Sometimes All You Need Is a Plan: A Morning Story

Clouds play a crucial role in both aviation and photography. Knowing the location and type of clouds can greatly impact the success of a flight or the outcome of a photography session. It's interesting to see how much are my two biggest passions influenced by the same natural phenomenon.

“Yes, you can have it all” and “All it takes is good planning” are typical motivating statements that seem omnipresent these days. It feels like every celebrity or life coach wannabe is keen to point out how good they are at managing their time and life. As much as I am generally optimistic and strive to be encouraging, I simply don’t agree the initial statements are true. Especially for people with careers and young children, tips like these can often sound superficial and annoying.

When all you have is an hour or two free to dedicate to yourself, you might struggle to fit in all the activities you want to do, no matter how good you are at planning. And when you have multiple interests, you will surely have to set some things aside.

However… contrary to the introduction, here is an example of when I was able to fit many things in just a few hours and all it really took was an idea and a plan.

Last Saturday I wanted to go out and take some photos. The weather forecast for the sunrise promised some nice clouds in the east, so I wanted to find something to photograph against them. I also wanted to take a long-ish ride with my bicycle as I have been preparing for a challenge ride with a friend. I have also just received a new telephoto lens, which I wanted to test so I needed some interesting but relatively distant subjects. After a bit of studying the map and the position of the sun around the city I had one of those “bingo” moments. The Brussels airport satisfied all of these requirements and it would even allow me to spend a morning close to airplanes which I always enjoy. So I quickly came up with the plan how to tick almost all the boxes for the fun me-time of the weekend by taking a bike ride to the airport’s plane spotting platform and doing some test telephoto shots. 

The following day I woke up early. After that, for me, always the worst part, I enjoyed the early morning ride through the empty streets of Brussels and Zaventem. It helped that, as a pilot, I knew how to find out the details about airports’ current operations, so I went directly to the best spot. I arrived there first, still during the night, disturbing only a lone rabbit who, after a short initial startle, quickly escaped to the nearby field. 

By the time the morning rush hour in the air started, I was fully in position and ready. 

With the right weather, the last minutes of the night and the first hour of the day are beautiful. My forecast was correct, and I had a lovely blue and magenta background for the landing planes. It was pretty cold and very humid, with patches of low mist in the nearby fields and villages, but the higher air and the runway were clear. The colors of the early morning light changed quickly and enabled me to try a few different looks. My new lens worked well and I managed to capture a few test shots that I really like. I was happy to conclude that with it I could include planes and distant objects in my photography more often. You can see some of the results here and on my Instagram feed.

At 9 AM, the sun was completely out, and I was totally frozen, so it was time to go back. After an hour of cycling through fully waken Brussels, I was back home feeling great in every sense of the word. So great that I decided to write this article about it.

I already mentioned that time is one of my most significant constraints, and I often struggle because of it. I give a lot of thought and energy to finding a way to balance everything I want and need to do, and I plan to write more about it. But this time, it was almost effortless, and I thougt this had to be acknowledged too. Sometimes, a good idea and a plan is indeed all you need. 

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