LAX is a fantastic destination for airplane watching, and the H Hotel is a great place to do it. I've been fortunate to visit the H several times, and I'm being serious when I describe it as one of my favorite places - I can't wait to get back this September for SpotLAX. For other folks curious about why anyone in their right mind would pay the very-unreasonable-to-this-Midwesterner rates they charge, here's a sampling of my favorite photos from the H's rooftop deck.
A Korean Air A380 on approach over Downtown Los Angles at sunrise. The weather has generally been clear enough to allow a clear view of the skyline on my trips to the H, but it isn't always clear enough to see the mountains. This aircraft is on approach to 24R, the main arrivals runway on the north side, and where A380s land 99.9% of the time. SpotLAX 2019.
Looking at a similar angle towards Downtown, this is a fun two-fer shot with the Goodyear Blimp. One of them is based in the area, and frequently makes appearances over the new SoFi Stadium, which is just a few miles east of the airport under the flight path for arrivals at LAX. SpotLAX 2021.
Continuing to pan to our left, as we follow north side arrivals, my next favorite angle is this, where, assuming the weather allows, the Hollywood sign provides some nice geographic context. SpotLAX 2019.
Panning further to the left, several areas with high-rises provide some visual interest, especially helpful if you're feeling ambitious with night photography. SpotLAX 2019.
Following an arrival further, a nice mix of mountains and development; this is at dusk. SpotLAX 2021.
As we're now looking west-northwest, a north side arrival about to touch down on 24R. Departures queue up here and provide lots of opportunities for interesting two-fer shots; this is a morning shot. Savvy photographers will also be keen to include a few cars on the adjacent highway. SpotLAX 2018.
... and another example of a two-fer, with Asiana about to depart off of 24L, with Virgin America to follow it shortly. SpotLAX 2018.
... and the last good angle for a north side arrival, at least for still photography with a reasonably large telephoto as they touch down on 24R. This is cropped down a fair amount with a 400mm lens on a full-frame camera body. June 2019.
Views of north side departures are pretty much limited to what's shown above with the Hawaiian, Asiana, and Virgin America aircraft. It's still 100% doable, with best light fall/winter/spring mornings. For folks with one of the 600mm teles and a crop sensor (i.e. a really, really big zoom lens) there are some more opportunities as the aircraft rollout and depart, but by the time the aircraft rotate, they're a very long ways away, and there is usually no shortage of heat distortion.
Views of activity on the south side aren't as good as the north, but, you'll still be able to get decent documentation of arrivals and departures there; keep in mind morning's going to be completely backlit September-April - evening's are a bit more forgiving, but not by much. In other words, if you're really excited to get decent photos of cargo activity on the south side when you visit for SpotLAX in September, you'd be well served by a trip down to Imperial Hill or Proud Bird. Otherwise evening light from the H Hotel over the summer can be pretty cooperative.
It's also worth noting that a new United hangar was completed in 2021 and greatly reduced the available photo angles on the south side - it's no longer possible to see Proud Bird, or a fair amount of the runways and taxiways on the far east end of the southern part of the field there.
My favorite south side view from the H Hotel, with the Los Angles Times graciously providing some self-captioning. There's a fairly narrow window to document arrivals and departures here, with best light in summer evenings, as seen with this view from June 22, 20919 more or less on the solstice (when the sun swings as far north as it does all year).
Here's the same shot, but with an arrival, in light from a September morning. Not as gorgeous as a summer evening, but certainly workable. SpotLAX 2019.
I'll be at SpotLAX and Dorkfest again this year, and cannot recommend it highly enough - if you've never been, it's a minimally structured weekend of hanging out and watching airplanes with other aviation enthusiasts from around the world. For those of you opting to stay at the H, be sure to take advantage of NYC Aviation's discount, and don't miss donuts on the deck on Sunday morning, which JetTip is sponsoring again this year.
Nick lives in Burnsville, MN with his wife and three children. He grooves on railroad and aviation photography, politics, geography, weather, and LEGO. He started JetTip's smart flight alert service in 2017, and is now a full-time avgeek. He can frequently be found atop a step ladder at MSP's Aircraft Viewing Area.