This is a shot of the cockpit of an Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane, parked at the side of the road in Umm Al Quain (one of the Emirates in the UAE), taken not long after Jason and I had driven up to Ras Al Khaimah to shoot an abandoned village on the coast.

The abandoned village was a bit of a washout – it's probably the least photogenic location in the UAE, if not the entire world – but the plane turned out to be a lot more interesting.

If you've already followed my previous link to Jason's shot of the exterior you may have noticed the ladder at the side of the plane. When we got there though it had gone but a couple had parked their 4x4 at the side of the plane and had climbed in from its roof. They kindly offered to let us scramble up too, and as there was a pile of tyres and concrete blocks at the other side of the plane we climbed in, confident we'd be able to get out again after they left.

We spent an hour or so photographing various sections of the interior then decided it was about time to leave. At this point I should probably mention that when we first arrived we bumped into an armed security guard/policeman who didn't speak enough English to make himself entirely understood, but did manage to convey that we weren't especially welcome. He also made this clear to quite a few other people who arrived while we were inside the plane: we heard at least two other cars pull up, and then drive away again after he ran out of his office and blew his whistle at them.

Anyway, to get back to the story ...

After we finished shooting I expected we'd be able to climb down the pile of concrete blocks and tyres at the side of the plane. From the perspective of the aircraft door though, which was about nine feet above the ground, it suddenly seemed like a rather risky method of descent. Jumping nine feet down the other side didn't seem like a great idea either so we sat and pondered our fate for a while. I then remembered an old piece of rope I'd seen hanging in the rear of the plane so tied that to the door and, conscious of the fact that the rope was probably not at its best, swung myself down. Jason decided that he'd prefer to climb down onto his car so I walked across the car park to pick it up and drive it over.

At this point the armed guard made a reappearance, spotted Jason sitting in the doorway of the plane, and told me not to "no go". He then got on the phone and started walking over towards Jason, so I got in the car and drove over behind him. I almost got to the plane but he told me to stop and get out of the car. After ten minutes of arguing he let me drive the car up to the plane and Jason climbed down.

The next thirty minutes or so revolved around him alternating between talking on the phone and telling us that we shouldn't be there, while we surreptitiously removed the memory cards from our cameras on the basis that reinforcements were likely to arrive at some point soon. Anyway, to cut a long story short, whoever he was talking to obviously wasn't too interested in coming out to join him because he suddenly decided we were free to leave. I did think about asking him if I could photograph the outside of the plane before we left, but decided that it probably wouldn't be a good idea ;-)

If you're interested you can read Jason's version of the day's events here:

On a more technical note: this image was constructed from a bracketed sequence of ten shots (with a 1 EV spacing) using Photomatix Pro. If you take a look at the 'original' you can see the tone mapped image and small thumbnails of each exposure at the bottom. The tone mapped image was then adjusted in Photoshop using a ridiculously large amount of adjustment layers to fine tune specific sections of the image. I should also add that I intended to produce something a bit more photorealistic, but the more I worked on it the more surreal and HDR-like it became.

shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
RAW converter
image editor
plugins (etc)
3.52pm on 15/3/11
Canon 5D Mark II
EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
10 exposures (1/125 to 4s)
Photomatix Pro
Photoshop CS5
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Ilyushin Il-76 / 4 April, 2011 [click for previous image: park regis pool #2]
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