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Thread: LAX Spotting tips!

  1. #1
    Senior Member Jared Blech's Avatar
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    LAX Spotting tips!

    Hey guys, as I posted before, my parents have agreed to take me across the country for some good old spotting at LAX. I've searched the forums and found some good but alittle dated info on this. As you know, a lot can change from 2007 to 2013. Here are some questions.

    -I want to get a lot of the stuff LAX is famous for that you can't see here at JFK. So how hard is it to switch from spots for the 25's and 24's?
    That brings me to my main question.

    -since a lot of you just came back from LAX, which airlines go to which runways?
    -Which spot would do me the most good If i just stayed there all day?

    I don't really want to be running around back and forth, from spot to spot. (Air new Zealand, Qantas 380, is there a way I can get a schedule of what time airlines come in. Kind of like acars i guess.)

    -where is the light this time of year? And are there alternate spots because of the time of year? (Obviously don't want a backlit shot)

    -Lastly, whens the best time to go to each spot, Imperial hill, in n out... Like i said, i want to get a lot of the stuff we don't see here.

    All help is greatly appreciated!
    Last edited by Jared Blech; 10-29-2013 at 11:20 AM.
    Probably the youngest spotter ever to walk up the face of the mounds.
    Jared B. -Boces Aviation Ops Student, Jericho NY

  2. #2
    Administrator Landing Lights's Avatar
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    I am by no means an expert on LAX, but here's what I learned while I was out there:
    ~It is easy to get between locations compared to JFK. Generally no more than 5-10 minutes travel time depending on the spot.

    ~While the 24s (known as the North Complex) and the 25s (known as the South Complex) tend to get their own assortments of carriers (very generally speaking most LCCs on the north, and most Legacies on the south), the international heavies can arrive and depart from either. Generally, you won't have enough time to move once you find out where they're going.

    ~you can't go wrong with either Imperial Hill or the In-N-Out area for a whole day, at least this time of year. When we were there, shots at In-N-Out were backlit, but you could walk down Sepulveda to between the sets of landing lights for good light. Both spots have their pros and cons.

    ~this time of year, the sun was behind us at Imperial Hill for most of the day, before setting off the departure end of 24/25. You want to do silhouettes at least one evening into that setting sun from near In-N-Out. They're absolutely stunning, especially when you can get an arrival and 3 departures in your frame.

    ~I know of no Acars tool for LAX. Planefinder with its airport filters is your friend here to see what's coming.

    ~2 of the 3 days I was at LAX, I arrived at imperial Hill to find a heavy marine layer (aka fog) over the airport. So I would head over to In-N-Out for a while. When I got tired of Southwest and generally being out in the open and by myself, I would head over to the Hill.

    ~I found Imperial Hill to be good from sunrise to a little before sunset. In-N-Out is good from sunrise until after sunset with a little bit of walking.

    ~unlike JFK where your 100-400 will suit you pretty much everywhere, LAX is better suited for a wider variety of lenses. This is especially true near In-N-Out where you can walk perpendicular to the landing lights allowing everything from close up shots from underneath to side shots with your long telephoto.

    Hope this helps get you started!
    Ben Granucci, Wappingers Falls, NY
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Jared Blech's Avatar
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    Thanks Ben! Great tips!
    Probably the youngest spotter ever to walk up the face of the mounds.
    Jared B. -Boces Aviation Ops Student, Jericho NY

  4. #4
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    Jared,

    I usually see the LAX runways from the other end of the camera lens--I'm a pilot and honestly most of the spotting I've done at LAX is from either a hotel room window or the corner outside the hotel that's on the final approach path to 24R. That being said, I'll try to answer some of your questions here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jared Blech View Post

    -since a lot of you just came back from LAX, which airlines go to which runways?
    The runways aren't assigned based on airline or even where they park on the airport. They're assigned based on the traffic flow. Many times I've been on an arrival to runway 25L and switched to 24R. I've also seen it happen the other way. That being said, I THINK (meaning verify this with another source) the A-380's use the 25's (Arrive on 25L/depart 25R). The reason I say that is I know several years ago they repaved the 25 complex and it was my understanding that they moved 25L just a bit south to accommodate the A380. As I said, check with other sources. Some of the more cynical flight attendants would tell you that I'm "a male, a pilot, and my lips are moving...thus I must be lying." LOL

    One thing that you CAN bet on is after eleven o'clock or midnight (can't remember which...I think it's midnight though) they land on 6L and depart on 25R exclusively. This keeps the noise out over the water. Wind permitting of course (under 10 knots--99% of the time that is not an issue). I don't know what the spotting situation is off the ends of the runway, but you might be able to get some pretty cool long exposure shots of airplanes on final approach for landing 6L if you have a tripod. Or after takeoff climbing out from 25R.



    Quote Originally Posted by Jared Blech View Post
    I don't really want to be running around back and forth, from spot to spot. (Air new Zealand, Qantas 380, is there a way I can get a schedule of what time airlines come in. Kind of like acars i guess.)
    Flightaware.com is a great resource that you can use to see what flights are inbound to LAX. Typically flights arriving from the north will land on 24R and from the south on 25L, but as I said above, that can change based on the flow of traffic (if someone slows down or they get backed up on one side, they'll slide some flights to the other side). The nice thing about flight aware is that you can check it out before you go out to California so you can get a feel for what's going on out there. If you have flight numbers (like for the A-380's), you can see where they are usually landing. In the little spotting I've done there, I've used the flight aware app on my phone to see what airplanes are on final approach to which runways.

    Here is a link to the airnav.com page for LAX. You could probably call one of the information numbers to get info on the heavy aircraft operations. Also, the ASOS number is the number for the automated weather observation.

    http://www.airnav.com/airport/KLAX

    Quote Originally Posted by Jared Blech View Post
    -where is the light this time of year? And are there alternate spots because of the time of year? (Obviously don't want a backlit shot)
    Check out The Photographer's Ephemeris. Fantastic app that shows where the sun and moon are, as well as sunset and sunrise times, etc.

    http://photoephemeris.com

    Good luck, have fun, be safe.

  5. #5
    Senior Member lijk604's Avatar
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    Jared, check your PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mateo's Avatar
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    If you're there on the weekend, the Observation Deck in the theme building is open, as well.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Zee71's Avatar
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    Jared .... firstly PlaneFinder or FlightRadar24 apps will be your friend. If you know some of the registrations of the specials it should help know if a special will be arriving using the apps. Unfortunately they are useless for Alaska and Southwest specials. BTW, how many days will you be spending shooting at LAX? If it's a few days, I recommend staying put at certain locations for morning departures or arrivals, and then relocating throughout the day, but don't go chasing planes because you'll be bound to missing something else, unless you are specifically after something special like the all black New Zealand. If you do miss an arrival, you can always try for a departure shot from the road by the beach for 24L/24R departures, otherwise Imperial Hill for 25L/25R departures.

    One thing for sure .... If you are shooting from Imperial Hill and you see arrival traffic on their downwind (typically for the 24s), there is a high probability that you won't get the shot. You'll think you may have enough time to get there, but most of the time you won't, especially being unfamiliar with the roads and spotting locations.

    I've shot from the Observation area at the Theme Building, but don't care for it too much. You are shooting through glass (scratched or dirty). Some folks stand on benches and try to shoot above the glass, but I find that to be challenging. The Observation area does provide a nice view of 24L/R traffic, but for watching more than shooting.
    Mark
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  8. #8
    Senior Member megatop412's Avatar
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    Jared...if you walk down from In and Out to the Westchester Parkway Overlook you will see this:


    Where you will be able to get shots like this

  9. #9
    Senior Member Zee71's Avatar
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    Westchester Parkway is a nice spot, but during late spring and summer. During the fall and winter months you'll have backlit shots. Although if it's a cloudy and overcast day, then who cares....hit Westchester!
    Mark
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Jared Blech's Avatar
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    Thanks A million Guys! Really looking forward to this trip!
    Probably the youngest spotter ever to walk up the face of the mounds.
    Jared B. -Boces Aviation Ops Student, Jericho NY

  11. #11
    Senior Member gonzalu's Avatar
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    Jared,

    Everyone covered it well. I will fill in just a few gaps that you may find useful...

    --Ben is mostly correct about switching locations for a departure from the other side. However, there is a good possibility you CAN make it if you're diligent and are prepared. Trick is to listen to Clearance Delivery. 121.4000 and 120.3500 MHz respectively on AM (I know you know, but someone else may be reading) They will usually assign the departing runway. This will give you tons of time.

    If you miss that, use Ground control. 121.6500 (North side) 121.7500 MHz AM (South side). Just before the plane hits the first official taxiway, it must call Ground Control for permission to taxi. Control will almost always state the predetermined departure RWY or assign a new one if changed.

    Just before this happens, the plane will pull back from the gate and you will get a big hint if you can see it from Imperial Hill which RWY will be used. If the butt faces you, it's going off the 24L RWY. You have plenty of time to get to the beach as it is a straight shot down to the water.

    -Arrivals between 25R/L or 24R/L can also be fairly doable if you are prepared. We did it a few times while there. If you listen to SoCal Approach Control without distraction, when the planes first call they will be told to expect vectors to one of the RWYs. While pilots will make requests for a change later down the path, it is rare and if they do, well it doesn't matter then. But, you CAN get between Proud Bird or Burger King spots fairly quickly without much violation of the law in time to get your shot.

    Keep in mind if you're watching PlaneFinder, Asian/Australian/NZ flights will usually first contact SoCal Appr when they hit Malibu area from the north or when they cross the beach down around Long Beach from the south.

    From the East, it is a bit tougher as they will be very close when they get handed over to SoCal approach. Typically planes are over the LA river which gives little time to relocate.

    -Time...

    Get up early. Have breakfast BEFORE sunrise. A LOT happens at the break of sun over the horizon. BE ready for it. I missed a bunch of stuff because I was a bit lazy in the morning.

    -Cargo/Weird/BizJets

    Cargo is hidden from view mostly from Imperial Hill. A lot of them will leave on 25L which is really close the imperial and can surprise you. Be aware of this.
    BizJets will usually be unheard/unseen until they are in front of you. Camera Ready ALWAYS.
    Weird? Well, look for the Raytheon VooDoo B727 ... CallSign is VOODOO1 and it shows on trackers as such. Flightaware shows as filed. Hardly ever on time.

    If you do NOTHING right or want to be lazy, get up, go to imperial hill, bring water and enjoy the day. Bathroom break can be had at the nearby Embassy Suites east of Imperial Hill. Good Cheap Fast Food a few blocks west of the hill.

    Good Luck and enjoy.
    Last edited by gonzalu; 10-30-2013 at 10:08 PM.
    Manny Gonzalez
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Delta777LR's Avatar
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    Where I got good light as well around 24L/R I was on top of the overpass over Sepulveda Blvd, it's suitable too or you can stand on the side where the huge LAX sign is at but close to the tunnel and you can get something like this



    As a few stated In N Out is perfect to shoot at but better light during Spring until at least late summer. And yes Imperial Hill is the best. But if u have a scanner, i would maybe set it for approach because if something good comes like Air Tahiti Nui, Air New Zealand etc u wanna make sure u have some time. Also if u r at the Imperial hill you can also see planes on downwind going from left to right, most of the times those will go to the 24s. otherwise you should be able to get many decent times. If you are interested on getting or chasing some Southwest special schemes, mostly they go on 24L/R although some WNs will land on 25L. Qantas with the A380/747 they'll use 25L/R but sometimes will go on 24s.
    Sergio has been a huge Delta Air Lines fan since 1992!!

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  13. #13
    Administrator Landing Lights's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mateo View Post
    If you're there on the weekend, the Observation Deck in the theme building is open, as well.
    The Theme Building was great for the hour or so that I spent there, though it should be noted that there is a high Plexiglas surround that will get into your shots. Standing on the benches is common and will get you a shot over the plastic until just before touchdown. If you want a touchdown or taxi shot however you will need to get more creative.
    Ben Granucci, Wappingers Falls, NY
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    Administrator Landing Lights's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zee71 View Post
    Westchester Parkway is a nice spot, but during late spring and summer. During the fall and winter months you'll have backlit shots. Although if it's a cloudy and overcast day, then who cares....hit Westchester!
    The only tricky part about Westchester is where to park, but I can PM you a map if you're interested. We had luck there during the meetup in the very late afternoon as the sun moved around the end of 24/25.
    Ben Granucci, Wappingers Falls, NY
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    Senior Member tlabranche's Avatar
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    Hi Jared,

    If you are driving all the way to LAX to do some spotting, might I suggest you take a spotting tour in a helicopter. Star Helicopter Tours offers daily spotting trips out of Hawthorne airport, which is a mere 10 minutes of driving from Imperial Hill. When I went up on the tour two weeks ago, I paid about $300 for a 90 minute ride. It is worth every penny and I would tell my folks that it could be your Xmas, birthday and whatever other gift giving occasion you celebrate. Here are a couple shots from my ride. If you do take advantage of this excellent way of spotting, you will want at least a 300mm lens. These two shots were shot with my 100-400 lens on a full frame body. I was shooting at 400mm the entire time.



    Last edited by tlabranche; 10-31-2013 at 10:35 AM.
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