Mark Langford's Sunset and Clouds photos

Mark Langford's Sunsets and Clouds photos

Updated on a regular basis...

It's not that I'm such a great photographer, it's just that clouds and sunsets are so neat that any decent picture can be awesome. I should just go ahead and confess, I'm a sucker for killer sunsets. Maybe that's because I have a great view of them, and seem to be the only guy in town that knows that yesterday's sunset was really fantastic. Below are some of my sunset and cloud pictures, most of which were only possible because I was flying at the time. Sunsets are all different (unless it's perfectly clear), so I have to make sure I don't miss one. And when it's not carrying me to these killer sunsets, my airplane also serves as my personal time machine. I fly a little homebuilt plane I built from spruce and carbon/fiberglass cloth, but I wouldn't trade it for the nicest car on the planet!

Sept 15th, 2018 - This was the view early Sunday morning after the 2018 KR Gathering, somewhere over Illinois or Kentucky. Mike Sylvester and I were flying back home together to beat high crosswinds expected later in the day back home, and the sunrise was an unexpected bonus!

June 13th, 2017 - It had been a mostly clear and dry hot spring day, but a few lucky people got cooled off with a pop-up shower.

You can see the rain bend outward along with the storm's "outflow" winds. This storm was within a mile of the airport, and made my landing quite interesting!

October 19th, 2016 - Another nice 1.2 hour flight over to Pulaski for a few touch and goes, and a great sunset just before landing back home.

September 3, 2016 - Flying to Talladega to check out Mike Sylvester's newly minted KR2S. I took off at sunrise, and had to climb up to 9500' to get over one cloud bank, and under another. This is one of those pictures I can look at forever and keep getting deeper into it. There's a lot going on here, and I was fortunate enough to get a snapshot in time to review it over and over again. This might me my next screensaver. This kind of stuff is why flying is addictive...

January 3, 2016 - Tennessee River, just north of Decatur Alabama, with the Brown's Ferry nuclear plant at the bottom right.

December 12, 2015 - I didn't deserve this was too easy to get...I didn't even "have" to go flying. I was just riding my bike early on Sunday morning when I turned around to see if any cars were coming, and just about fell off the bike after seeing this one! Since I don't carry the Canon 7D when biking, I had to resort to the iPhone6. I didn't even need a good camera for this looks like it was painted, rather than photographed...

December 11, 2015 - I took this shot between 5 touch and goes at KFYM and 2 more at KMDQ. Lots of good cloud pictures coming this winter!

It was just another rainy day, but I did manage to get an hour of flying in. Even with the rain nearby and threatening again, the clouds were looking good!

June 10th, 2015 - I took this one while on downwind for Guntersville Airport (8A1). The humid hazy days of summer yield some nice colors this time of day. Guntersville Lake is in the foreground, returning to the Tennessee River in the background.

This one's a sunrise, which explains the choppy nature that gentle winds sculpt into a cloud formation.

March 24th, 2015 - Flying around the local area, doing some stall and speed testing, and enjoying the nice sunset. I have about a hundred hours on KR2 N891JF now, and recently upgraded the brakes and realigned the main wheels.

October 19th, 2014 - On downwind for Hazel Green airport.

August 28th, 2012 - After a little "rework" on N891JF, I flew today for the first time after the Omaha retrieval trip. Three stalls, twelve touch and goes, three different airports, and a few nice sunset pictures. Life is good...

August 4th, 2012 - This was arriving at the tail end of a 680 mile journey from Omaha...from 9500' about 30 miles out from home. I'd bought Jim Faughn's gorgeous KR2 and flown it back home, despite weather that I would have prefered not to fly in. It turned out to be a smooth uneventful flight, despite 14 knot winds gusting to 22 knots at my last stop in Mayfield Missouri. Fortunately, it was right down the runway and I barely noticed. It only rained on me for maybe 10 minutes of the trip, but my wife swears the entire midwest received some badly needed rain because I made that trip! I flew pretty close to some "red" rain with lightning, hail and rotation inside, but I never had to deviate from my planned flight path, and it was smooth flying where I was. And yes, it was legal VFR conditions the whole way...

January 28th, 2012 - I did my first "night landing" in the Swift after I took this one. Nav lights, strobes, and real landing lights helped...

January 16th, 2012 - I'm flying a "new" plane now, a 1946 Globe Swift. The KR suffered another broken crank incident, so the Swift is the new steed of choice for sunset pictures. One big advantage of the Swift is the windows...they slide up and down, so now there's nothing between me and the sunsets. This should yield an improvement in the quality of the photos, not that it's been a problem from the KR. I don't usually include a wing in the photo, but this one's a rare "slotted" Swift wing.

October 8th, 2011 - This is the Atlantic coast, just south of Beaufort, North Carolina, looking west. The airport you see near the middle is "Bogue Field", an old WWII Navy field built in 1943. If you zoom in on this place with Google Earth, you can see some wierdly painted patterns on the runway...which resemble the deck of an aircraft carrier. This is one place where they practice for those landings. Cape Hatteras is just up the coast. I flew to Beaufort as a half-way meeting point with another KR builder and pilot, Joe Horton, and his son Jason. It was a great trip all around, but the fact that I could do it in a day is amazing. I left home just before sunrise, and four hours later I landed in would have been 3.5 hours except for stiff headwinds. After lunch and five hours of visiting, I headed back for a three hour flight (this time with a bit of a tailwind), and landed well before sunset.

September 25, 2011 - Taken from 13,500 feet. I flew over to Columbia S.C. to help a friend troubleshoot a Corvair aircraft engine problem. I noticed this thunderhead anvil from over 200 miles away, and when I took this picture, I was zoomed all the way out to 24mm, so it was big...really big... or maybe I was close, come to think of it! Either way, this is way cooler looking from the air than from the ground, and the sun was shining on me at the time.

Although it was supposed to be smooth sailing on the way back, I had to race a line of thunderstorms home. As you can see, I was "threading the needle" a bit to get through there (this is the "Foreflight" ap). Note rotation and lightning indicators. I did get a little wet here, but I was in a hurry and didn't bother to dodge it to the north. Aren't iPhones wonderful? They work down below about 5000' whenever you're near a city of any size, and most of the time when you're out over the boonies with a weak signal, and sometimes at 10,000' over the boonies. If you're that high you don't need the weather anyway, I've decided. I'm just waiting for ADS-B to arrive...

August 19th, 2011 - I was a little late for this one, but it worked out OK.

August 13, 2011 - I was at the hangar repairing the ruptured water main (my $3 water bill had climbed to $821 for the month), and saw this sunset brewing. I couldn't resist a quickie.

Same sunset, but from probably 40 miles away from the first one (thanks to my personal time machine).

And it got even better! Not too shabby for a 1/20th second exposure either...

July 29th, 2011 - Hot and humid in the Southeast, over the Tennessee River near Decatur, Alabama.

July 8th, 2011 - Not a sunset, and clouds are there but indistinguishable (and threatening to cancel the fun). But here's Atlantis' last launch, and indeed THE last Shuttle launch, viewed from NASA's causeway. All reports were that there was only a 30% chance of a launch, but the ceilings were just high enough, and a blue hole floated over the launch pad, and off it went. We were there...

July 4th. Several of us aviators remarked on the amazing sunset over the radio, and while this was going on other fireworks were displayed everywhere below us. I knew it was going to be a good one because of the hazy and mostly cloudy skies. Another fantastic sunset!

April 29, 2011, two days after several tornadoes ravaged north Alabama over hundreds of miles of terrain.

April 7, 2011

March 21, 2011 - I only had to take 190 pictures to get this one.

A little later...the fuzzy horizon is due to the "scud layer" below me that comes along with warmer temperatures. Just below the sun you can barely see the "real" horizon. I was at 5500' when I took this one. In the summer, the scud layer can be as high as 7000'-8000' in these parts. The scud layer is usually characterized by rough turbulent air. As soon as you climb out of that layer, the plane smooths out dramatically and can be flown by simply leaning left or right, forward or aft, once properly trimmed.

March 7, 2011 - It had been raining and humid, so I knew there would be a decent sunset, but I was a little late leaving work, and didn't think I could make it in time. Besides, I'd just flown some the day before, and theoretically "had it out of my system" for a day or two anyway. Yesterday's had been a short flight under low ceilings and a high crosswind landing, but it sure was fun! So today I told my wife I was considering not going flying because I'd been flying the day before, and I didn't really have to take a picture of EVERY sunset that came along! Being the wonderwoman she is, she said "but you've missed a few days before that so you're deprived... so you should go for it!". And out the door I went...

Jan 23, 2011

Jan 21, 2011 - from 8500' over HSV. It was a really cold day, and too windy for my taste, but I decided I was already at the hangar and could use some crosswind practice...

January 16, 2011 - With 8-10" of snow on the ground, southern Tennessee was quite a sight from the air.

December 19, 2010

December 17, 2010.

December 14, 2010.

December 2, 2010.

That's not the sun you's the reflection of the sun (which had set a few minutes earlier) off the clouds.

November 25, 2010. That's the Tennessee River near Decatur Alabama in the foreground.

November 21, 2010

Oct 25, 2010 - I'd call this one "Seven Layer Salad".

Oct 13, 2010...Southern Tennessee

Sept 17, 2010, over Athens Alabama...looking west...

Sept 12, 2010, 11,500' above Tim's Ford Lake in southeastern Tennessee.

It was way too late, and I'd given up on trying to make sunset, but my wife said "take off...I'll do the dishes". So you can thank her for this one...

This one has an obvious name..."fire in the hole!", taken over north central Alabama at about the Tennessee line (not that it matters). It was pouring down rain below, but I took off under a blue sky and just flew over to the edge of the overcast toward this nice orange hole and took this picture (along with about a hundred-fifty more so I could choose the best one). If you don't think a 30 minute flight to see something like this won't recharge your batteries, you would be mistaken. I've finally learned that the best sunsets are the product of hazy, humid, cloudy, crappy weather that often clears up at sunset as things settle down. I often look at these pictures later and marvel over it all, remembering the details of the flight, and how incredible it was.
The coolest thing about this picture is that I was there, I built the thing that got me there, and it was something to behold. It's just icing on the cake that I can share the experience with others who are building their own airplanes. I ordered a T-shirt from the EAA today that says "I BUILD STUFF THAT FLIES" on the front. I guess a corollary would be "I FLY STUFF I BUILD, AND ENJOY EVERY NANOSECOND OF IT!"

Everybody's favorite nuclear furnace...taken over southern Tennessee, as usual. I guess that's because it's just nicer up there, and I don't have to worry about stumbling into HSV and Redstone Arsenal's restricted airspace.

I took this one on the way back from Oshkosh, at somewhere near 18,000', on oxygen. Thanks to my new wing tank, this was my first non-stop trip home from OSH, so I had no quibbles about going high and staying there all the way home to enjoy the winds at high altitude. My nose was numb at the time...

This was on my first flight after 6 weeks of downtime while I made some much-needed improvements to the airplane. I missed a lot of great sunsets, but I'll make it up!

Taken at 7500', June 8, 2010. It had been cloudy all afternoon (but the ceiling was over 12,000'), the air was smooth, and I was just waiting on a nice sunset...

I took this at ~14,000 feet returning from a great day visiting with my father and brother, May of 2010. That's the problem with summer have to either climb over the buildups to stay in the cool, clear, smooth air, or drop under the clouds and suffer the hazy beating you get from the rough air down there. I like the "high" road, even if half the time it means you have to burn more fuel due to higher wind speeds in the wrong direction. On this occasion, it was so nice up there that it never occured to me that there was a thunderstorm brewing below that dark area at the upper right. I was only 8 minutes out from home, and needed to drop 14,000', so I slid around to the left and then circled back to my airport, where I arrived only a few minutes earlier than the dark gray wall of rain...

Near Columbia, Tennessee. I know several "volunteers" that would call this "God's country".

I don't know what to say about this one, other than it doesn't even look real...

March 20, 2010, returning from Corvair College #17 in Orlando. Nice soft colors. That soft fuzzy blue stuff is my way down...

March 10, 2010, in southern Tennessee. The description for this flight is very similar to the one below, just a few weeks apart is all. It's amazing how much this looks like waves coming in on the beach...

The day I took this was cold, dreary, overcast, windy, and rainy. The ceilings lifted a bit late in the day and the sun started peeking out west of town, so I decided I'd go fly a little. I went to the hangar, messed around with a few things hoping the 90 degree crosswind would die down a bit... then checked outside and the wind was still blowing, still cold, and simply no fun at all. So I decided I'd just fly another day. I drove about three miles down the road and thought "why'll be good practice, at least". So I drove back, rolled the plane out, and took off. I got on top of the cloud deck at 5000' and what a magical sight. All blue sky, and the sensation of speed at 180 mph just above the clouds is amazing. The tops of the clouds were painted orange, and it was as if I were flying low over the ocean. The screws you see on my cowling are in the center of the airplane, so I was in a 45 degree bank or so when I took this.

Dreary as it was, it was one of the best times I've had flying in a while...

Not exactly a sunset, but a nice view of the light snow they got recently up near Suwannee Tennessee at the end of January.

Fall of 2009 over the Appalachian foothills in eastern Tennessee.

What impressed me about this picture is how much the treelines resembled the hedgerows of England, a place I've fallen in love with.

This is a sunrise over Lake Michigan, as I was flying south from Oshkosh 2009, maybe half way to Chicago. I was at 10,500' so I could fly over Chicago's Class B airspace without having to talk to ATC. The sun is way up at the top and almost white, so the orange you see is a reflection off the waters of the lake, through fog extending over the lake.

Taken over middle Tennessee June 16, 2009, loitering along at 139 mph true airspeed sipping fuel at the rate of 3.05 gph (that's 46 mpg), waiting for the perfect sunset picture. Of course I had to take 300 more to get this one. I knew it was going to be a good day for was hazy with just a few clouds. The convenient thing about taking sunset pictures from the air is that you have a lot of flexibility in how you "arrange" the clouds!

April 11th, 2009, over southern Tennessee. It was cloudy with 1000' ceilings and high winds all day, but things started clearing just before sunset, so I did a little flying.

North of Fayetteville, Tennessee - April 4th, 2009

March 7, 2009, over Hazel Green, Alabama

This is the hills of southern Tennessee just before sunset, January of 2009. The orange sunset lit up the top of the hills...

Taken just south of Huntsville "Jetport" looking east toward Wheeler Dam, which is covered by clouds over the river. November 1, 2008 from 10,500', just after sunrise. My wife loves this one. It' ain't bad...

October 15, 2008 - This one is my favorite of them all, so far. I can stare at this picture and keep seeing things going on in there. This one's my screen saver on all my computers, and is hanging on the wall in my living room...

I took this over Nashville, late in the day, at about 7500'.

It's just another dumb cloud picture, but I took this one on the way back from my father's farm one Sunday afternoon. I took it just above the scud layer at about 9500', which made the clouds look a little like icebergs. I like to fly up there because it's smooth, cool, clear, and I can glide a long way. I may fly a cheap little homebuilt, but as a camera platform, it works pretty well.

I really didn't feel like flying the day I took this, but by the time I landed, I was just fine!

I took this on the way to Sun n Fun 2008, roughly over eastern Alabama. It was early morning, but you can see the ominous buildup of three thunderheads in the right side of the picture. Some of their cousins conspired to force me to land in Valdosta three days later and wait out the storm...

I took this picture in April of 2007 in Perth, Australia. That's the Indian Ocean, in case you're wondering. This is another case of burning through 350 pictures to get this one. And I deliberated long and hard to choose it over the next-best!

I took this one morning on the way to Lexington South Carolina.

This plume of vapor coming up through the overcast is a powerplant, which produces hotter vapor than the clouds, so it punches through the overcast in the shape of this plume. OK, it's not a sunset, but much closer to a sunrise.

This looks like something out of a science fiction movie.

I took this early one morning over the foothills of the Appalacian foothills while headed to Beckley Virginia. Fog was settled into valley in a nice blanket pattern.

This is the beginning of a thunderhead. I watched this form for over an hour, from hundreds of miles away. I was at 12,000' when I took this picture, and had just learned a valuable lesson about flying in clouds. Clouds can outclimb an airplane in the summer, and you can end up stuck inside one that way!

Here you can see how easy it is to dodge rain while flying. Just dodge the black and gray stuff, and go the other way when you see lightning!

A nuclear powerplant, I think.

These swiggles of vapor are caused by a gentle breeze blowing them downwind. If you were to see this smokestack from the side, the vapor would all be horizontal, because it rose to an inversion layer which was warmer than the vapor, so the vapor couldn't rise anymore and was forced to go downwind without climbing. This was early in the morning, headed to Sun N Fun from my father's grass strip, somewhere over southwest Georgia.

This is one of those enchanted days where you just have to be amazed at how cool flying can be. This is over the Tennessee river at the bridge on US231, just south of Huntsville, looking west toward Decatur.

The bright spot that you might think is the sun is actually a reflection of the sun off the bottom of the clouds. The sun had set about 20 minutes earlier. This is where a camera with an ISO rating of 800 comes in handy, as well as some smooth flying air. I took this on downwind while landing at Hazel Green. It truly was a lucky "snapshot", but I'll confess at having deliberately waited for the opportunity before I landed.

Lake Guntersville, Alabama, just off the end of the runway.

This is a phenomenon that only pilots and mountain climbers get to see. It's the opposite of one of those sunsets with the rays going everywhere. These rays appear to converge on the ground, but in reality it's just a case of the same kind of parallax you see in sunsets, but you are looking at them as they pass, sort of like looking down railroad tracks. The small choppy clouds are what makes this possible. In the other direction (toward the sun) there were more of the clouds, which left a few holes for sunlight, which produced the shafts of light that appeared to converge on the ground.

The I-65 bridge over the Tennessee River, just east of Decatur, Alabama. I've driven over that bridge many times, and I can tell you the view isn't nearly as good from the bridge! Two years after I took this picture I landed on I-65 late one afternoon. The bolt broke that holds my harmonic balancer on to the engine, and the engine quit. I hate it when my harmonics get out of balance. That's why I recharge on a regular basis by watching the sunsets!

Another nice picture of Guntersville Lake in NE Alabama, maybe 20 NM from Huntsville. The Guntersville airport is in the last place you'd expect to see it in this picture...the thin strip of land you see in the foreground, slightly to the right of center. I took this picture after an hour of riding the KR hard, doing one of those those tree-top level 160 mph tours of the Tennessee River. It was a very "satisfying" flight...

A quick late-day trip to Tullahoma, December of 2007. I took over 250 pictures during the 30 minutes of flying. Yes, I might have a little problem with photography...I have to take a few "extras" to get a good one!

I took this over Hazel Green airport in north Alabama. I was hanging lights in my hangar and noticed the orange sky. The plane was already outside and pointed in the direction of the runway, so I trotted out with the camera, climbed up to 4000', and took this picture.

Rain over Decatur and the Tennessee River.

This was about a half hour after sunset, with a thunderstorm about 3 miles to the south.

Contact Mark Langford at ML "at" (replace the "at" with @)

Return to