Michael Lloyd: Best of Web 2016

Michael Lloyd: Best of Web 2016

Credit: Karol Staniec
Credit: Karol Staniec

This photo beautifully displays the fluid flow phenomenon of contrails (short for “condensation trails”). The trails that we are all used to observing shooting across the sky behind a passing plane are caused by condensation of water vapor as the aircraft passes through the “wet” air. The additional water vapor output from the engines causes an increase in moisture which is below the dew point of the already moist air, and thus the water condenses into a cloud. Additional condensation can be provided by the wing tips which create lower pressure vortices behind the aircraft. The decreased pressure can result in a decrease in temperature below the local dew point.


While we are all acquainted with observing contrails, this image by Karol Staniec takes the observation to the next level. The clouds produced as the jet rockets across the sky in the evening display a beautiful sunset that would otherwise not be visible in the cloudless sky. Combined with Staniec’s beautiful framing of the shot, this is a photo of fluid flow exemplifying a rare occurrence of an otherwise common phenomenon that epitomizes the artistic side of science.



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10 Comments. Leave new

  • Schuyler Vandersluis
    Sep 19, 2016 11:13

    3rd Place – This contrail is so colorful and shows beautiful contrast against the sky

  • Michael Waterhouse
    Sep 7, 2016 07:15

    3rd Place. It is interesting to see such a colorful contrail with the contrast of the dark blue sky. I would love to see one of these in person.

  • Marco Gardi
    Sep 6, 2016 23:34

    3rd place

    After reading the description and realizing the contrails were colored by a sunset I was in awe. Maybe it’s the angle the photo was taken at or the magnification but I have never seen anything like this. I will definitely be watching for planes in the sky at sunset tomorrow.

  • Tiangen Ge
    Sep 3, 2016 15:05

    3rd Place. I’ve seen a bunch photos like this whenever a military parade proceeds. I thought those multicolored clouds were created by the jets themselves. Good to learn new things.

  • 3rd Place. The dramatic vertical composition and framing of the image with the contrast of the colored contrail is quite exceptional.

  • Sean Harrison
    Sep 1, 2016 21:07

    2nd place. Jet contrails are prevalent across the sky’s of the modern world, but never before have I found one of these contrails beautiful, excellent photo.

  • Alexander Thompson
    Sep 1, 2016 14:24

    1st Place!
    There are so many great examples of beautiful flow visualization posted by the class, but this image stands out above the rest every time I scroll through them. I’ve spent quite a long time studying all of the features of this photo now, from the glow around the plane to the cone coming out of the tail, and the full array of colors in the contrails. I’m pretty sure the image has been enhanced, but the visual appeal is all the same to me. Great find!

  • Jeremiah Chen
    Aug 31, 2016 23:12

    3rd place.

    The photographer’s way of capturing the sunset within the contrails is very unique (at least to me). I have yet to see it done before.


  • Preston Marcoux
    Aug 30, 2016 09:37

    Third: To me, the visual appeal of this photo is what stands out. It is unique see a full spectrum of colors coming from the water vapors of the engine & wet air.

  • Joseph Straccia
    Aug 29, 2016 07:54

    Hey Michael, this is a really cool photo. Did the author state that the coloring in the contrail was from a sunset? My first instinct upon seeing this image was to attribute the coloring to iridescence. If you get a minute search “iridescent cloud” and you’ll find pictures of an optical effect you can find here in Colorado as you look for good clouds to photograph for class. I saw a very nice iridescent cloud a week ago just outside of Boulder.

    The caption on airliners.net suggests that this photo has not been digitally enhanced but I’ve been editing photos for a little while and am skeptical. If you look around the fuselage you’ll notice that the air around the aircraft seems to glow. It could be natural but that is a common side effect of over manipulating lightning and contrast in a photo. The underside of the aircraft also has a blue shade which could be an indicator of heavy use of saturation. However, even if the author digitally enhanced the photo to bring out the colors in the contrail it is still a very cool photo.


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