You may have seen his iconic photography capturing everything from superjet A380s, to hidden moments at bustling airports, Liard Kay (@lairdkay) is a rising photography talent who has a unique eye for our favourite flying machines.
Simple Flying had the unique opportunity to interview the man behind the lens. Read on to explore how he takes his inspiring images and what advice he can offer to budding aviation spotters and photographers.
How did you get into aviation photography?
I’ve loved aeroplanes ever since my first flight. This was back when kids were allowed to visit the cockpit, and I was fascinated by it all. After designing Wine Cellars for 12 years, I decided to follow my passion for photography, and start photographing things I love – including aeroplanes.
I’d head out to Airport Road by the iconic Petro Canada station by Toronto’s Pearson Airport, and photograph the planes landing and taking off. I’d load them onto social media, and share my aviation geek love of aircraft.
After a couple years of doing this, I got an email from Lufthansa, asking if I’d like to collaborate with them, and photograph the delivery flight of the retro livery ‘Yankee Tango’ 747-8i.
Since then I’ve been lucky to work with more amazing airlines including Air Canada, and TAP Air Portugal, and also airports such as CDG, FRA, ORY, and SCL to showcase their brand through my lens.
How do you manage to get some of your perspectives?
My favourite shots are the detail shots of the planes that most people don’t get to see, like the open wheel wells, the flaps and slats extended, and the pattern of rivets on the tail. I believe aeroplanes are giant works of art – where engineering meets sculpture, and that’s how I see them through my lens.
Capturing these images as aeroplanes fly a few hundred feet overhead is always a thrill and a rush, and sometimes requires some back stretches before a shoot!
What is your favourite airline / flight experience?
Hmmm… I’d have to say you know a flight is great when you don’t want it to end, and you just want to keep on flying. This was the case when I flew on Singapore Airlines from SIN-HKG on the A380 — 4 very short hours. The service was spectacular, the seats were super comfortable, and it was my first A380 flight.
Have you ever witnesses a magic shot that was one in a million?
The most magical shots happened during the delivery flight of the Lufthansa ‘Yankee Tango’ 747 special livery. The economy seats had not yet been installed in the plane, so the rear cabin was totally empty, and you could wander about freely (talk about leg room!?!).
As the flight progressed, I got the most incredible shots of an empty cabin with the sunset glowing through the bank of the windows. It’s one of those images that I look at years later, and it still makes me smile.
What is your favourite photo, is there a story behind it?
Ugh – such a hard question!??! There are a few photos from my series ‘Runway Graphics’ that I really love. The shots were taken from a helicopter flying above LAX, and what I wanted to capture was the graphic nature of the taxiway and runway paint markings, and showcase how the planes on the taxiway look more like graphic design elements. I love it when a photo looks clean and crisp, like it was graphically designed.
Is there a dream flight you would love to take?
I would LOVE to take the upcoming EWR-SIN ‘Worlds Longest Flight’ when it is relaunched this fall. 18 hours in a plane sounds like heaven to me!! I’d fill up on plane food (which I love), I’d watch lots of movies, I’d stare out the window, and I’d be super happy.
Any advice for aspiring plane spotters/photographers out there?
Just keep on taking lots and lots of photos, and try to experiment with your settings, angles, and light. Some of my favourite photos have come from testing out new tricks. Of course, there will be some duds, but there will also some really cool and interesting results that will surprise and delight.
Simple Flying would like to say a special thanks to Laird Kay for taking the time to be interviewed and lending his fantastic imagery to this article.