Sunday, August 12, 2012

Plane Spotting

A walk yesterday along the George Washington Parkway path took me to Gravelly Point, just shy of National Airport. It's where you go to see jets take off and land. I've heard of this place for years but never visited. September 11, 2011, made the sight of low-flying airplanes considerably less palatable for most of us. But once I  put those associations out of mind, it was hard not to be impressed with the power and the presence of the giant birds.

You hear them before you see them — the roar of their engines as they zoom in from the west. But more impressive even than the sound  is the surreal sight of them overhead, creatures of air approaching land. If you spot them when they're still miles away, you see them dwarfing the Washington Monument, which has been lessened by distance to an insignificant obelisk.

But quicker than seems possible, they are above you, and (if you are an inexperienced amateur photographer with a slow-shooting camera) you're trying hard to take the picture at just the right moment — when the plane is immediately overhead, blotting out the sky; when you, this puny earthbound human, are spellbound, filled with joy at the improbable sight.

Sometimes you catch it. And sometimes you don't.

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