The Happy Face Mine

When I couldn’t sleep last night, I uploaded another pile of pix shot out the window during a flight last month from Boston to Los Angeles. This segment runs from the Mineral Hill Mine in Arizona to Slide Peak in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

The picture above is of the the mine at , Arizona. Once home to a settlement of 700 people, it’s now a ghost town.

What intrigued me, even from 30 miles away, was the “happy face” look of the mine, produced by the small ponds in the mine’s depths.


  1. Rex Hammock’s avatar

    Your out-the-windows photos make me smile, so it’s nice to know that sometimes the photos smile back. (Thinking of you Doc, stay healthy and keep us all smiling.)

  2. Paul Lindman’s avatar

    I have noticed a couple of your photo posts. I am not much of a photographer, but I fly enough to realize how difficult it must be to get any kind of shot out an airplane window let alone the great shots you take. I was on 2 flights last weekend with dirty, scratched, and moisture clogged windows where the type of photos you take would have been impossible. What’s your secret? Get healthy!

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar


    The first trick is to shoot out the shady side of the plane. All airplane windows are dirty, scratched or distorted to some degree. When the sun hits them, it’s very hard to shoot through them. So, when I fly west in the U.S., I book seats on the right side, as far in front or behind the wing as possible. Going east, I shoot out the left. In both cases, the sun is on the south side most of the way, even in the summer.

    The second trick is to avoid the worst parts of the window. On this flight here, I had two windows to shoot through, and both of them were terrible. But there was a small margin of clarity in one of them, and I took advantage of that.

    The third is to mind depth of field, to make sure the crap on the window is as far out of focus as possible. Generally it will be anyway, but it’s something to keep in mind. If you’re shooting at f22, that crap won’t only be in your picture, but so will the dust on your sensor.

    I have also found that smaller lenses do better, not only for maneuvering around bad spots in the window, but also because they are less affected by the optics of the window itself, especially looking down, when you’re peering through two or three layers of distorted glass and plastic at an angle. A big lens will make the worst of that. This is why I was surprised to find that many of the shots I took with my old Nikon Coolpix 5700 were much better at looking down than my newer Canon 30D with a roughly equivalent zoom lens. I gave that Nikon away and still regret it. The shots in this series, for example, were shot with the old Nikon. Hate to say it, but I like the colors better than what I get with the Canon too.

    The final trick, I almost hate to say, is adjusting the photos with Photoshop, the GIMP, or a similar tool. Even on the clearest days, there’s a lot of haze between plane and ground. Your eye looks past it, but the camera does not. I usually adjust shots a bit, with “auto levels” or “auto color” or just set the levels manually. Not hard once you get the hang of it.

  4. Chip’s avatar


    Smiley Face – OK, but wish I had same pharmacologist as you do (VBG)

    Good points on techniques on shooting

    Also :

    Glass Plane

    Take care of yourself

  5. Paul Lindman’s avatar


    Thanks for the tips. I appreciate it.

    Someone in another comment suggested a balance ball for a chair. Although they take a little getting used to, they can help both the clots and your back.


  6. Ben Winter’s avatar

    I would like to add some wonderful tips on how to take good photographs from inside plane. While it might help a little with reflections it generally does anything but steady the shot and will often usually increase camera shake’ due to the vibrations of the plane. A better strategy, if you’re using a DSLR with a fitted lens, is to attach a lens hood to your lens and get in as close as you can to the window without actually touching it.

    Instead, you may use your free hand to cup around the lens as much as you can to shield it from reflections. I think you also had taken care of these techniques Doc! You are a genius…

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