Plane views: the beauty of a window seat

Flying past the coast of Estonia.

It was an excerpt from a book by E.M. Forster that inspired me to create the Plane Views series:

“Those mountains to the right – let me show you them.’ She pushed back a metal blind. The main chain of the Himalayas was revealed. ‘They were once called the Roof of the World, those mountains.”

“You must remember that, before the dawn of civilization, they seemed to be an impenetrable wall that touched the stars. It was supposed that no one but the gods could exist above their summits. How we have advanced, thanks to the Machine!”

“How we have advanced, thanks to the Machine!” said Vashti.

“And that white stuff in the cracks? – what is it?”

“I have forgotten its name.”

“Cover the window, please. These mountains give me no ideas.”

Excerpt from ‘The Machine Stops‘ – E.M. Forster

Reading this book in my teenage years certainly gave me a lot to think about. Aside from the theme of technological advancement and its influence on our lives, those last two sentences “Cover the window, please. These mountains give me no ideas” stayed etched in my mind. When I read them, I couldn’t imagine that anyone would not feel inspired by the things they saw from a plane window. This inspiration is sufficient reason to book a window seat whenever possible. To me, the glistening peaks of the Alps, the Andes or the Rockies; the massive sprawl of cities like Tokyo, Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires; the harbours of Sydney, Cape Town or Vancouver; the icy emptiness of the Arctic; the red dirt core of Australia; or the wavy sand dunes of the Sahara never fail to amaze and inspire.

I’ve discovered along the way that there are many people who share the same interest: booking a window seat and gazing out the window with a camera ready, just in case! 🙂 It’s been a great journey, with posts covering places like Sydney Harbour, Bora Bora, the Millau Viaduct, the Andes mountains, the Atacama desert, Mount Vesuvius, Canadian Arctic, the Dead Sea, Victoria Falls, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro and the European Alps.

To celebrate this series, I’m featuring photos submitted by readers. To kick off, here are some amazing photos contributed by my friend Nico.

Mount Rainier, WA

Angra dos Reis, Brazil

Dubai, UAE

Peruvian Amazon

Here’s a contribution from Kathryn from Travelfusion.

Los Angeles freeways

Here’s a contribution from Laura Bly.

Flying home from Roatan, Honduras

And here’s a contribution from Beverly from Travel Maestro.

Flying over a tropical paradise in Fiji

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Check out this lovely contribution from Andy, 501 Places.

Flight in a little Twin Otter to Barra over the Scottish lochs & islands

Wow, this one’s a unique contribution from Jaime of Seat of Our Pants.

The Karakoram range between Pakistan, India & China.

Here are two stunning photos by my good friend, Simon from @1step2theleft

Guri Reservoir, Venezuela

River & forests on my flight to Canaima NP (Angel Falls), Venezuela

A beautiful photo of Cancun by Hilde Brizes.

Cancun from the air

Contributions from Don Holton.

The Chicago sprawl & Wrigley Field

Early morning fog on a fall day over the Tiadaghton State Forest, near Williamsport, Pennsylvania USA

Here’s an awesome contribution from Rich of @BrilliantTips

Sao Jorge island in the Azores, Portugal

Check out this beautiful photo by David of @MalaysiaAsia

The interior of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, near Mulu National Park

My pals Dave & Deb from @theplanetd sent me this photo from Alaska!

A stunning shot of Mt. McKinley (Alaska) from the air

A gorgeous photo of one of the most iconic volcanoes from Charles a.k.a. @HotelPRGuy

Mount Fuji near Tokyo, Japan, photographed from the air

 Doesn’t the world look amazing from way up high? These are the reasons to book a window seat!

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33 Responses to “Plane views: the beauty of a window seat”

  1. velvet 06/04/2012 10:14 pm

    Hi Linda
    Thanks for the lovely comment. It’s quite easy to take photos out of a plane window. I took most of mine with a Canon point & shoot. 🙂 Fab memory of Nice by the way.


  2. Linda 06/04/2012 6:55 pm

    So glad you tweeted this again because I missed it in the past. They really are all stunning photos. Although I’m a bit addicted to taking snaps I’ve always thought that photos taken through a plane window wouldn’t be good enough. How wrong can one be? Next time my camera will definitely be out!

    I have the most vivid memory of approaching Nice, France around eight years or so ago, seemingly just floating over a turquoise sea, flecked by the white sails of yachts, bordered by golden sands and pretty towns & villages. I know it can’t possibly be as perfect as I remember, but it was breathtaking, and just like a shot from a movie. It would have been nice to be able to share it like this!

  3. Ashray 06/04/2012 6:14 pm

    Wow! Those are some kickass pictures! Now I really want to do some aerial photography. I usually end up sleeping on planes and never look out. Time to get perked up!

  4. Nisha 10/01/2011 7:53 am

    Great idea and great pictures too.
    I travel to Malaysia quite often but not a single time I could capture Twin towers. I am always fascinated by other beauties and never it occurred about them. Now I know it’s possible.

    Next time I’ll try if I get a window seat and have a camera and it’s not cloudy and….
    oh, too many parameters. 🙂

  5. Adam 22/11/2010 6:42 pm

    I thought I had seen this post before when I clicked on it, but I did anyway, and I’m glad I did. Even though I had already seen these pictures, they are definitely worth a second (and third, fourth, etc.) look. Simply spectacular shots, and what a great idea for a post.

  6. velvet 06/07/2010 4:06 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Readers sent me their pictures over a period of a few weeks.


  7. Vince 06/07/2010 4:01 pm

    how long did you collected the pictures? they are pretty awesome!

  8. Lesleyalmost 17/06/2010 11:53 am

    great pics, I definitely recognise the Chicago skyline as I am here this week. The world is a beautful place and these all show that …..

  9. David @ Malaysia Asia 05/06/2010 9:54 am

    Beau-Tee-Ful Pics! Lovely Keith!


  10. Trans-Americas Journey 28/05/2010 2:19 am

    Great photos. Love the post & always love the window seat…not that we’ve spent much time on planes during the past few years of our ROAD trip.

  11. Jeremy B 27/05/2010 7:34 pm

    I love these photos! I always like looking out the plane, especially when we fly over some nice. Seeing Lake Tahoe from the window of a plane is awesome. My two faves in this are Estonia (my first country) and the shot of Wrigley.

  12. velvet 10/05/2010 11:36 am

    Hi Matt,
    I’m still accepting submissions so if you have some great shots, please send them to me: keith[ad}velvetescape[dot]com.



  13. Matt 10/05/2010 11:30 am

    What an excellent idea with some stunning photos. I wish I would heard about it sooner as I’m sure I have some to share. It’s amazing the views you can get from a window seat.

  14. Runaway Juno 10/05/2010 12:31 am

    oh wow! Look at that! Look at the Dubai wow. May I contribute some? Myself is a window seat person, so I took a lot of plane views… 🙂

  15. marta 05/05/2010 2:22 pm

    The view of Singapore Harbour from the plane was pretty awesome too.

  16. velvet 01/05/2010 2:38 pm

    Hi Marlys,
    I know. I sometimes forget my camera and I just kick myself if something worthwhile shows up. As an example, I’ve been wanting to get an aerial shot of Kuala Lumpur (with the twin towers) for a while now but every time I fly in, I’m either sitting on the wrong side of the plane or it’s too cloudy. Last March, I was flying to Borneo from KL. The sun was setting so I thought, don’t bother with my camera – it’ll be too dark by the time we’re in the air. What happens next: the plane takes off, flies past the city, not a cloud in the sky, the sunset turned the twin towers into shimmering masts of gold…. it was absolutely STUNNING….. and I didn’t have my camera with me. I gave myself a huge kick for that. I’m still kicking myself. 🙂


  17. Marlys 01/05/2010 8:06 am

    Great pics! How many times have I rued the absence of a camera at hand when flying over breathtaking sights seen through a plane window. I shall have one ready on my next trip for sure.

  18. lara dunston 01/05/2010 7:32 am

    Nice! Sounds like you must also be a fan of Alain de Botton’s writing too! Love that guy!

  19. AirTreks Nico 29/04/2010 5:31 pm

    Beautiful post! That quote sent shivers up my spine. Really! The power of words… so potent they can even inspire a teenager (which is a tough thing to do) to do things in his lifetime.

    Of the photos, I really liked the way the Amazon shot came out. I think it shows the size of the rainforest in South America, the endless expanse of green jungle. This went on for a good 20 or 30 minutes as we approached Puerto Maldonado. When you’re flying in at 250 mph, 30 minutes is a lot of territory. Think of all the animals and insects just in the space of that photo! You get a feeling of just how small and insignificant we really are compared to Mother Nature.

    Thanks for spotlighting my shots in your anniversary post, Keith. It looks great!


  20. Emily 29/04/2010 5:12 pm

    On my last flight into San Francisco, as we turned to land, I looked out the window to see a perfect rainbow arching across the bay. Stunning! And of course my camera was already tucked way under the seat in front of me.

    Also, even living in Washington, I never get over the beauty of Mt. Rainer. It always makes me smile

  21. Dave and Deb 29/04/2010 4:22 pm

    Great shots. Always interesting to get a “Birds Eye View” and they make for stunning photo’s!

  22. velvet 29/04/2010 4:12 pm

    Thanks JoAnna! Yes, I just couldn’t get over the power of that sentence. Every time I’m in a plane and I’m seeing these incredible scenes pass by and others have their windows shut, I always think of that sentence. Indeed, funny how some things just stay with us. 🙂

  23. JoAnna 29/04/2010 4:07 pm

    I love your Plane Views series! I don’t have any really great photos myself (though I have snapped some fab sunsets!), but I’ll definitely keep checking back in. I also like that you shared where you got your inspiration from. Funny how those things stay with us, huh?

  24. cumidanciki 29/04/2010 2:55 pm

    unreal! all the shots are gorgeous but.. Mount Rainier, WA is bloody amazing! i have not traveled enough yet…


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