Upon seeing these images, a friend asked how long I had waited for that light. My response was "Yea, sure...waited for days!" Well, we did in a way, because this was just after the torrential rains that we had this fall in Atlanta. The Chattahoochee River is just behind the far trees in the background, and was still very much above flood stage.
In actuality, we'd been inside the hangar shooting interiors all day, and right about 1800 we moved outside. The tug driver asked me where I wanted it, and I positioned it in relation to the background elements, which I was trying to minimize. Off to the right, planes were parked on the far ramp, with several FBO buildings in the background. I usually like my shots very simple, so that the eye doesn't really have much of a chance to wander from the primary subject. It just seems "stronger" to me in that way, and many of the images that I like, whether they be portraits, still life, or aircraft, have that common theme. It wasn't too difficult to remove the offending objects, and I think it looks much better because of it.
The original shot is below, followed by the retouched image. I'm sure you can see the difference. And to answer your original question...once the aircraft was positioned, it just so happened that the light from the setting sun came right in between the hangar and the fuel storage area. I was smart/experienced/wise enough to position it so that the light would "rake" down the side of the fuselage, and in fact had that in mind when I asked him to park it there. We just got lucky on how well it all worked out, as I had never shot at this location before. And when the sun is going down, you literally only have minutes to work. So once the light started getting "good", I shot like a mad man for about five minutes, and then it was over…like a lot of other things in life.
I try not to go "overboard" with the retouching, as it can quickly get to the point where it looks "artificial". Marks on the ramp are a fact of aviation life, and I generally don't do much to retouch out what others might consider to be "extraneous stuff". Some of it adds character, and of course trash is never welcome.
One of my other favorites, with the light going almost directly into the intake. No artificial lighting here! Fortunately it was nice and diffused, so it wasn't too "harsh".
And the final shot, which is typical of aviation marketplace advertising...
For my money, I think the natural light shot is more effective, and more striking. So, there you have it. A full day in the hangar and on the ramp, making images. Enjoy!