Photographer Travels Around The World For 2 Years

Every child remembers his first trip to the airport. Where you were standing as a small child with your nose pressed on the massive window glass waiting to see another plane disappear in the sky. The pleasure to see aircraft taking off is always on photographer Mike Kelley’s mind. He has photographed aircrafts for the past two years at more than twelve different airfields all over the world.


The picture shots of Kelley are not just photos of aircrafts. The pictures, which he has created, have an unbelievable result; a sky filled with aircrafts, frozen at a different time of landing and take offs, merged into a single picture!

How it started

One day when he came home after an hour shooting, he looked back to his photographs and he devised himself: “This could be a really good idea.” When he got home, he worked for 16 hours to put all the pictures he made that day of aircrafts in one image. He, then, had no idea that this picture would change his life.


The photographer, who had just made pictures of houses, hotels and resorts in Los Angeles for the first 5 years of his career, had just meant for the picture to be a proof-of-concept to see if the idea had any merit to it, he told Daily Mail Online. It started as an experiment; but all of a sudden, it went viral and Kelley’s name is in museums and books all over the world.

Master plan

After months passed by, photographer Kelley came up with a great idea. He decided to go travel the world to 15 airports to visit and make a whole series of “Airportraits”.

This was for him the best way to get out of his routine with buildings and escape from everything. “Honestly, I needed a break. I needed something that would give me a break from architecture but also take me out of my comfort zone and help my career”, he told Daily Mail Online.


He listed 15 airports that he wanted to visit and booked without thinking his first ticket. He flew to Sao Paulo in Brazil, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Tokyo, Sydney, Auckland and New Zealand. Some airports were chosen because he knew that they are big airports, while other were chosen for personal reasons. For example, Kelley studied in Auckland and wanted to go back one day; or he had never been in Australia. His girlfriend has ensured that he went to Heathrow International Airport!


Not every trip he made went equally well. So was the weather not always his best friend, whereby in Heathrow, he spent 17 days long in the rain waiting to get a good shot. Because that attempt did not succeed, in September 2016, he flew back to Heathrow where this time airplanes were photographed in beautiful sunlight.

There are many factors that play along to the perfect shot. For example, he was driving in Tokyo in the middle of the Tokyo Bay while the outside weather was against freezing temperatures at 06:30 in the morning. But this amazing photographer has got his pictures!


The weather changed in many countries throughout the day. This would chance the exposure and shadow on the airplanes that causes photos were not always very nice. The wind can ruin a whole day. If it changed direction during the day it would also change the aircraft runway.

Most challenging project of a photographer

There was hours of colouring, composting, editing and retouching in a picture to make the photo look interesting and realistic. “Every plane in every picture was actually right in front of me at that point in time, and they are all exactly where they were relative to other planes in the frame”, he said. He had to adjust the size and location of the aircraft because otherwise they were all stacked on top of each other.

After two years visiting airports, tracking wind directions and countless minutes, hours and days of thinking of aircrafts, Photographer Kelley can certainly say that this is the most challenging project that he has ever done.

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