One stunning photo shows 8 hours of planes taking off at LA airport

Michael Kelley

 (Michael Kelley )

It sounds like a low rumble, about every three to five minutes. Then there’s a strong wind. When the gust is over, the rumble begins again and the rush that comes with it.

This is how photographer Michael Kelley describes what it’s like to watch airplanes take off for eight straight hours at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

On Sunday, after waking up to a particularly sunny and smog-free day, Kelley brought his camera to a park near the airport and captured a photo of almost every plane that took off over the course of the day. He then went home and stitched the images together to create one stunning photograph.

The photo went viral on Tuesday after he posted it to Reddit’s aviation subcategory.

“I think the picture resonates with so many people because now we take air travel for granted in our lives,” Kelley told “Flying has become so mundane. You forget how cool it can be, how many planes take off and land every day.”

The image is a compilation of 75 different pictures. Since more than 1,500 flights take off from LAX on any given day, Kelley pointed out that he only focused on one runway and this picture isn’t meant to capture every single flight – or even every plane he took a picture of during takeoff. 

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He omitted some smaller regional carriers from the image to focus on larger carriers and give viewers an idea of just how many international flights leave LAX every day. He also omitted repeats to avoid having the same airline over and over again in the same image.

Still, the photograph does an incredible job of telling the story of one day on a runway.

“No matter what I do, my job will never be as cool as a pilot,” said Kelley. “The whole concept of travel and aviation, it’s very glamorous.”

You can see more of Kelley's work on his website and order a print of this image here.