Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Imperial Hill




Location: Corner of E. Imperial Avenue & Sheldon Street
El Segundo, CA 90245

Useful Radio Frequencies:
ATIS - 133.8
LAX Tower South - 120.95 , 379.1
Ground Control South - 121.75 . 327.0
Clearance Delivery - 121.4 , 327.0

Whereas some airports around the world seem to go out of their way to discourage aviation photography, Imperial Hill seems almost tailor made for it. It provides a brilliantly placed commanding view of the southern half of LAX, excellent for witnessing take-off and landing operations on runways 25R/7L and 25L/7R. There you will find tree's providing some welcome shade, a few benches for a place to sit and relax, and even tables to play a game of chess and checkers or for eating a meal and snack.

Below is a look at the Imperial Hill spotting location. Please double-click for a close-up and enlarged look.



The vast majority of take-off and taxi pictures from LAX are taken at Imperial Hill. Ideally, you'll want to have a lens focal length of at least 200mm and above. Below are examples of what you can expect to see thru your lens, pre-edit. These pictures were only scaled down to "0" quality in Photoshop for faster download speeds, and have otherwise not been touched. They're only examples of the image size and relatively closeness you can expect to work with at each focal length. They were taken with a Canon 40D digital SLR, using a Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM lens.

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Post-editing with a little skill and luck, these popular Airliners.net shots provide an example of just what can be achieved from here.











The best time of year to photograph at this location is during the winter months. The sun shifts to the south, and beautifully illuminates the port side of aircraft and the airfield. Heat haze can be a problem though. Spotter Miguel Claudio advises:

"Light is very good almost all day during winter. Heat haze can be a problem during the mid-day, but not until mid-morning and later in the afternoon."


After May, the sun sits to the north and photography can get very tough on the hill. You can still take decent shots of aircraft taxiing on the runways and taxiways that make up the south complex, but takeoff shots will mostly appear backlit, such as the photograph taken below on May 1st, 2008.


Single-isle domestic flights account for the bulk of LAX traffic, but we do see a fairly large amount of wide-body international movements here. While you are able to photograph aircraft on taxi after landing, the Hill is best known for take-off photography. Flights get delayed or cancelled, planes are substituted for, and on some days certain flights are not flown at all, but below I've aimed at providing part-guide/part-example of just what kind of activity one can hope to photograph when visiting the hill during DAYLIGHT hours. Please Note: This is just an example of what you MIGHT be able to photograph here. Largely obscured from the hill, there are 2 additional runways on the north side of the airport that handle their fair share of the movements listed below. To keep the list down, I've only listed TWIN-isle INTERNATIONAL flights. The list was composed through publicly available airline flight information.

***(Updated December 01, 2011)***
ARRIVALS:
LAN 600 - 06:50AM Lima (763)
Virgin Australia 7 - 06:10AM Brisbane (77W)
Qantas 107 - 06:25AM Sydney (744)
Qantas 25 - 06:30AM Auckland (A332)
El Al 1 - 06:40AM Tel Aviv (772)
Qantas 93 - 06:40AM Melbourne (744 / A380)
Delta Air Lines 16 - 06:50AM Sydney (77L)
Qantas 15 - 06:50AM Brisbane (744)
Emirates 217 - 07:45AM Dubai (77W)
Korean Air 1 - 07:45AM Tokyo-Narita (A332)
Virgin Australia 11 - 07:50AM Melbourne (77W)
Air Tahiti Nui 2 - 08:15AM Papeete (A343)
American Airlines 170 - 08:30AM Tokyo-Narita (772)
Korean Air 17 – 08:40AM Seoul (A380)
Delta Air Lines 284 - 8:45AM Tokyo-Narita (A332)
Air Tahiti Nui 8 - 09:05AM Papeete (A343)
China Eastern Airlines 583 - 09:05AM Shanghai (A346)
Air Tahiti Nui 408 - 09:05AM Papeete (A343)
Virgin Australia 1 - 09:30AM Sydney (77W)
Air China 987 - 09:30AM Beijing (744)
Cathay Pacific 884 - 09:40AM Hong Kong (77W)
United Airlines 890 - 09:40AM Tokyo-Narita (772)
ANA 6 - 09:45AM Tokyo-Narita (77W)
United Airlines 840 - 09:48AM Sydney (744)
Qantas 11 - 09:50AM Sydney (A380)
Japan Airlines 62 - 09:55AM Tokyo-Narita (77W)
Air Tahiti Nui 18 - 10:05AM Papeete (A343)
Asiana Airlines 202 - 10:10AM Seoul (744)
Air Tahiti Nui 102 - 10:10AM Papeete (A343)
Air New Zealand 6 - 10:15AM Auckland (774 / 77W)
Air Canada 791 - 10:40AM Toronto (763)
Air New Zealand 18 - 11:30AM Rarotonga (763)
Singapore Airlines 12 - 11:50AM Tokyo-Narita (A380)
KLM 601 - 11:50AM Amsterdam (74M/744)
China Airlines 6 - 12:05PM Taipei (744)
Air Pacific 810 - 12:05PM Nadi (744)
Emirates 215 - 12:50PM Dubai (77L)
Lufthansa 456 - 12:55PM Frankfurt (744)
Cathay Pacific 882 - 12:55PM Hong Kong (77W)
Air France 66 - 01:25PM Paris (77W)
Korean Air 11 - 01:30PM Seoul (77W)
British Airways 283 - 01:30PM London (744)
Asiana Airlines 204 - 01:40PM Seoul (772)
United Airlines 935 - 01:44PM London (772)
Air New Zealand 2 - 02:00PM Auckland (77W)
EVA Air 12 - 02:00PM Taipei (77W)
Aeroflot 321 - 02:10PM Moscow (A332)
Air Tahiti Nui 7 - 02:30PM Paris (A343)
EVA Air 2 - 02:55PM Taipei (77W)
British Airways 269 - 03:00PM London (744)
Virgin Atlantic 7 - 03:05PM London (A346)
Turkish Airlines 9 - 03:25PM Istanbul (77W)
Korean Air 61 - 03:25PM Seoul (772)
American Airlines 137 - 03:30PM London (772)
United Airlines 878 - 03:35PM Shanghai (772)
Air France 72 - 04:15PM Paris (772/77W)
Singapore Airlines 38 - 04:15PM Singapore (A345)
Iberia 6171 - 04:15PM Madrid (A343)
Swiss 40 - 04:50PM Zurich (A343)
ANA 1006 - 04:55PM Tokyo-Haneda (772)
Air China 983 - 05:00PM Beijing (744)
Malaysia Airlines 94 - 05:05PM Taipei (772)
Philippine Airlines 112 - 05:15PM Manila (A343)
American Airlines 182 - 05:25PM Shanghai (772)
Delta Air Lines 636 - 05:35PM Tokyo-Haneda (A332)
China Southern 327 - 05:50PM Guangzhou (772)
British Airways 269 - 06:05PM London (744)
Air France 673 - 06:20PM Papeete (772)
LAN 2604 - 06:25PM Lima (763)
Virgin Atlantic 23 - 06:30PM London (A346)
Philippine Airlines 102 - 06:30PM Manila (744)
China Airlines 8 - 07:05PM Taipei (744)
Air France 74 - 07:10PM Paris (772/77W)
Air New Zealand 1 - 07:15PM London (77W)
Lufthansa 452 - 07:20PM Munich (A346)
Korean Air 15 - 07:20PM Seoul (772)
EVA Air 16 - 07:30PM Taipei (77W)


***(Updated July 23, 2010)***
DEPARTURES:
Qantas 09:00AM New York-JFK (A332)
Avianca 11:30AM Bogota (762)
Korean Air 11:40AM Tokyo-Narita (772)
Air Canada 12:25PM Toronto (763)
Korean Air 12:30PM Seoul-Incheon (77W)
Air Tahiti Nui 12:30PM Paris-CDG (A343)
Delta Air Lines 12:40PM Tokyo (A332)
American Airlines 12:45PM Tokyo-Narita (772)
United Airlines 12:45PM London-Heathrow (772)
ANA 12:55PM Tokyo-Narita (77W)
Air Tahiti Nui 01:00PM Papeete (A343)
United Airlines 01:10PM Tokyo-Narita (744)
LAN 01:20PM Lima (763)
Japan Airlines 01:20PM Tokyo-Narita (77W)
China Eastern Airlines 01:30PM Shanghai (A346)
Asiana Airlines 01:40PM Seoul (744)
Cathay Pacific 01:40PM Hong Kong (77W)
El Al 01:45PM Tel Aviv (772)
Singapore Airlines 02:45PM Tokyo-Narita (744)
Lufthansa 02:50PM Frankfurt (744)
Alitalia 03:25PM Rome (772)
Air France 03:30PM Paris-CDG (77W)
China Airlines 03:55PM Taipei (744)
British Airways 04:00PM London-Heathrow (744)
Air Tahiti Nui 04:10PM Papeete (A343)
KLM 04:30PM Amsterdam (74M / 744)
Air New Zealand 04:30PM London-Heathrow (744)
Emirates 04:45PM Dubai (77L)
British Airways 05:35PM London-Heathrow (744)
Virgin Atlantic 05:35PM London-Heathrow (A346)
EVA Air 05:40PM Taipei (77W)
Air Berlin 05:45PM Düsseldorf (A332)
Air France 06:45PM Paris-CDG (772)
Korean Air 06:50PM Sao Paulo (772)
Lufthansa 07:00PM Frankfurt (A346)
Swiss 07:25PM Zurich (A343)
Aeroflot 07:35PM Moscow (A332)
American Airlines 07:55PM London-Heathrow (772)

Runway 25R is primarily used for take-offs, while 25L is primarily used for arrivals. Both runways see mixed use however. A large amount of international departures to Europe and Asia occur after the sun has set at LAX, so as to arrive during morning daylight hours at their destinations. Hence the above discrepency between the number of arrival and departure movements listed.

The spotting location sits on a residential street. When it comes to where to eat from the hill, your options include the in-house restaurant at the Embassy Suites($$$), or a Subway($) and 7-Eleven($) located a few minutes walk to the west. A few mom-and-pop restaurants offering Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, pizza and burgers amongst other things are also in the area around the Subway/7-Eleven, but you'll need some time to search those out according to your cravings. For those needing access to quick cash, the 7-Eleven has a Citibank automated teller machine just to the left of the entrance.

The closest hotel to the Imperial Hill is the Embassy Suites Los Angeles - International Airport/South. The hotel sits on the same street as the hill, and is only about a 7 minute walk to the east. There are dozens of hotels surrounding the LAX area however, and each spotter's best decision on where to stay merits a little research and an honest look at one's budget.

Going to the restroom can be a problem. Your closest options are the Embassy Suites, or the Flight Path Learning Center Museum just to the east of the hill. The restrooms are just to the east of the check-in counters, and just to the right of the entrance respectively. Public restrooms are not available at Subway or 7-Eleven. Its possible one of the other restaurants in the area will have restrooms readily available, but most places encourage a purchase before use.


The public is allowed to park on the street directly adjacent to the spotting location. While the signs on the street try to limit you to 1 hour, enforcement is relatively lax. Do stay alert however if you should notice a parking enforcement agent. The police on occasion park on the opposite side of the street to observe the area and enforce the stop sign located at the corner, but spotters are usually left alone. Unless you're staying at the Embassy Suites, a car is recommended for getting to the hill. Public transportation does not offer a direct route to the hill from the hotels on Century Boulevard. A cab ride from the hotels to the hill is approximately $6 each way.

With summer approaching, wear loose clothing, a hat, and if possible some sunscreen!

6 comments:

Cranky Flier said...

Great rundown on Imperial Hill. One little addition to your list of arrivals. You have both LAN departures, but you only have the one morning arrival when there are actually two. Sometimes, one of them is on an A340 as it was this morning just before 830a.

I'm excited to try them out at the end of the month, though I'll be on the 767 both ways.

rc said...

Thanks for this awesome information on plane watching at LAX! I am taking a photography class and need plane pics as part of my final project. I went to the In-n-Out spot and it was perfect.

Shooter said...

Great rundown. For those with wheels wishing to make a day of it, be sure to pick up a sandwich at Rinaldi's, in downtown El Segundo.

323 Main St., El Segundo
310 647-2860

They even deliver, though I have yet to try it. I'll give it a go in a couple of weeks and let you know how I fare.

Anonymous said...

Genial brief and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you as your information.

Anonymous said...

hi JC
thanks for this helpful spotting page and links
hope to be there soon myself to take a few good pictures
greetings from FRA
erik R

Delta757lover said...

Public Transportation to/from Imperial Hill is provided by Beach Cities Transit Route 109, which travels from LAX Lot C Bus Ctr to Redondo Beach. Route 109 bus stop is located directly at the stop sign in both directions. Stops along Century Blvd at Airport Blvd, International Dr, and Aviation Blvd. Complete schedule and routing information is here

http://www.redondo.org/depts/hbt/transit/beach_cities_transit/line_109.asp