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Near Collision
Here's a picture that's doing the email rounds. The picture is real (no digital manipulation). The only fake part about it is that the perspective of the shot makes the two planes look like they're about to hit each other, while in reality they're 750 feet apart. The photo was taken at San Francisco Airport on August 15, 2004. The photo can be found on The photographer, Ben Wang, has added this note to it: "The two planes appear to be touching! The 757 is on final for 28L while the 747 is for 28R. The runways are 750 ft apart, so there is still plenty of room between them. Incidentally, Lufthansa 455 is seen here returning to SFO due to an oil leak and eventual shutdown of the number 2 engine. Note rudder is deflected to the right compensating for the failed engine on the left side." (via Liquito)
Categories: Photos
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 10, 2004
Comments (24)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
What a load of hogwash! The whole thing is fake! You can talk optical illusion as long as you like, but there is no way these two airliners can be 750 metres apart. Unless the photographer has managed to remove all sense of depth (which I have never seen on this magnitude), this is a doctored photo.
Posted by Adrian Rice  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  07:11 AM
Well,I find it hard to believe that this picture isn
Posted by Evey  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  07:18 AM
It's 750 FEET, not metres, which is about "only" 250 metres.
Also note that a 747 is way bigger then a 757, but because of the angle it only seems to be a bit bigger, which might add to the optical illusion effect.
Still 250 metres is quite a lot, judging from the picture it *looks* to be no more then 50 metres.
Posted by Nathan  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  08:37 AM
The plane in the background is bigger - if it's 750 feet from the front plane then it's a LOT bigger! I think the photo is a fake.
Posted by Jeff  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  08:38 AM
While a cool photo, I'm not convinced that it's fake. After all, forced perspective in movies can accomplish quite amazing illusions. I also can't be the only one who has seen something in real life that looked odd at first glance but that made perfect sense if you just moved over a couple of feet.

I'm gonna have to go with real.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  09:16 AM
I think it is real. Telephoto lenses have a tendency to compress the depth of field bringing a background image closer to a foreground image plus the different sizes of the aircraft. If looked straight on the seperation would be obvious.
Posted by Vic K.  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  02:14 PM
I was thinking the same thing as Vic - a long telephoto lens can make a lot of the depth disappear. And a 747 is much larger than a 757; given that the two appear close to the same size there's probably a lot of distance between the two. I vote real.
Posted by Matt  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  03:58 PM
Forced perspective. They do in the movies a lot, you know for Attack of the 50 Foot Tall Woman and such. I think they use a long focal length lens with a lot of depth of field to make things in the foreground look bigger and closer. If you can do it purposely then you could do it incidentally also.
Posted by Brian  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  05:58 PM
I think it is real. He has more pictures, more or less similar to this one, for example:;
It's just the depth of field and the fact that the planes overlap that tricks the eye. The second picture I linked above does not have such a strong effect, because the planes are not overlapping and they are similar in size...
Posted by Radu  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  07:41 PM
Good pics, Radu! I also agree with Charybdis, Vic K, Matt & Paul. I spent some time on Rhein-Main airbase outside Frankfurt, W.Ger., during the Bosnian Airlift of 1993-94. Some of the unususal visual perspectives of two planes relatively close in proximity in flight, can really startle you upon first sight from the ground. Often into believing there's going to be an imminent collision, and that's without any lenses. This effect is especially notable when both of the planes involved are painted in camouflage patterns.
Posted by stork  on  Fri Dec 10, 2004  at  09:46 PM
This IS real. Count the windows on the United plane. Now count the windows on the Lufthansa plane. The windows will be the same size in both, right, thus proving that the picture is real. The United plane is much closer to us. It's obvious people!
Posted by Cra-Zee  on  Sat Dec 11, 2004  at  02:31 PM
Photos when taken from a long distance, with telephoto lense, loose some of the sence of perspective.
"Telephoto lenses are best known for making distant objects appear larger"
Posted by Carl_P  on  Sat Dec 11, 2004  at  03:08 PM
If the planes are 750 feet apart, why do they have the same sized wheels? Could the wheels on the plane in teh foreground be *that* much smaller than the one behind it? I doubt it.
Posted by rasputin  on  Sun Dec 12, 2004  at  10:37 AM
After reading the comments and looking at the other links...I'd have to say the picture is real.
Posted by Maegan  on  Sun Dec 12, 2004  at  11:02 AM
Rasputin, the 747 in the background is about 50% longer than the 757 in the foreground. According to, the 757 is 47.3 meters long while the 747 is 70.7 meters long. The 757 really is that much smaller.
Posted by Matt  on  Mon Dec 13, 2004  at  10:44 AM
I think the wheels on the 747 in the back really are that much bigger. I know just from looking at 747's on the ground when I'm bored at airports that the wheels are almost as tall as a person... whereas I'm positive a 757's wheels would be much smaller because it's a much smaller, lighter plane.
Posted by Brian  on  Mon Dec 13, 2004  at  07:10 PM
750 feet??. Also the KLM plane is coming in to land with engine number 2 failure. Isn't that risky having one slightly broken plane landing at the same time as another plane??
Posted by K  on  Sat Dec 18, 2004  at  07:28 AM
This is definitely a real's a shot of what it would look like in-flight

Here's an airport overview of SFO so you can see what the runways look like first hand: URL (link) to this photo:

The Lufthansa 747 and the United 757 in the original photo would be landing on the two runways that run left to right across the screen and are partially cut off

Here's some other similar shots:

In summation: the photo is real, no ands ifs or buts about it
Posted by Greg  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  12:50 PM
100% real. I cannot help but laugh at people who haven't got a clue whatsoever about photography and then come rushing on a site like this claiming that it is fake.

How would you feel when you had invested thousands of dollars into photographic equipment, and when you finally managed to capture that moment that you have seen before, these people without a mere notion of how these things work come rushing into this, claiming that the shot is a fake. Gee thanks guys, thanks for the compliments.
Posted by Wietse de Graaf  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  05:09 PM
its real 100%. like others have said,telephoto lens do distort depth in a photo. the paralell runways at SFO are pretty close,but still a safe distance apart when 2 plane land like this. Its very common.Altough the second bad weather comes into the bay area, this operation cant happen.

You know your a great photographer when someone thinks your photos are fake 😉
Posted by stas babenko  on  Wed Jan 05, 2005  at  06:26 PM
To the people saying it could be real--has no one noticed that both planes seem to be missing their inner wings? Not to mention there's only one shadow from the right hand plane, on the tail wing of the larger plane, and it looks horribly sharp--too sharp to be real.
Posted by Breathe  on  Thu Jan 13, 2005  at  06:41 AM
Okay, looking at the picture, and reading over all the comments, I'm not quite sure how I stand. I'm teetering on the line, but am slightly more tilted towards fake.

I do photography as a side hobby, but also make many digital graphics, as well as doctored photos. I am not, however very familiar with airplains. The wheels, and the turbo-y things on each planes are the same size. As for the window counting thing...The windows are...Reaaalllly small...And..that's a little too much effort for me this late at night...Maybe I'll try counting and measuring those things when they make a ruler small enough.

Now, as a photographer I know about the illusions you get sometimes, and the whole depth perception bit...But something about the ay the planes layer each other bothers me...Plus, if you look at each plane seperately, the light hits at a slightly different angel on each plane. Not a huge difference, but big enough that they couldn't have been taken at the same time...

My gut tells me..."Fake":
Posted by PootPoot  on  Thu Jan 13, 2005  at  09:45 PM
After reading several informed responses, how could you still think it to be fake? We KNOW what the truth is, we told you and yet there are people who doubt this. Why?
Posted by Wietse de Graaf  on  Thu Jan 20, 2005  at  07:16 AM
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