09:07:53 PM »

Definitely a foe!! Straight lines through the sky just don't cut it from my perspective as a natural landscape photographer. While I can understand they can have an inherent beauty, to me, contrails are worse than a hiking path or a split rail fence line, and are on par with expressways and electrical lines & pylons. I would even take a railway ahead of a contrail any day.

I've had a discussion like this with a number of natural landscape photographers and there seems to be a general consensus (at least amongst those I've spoken with) about how much we are willing to tolerate certain human elements in what might otherwise be natural landscapes. At one end of the "tolerance" spectrum are rough hiking paths followed by dirt tracks, split rail fences, stone walls, one-lane roads and railways. The "intolerables" always seem to be expressways and electrical lines.

Of course, all of this leads to some contemplative navel gazing and begs the question - why? Why, as "nature" photographers, are we more willing to accept what was perhaps considered "modern" hundreds of years ago (hiking paths, dirt roads, split rail fences, even railways), yet we are not willing to accept what is modern today? Why wood and not cement? Something to think about when you have nothing else to think about ;)
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sdwilsonsct

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2012, 09:24:32 PM »

Perhaps in the year 2112 contrails and powergrids will be photographed the way old barns and grain elevators are today.
Scott
« Last Edit: May 25, 2012, 09:34:11 PM by sdwilsonsct »
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Gordon Buck

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2012, 09:43:37 PM »

Engine?  We don't need no stinking engine!

kikashi

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2012, 04:24:16 AM »

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the wonderful way in which chem (sorry, con) trails enrich our lives by inducing people to write truly hilarious twaddle. There's a huge amount of it available: start here and waste an hour or two, giggling all the while.

Jeremy
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Justan

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2012, 08:45:10 AM »

But how often do you see a photographer saying "Gee, I wish the sky was all blue"?

As a quick "for example", if the clouds in Michael's Eclipse 2012 were the result of contrails from a long since gone jet, would the photographs look the same?

So I am given to wondering, just how often do contrails "fill in" the blue sky with material that photographers use vs material that ruins it?

They do fill in the sky and that’s the problem. But as a tool of aesthetic goals, a contrail may add or detract, depending on the circumstances, vision, and of course Photoshop related skills of the producer.

But it’s hard for me to look at them without thinking about the toxic crap they dump into the air. While contrails admittedly occur only during certain conditions, those conditions are commonplace for commercial aircraft.

Unfortunately, we would have to radically change not only how air traffic is done but also how any internal combustion engine works, to significantly alter the overall volume of chemicals that are dumped into the atmosphere, from the ground and at any distance above that. That is not likely to happen any time soon.

At least in my life federal and state legislation has served to remove lead from fuels and newer diesel fuels now have ultra-low sulfur content. Those are both huge positive steps.

For those curious about the issues, following is a summary.

Image of 1 day of contrails over part of SE the US.



Some light reading on the topic.

1) Nova: The contrail Effect http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/contrail-effect.html

2) Nova: Dimming the Sun: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/3310_sun.html

3) Chemicals emitted by jet fuel ftp://ftp.rta.nato.int/PubFullText/RTO/EN/RTO-EN-AVT-150/EN-AVT-150-15.pdf

« Last Edit: May 26, 2012, 08:47:02 AM by Justan »
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luxborealis

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Re: Contrails - friend or foe?
« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2012, 08:58:37 AM »

Great juxtaposition of pelicans and jet!
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