How do you Level a Plane?

This seems to be one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to static aircraft. How do you level the plane when composing? Do you use the wheels, the wings, the ground, the background or the horizon line? There are a number of different ways but what it really comes down to is how you want to tell the story.

The general rule of them is that the horizon line has to be straight when the horizon line is visible. But if you’re on a hill it wouldn’t be level. If you’re on a grass runway then the ground will not be completely level. Therefore there will be a slant in the photo showing that there is a hill. Well I tend to go by the wheels most often when it comes to leveling because that’s where I know the balance comes in between the plane and the earth itself. In this case with the Sopwith Pup, part of the Shuttleworth Collection in England, the land is not level but the wheels are. If you tried to level out the wings this image would look really kind of odd. So it is a matter of your own perspective and with that comes the degree of believability to a viewer. You have to make the decision when taking the photo because trying to fix it in post, while possible, doesn’t always lead to great results.

Images Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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