Recently, Central Illinois Regional Airport commissioned me to create a comprehensive photography portfolio for general marketing and advertising usage. This was a big job, requiring a full two days on site and coordination with their operations team for access to secure areas.
As a photographer, I’ve shot in quite a few unique settings, like behind the scenes of an HGTV reality show, inside an operating room while wearing scrubs, and hanging out the window of a two-seater airplane while 17 weeks pregnant. But shooting on a runway while a plane landed in front of me may top them all! I had so much fun!
Four airlines service CIRA: Allegiant, American, Delta, and Frontier. We coordinated with flight schedules to ensure I made images of all four. Airlines provide the airport stock imagery, but the local marketing team wanted images that actually looked like they were shot in Central Illinois (like this one, which shows surrounding cornfields and a grain elevator).
Members of the airport operations team escorted me and the marketing director around the runway, radioing into the air traffic control tower every time we moved the car – even a little bit – for permission. We shot during cold weather, so I’d wait in the car until the airplane was approaching, then jump out with my tripod mounted camera and move as quickly and with as much precision as possible, since I really only had 1 or 2 chances to get quality images of each airline.
The light and weather change constantly here this time of year, so I had to make adjustments on the fly (pun intended). I also used different techniques to create both still and kinetic images.
I spent most of my time inside the terminal, working through a long shot list managed around peak foot-traffic times, with the support and permission of many crew members, beginning with these ticket agents.
Images of busy gate areas – with on-time flights to beach and ski areas – are very key pieces of marketing collatoral for a midwest airport in the winter!
The airport is small but well-serviced; I created a series of images showing the security checkpoint, restaurant, and lounge areas to highlight both the ease of using this airport and it’s amenities.
One of the best features of this small airport is that no matter where you are, you can observe runway activity. The building is filled with windows, which really enhances the experience of travelers (but makes shooting properly exposed images somewhat challenging). I created the shot below to highlight the proximate view of the airplane just behind the bar.
The main entrance is more inviting than ever with an art gallery featuring works by the students at Illinois State University’s Wonsook Kim School of Art, and a new “recharge and refresh” lounge with a water feature.
Behind security, there are two additional lounges; one for nursing mothers (below, top), and one VIP Lounge (below, bottom), which is offered to Make-a-Wish families and other special travelers.
I documented arriving passengers in baggage claim and the car rental counters as well.
Finally, I worked outside, capturing the newly-wrapped Airport Shuttle and a series of exteriors.
The elevation (low) and shape (long and flat) of the terminal, combined with the surrounding topography (mostly flat), made exterior images challenging. I spent some time hiking and driving around to find vantage points that were well-framed and included the whole building, but yet didn’t distract the eye with empty parking spaces. I also waited for vehicles and aircraft to pass through the frame for more interest. (Shooting exteriors this time of year isn’t ideal; there isn’t any grass or foliage – but the light is still warm and the sky was still blue. Ideally, this building would be shot on a late spring evening with a very long lens for compression.)
I thoroughly enjoyed thinking through all of the logistics on this shoot, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to create this portfolio for CIRA! Thank you to the whole team that helped make it happen! I look forward to seeing how you use them. – Holly