“Aviation Photography”… Where will it take you?

Here at yourHeathrow we love everything aviation related…but we’re not the only ones. Gary Claridge-King is an experienced aviation enthusiast and contributor to the Airliners.net site, so we asked him to share his insights into aviation photography. Enjoy!


The aviation passion…

For many the journey starts off at a very young age with a family trip to a major airshow like RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) or Farnborough International airshow. Once bitten, the aviation bug stays and most dream of being a pilot. For the lucky few the dreams become reality, as for the rest the dreams become passion and an obsession that lasts a life time.

Spotters, photographers, enthusiasts, ‘AV geeks’ are just a few names we are called. Regardless of the title, we all share a common love of the industry and we’re proud of it.

The road we follow can be long and frustrating, but you will meet lots of new people and make lots of new friends who are just as passionate.

Why get involved in aviation photography?

Aviation Photography is an exciting hobby to embark on. It’s time consuming and can involve lots of foreign travel to beautiful sunny locations or conversely, many long cold hours at an airport in winter. The main thing is that it’s very rewarding when all comes together.

Some people will photograph everything, but others will stick to military, civil, light aircraft or bizjets. I would advise newcomers to have a go at every type as it allows you to expand your horizons and improve your photography skills.

At some point in your journey, you might have a unique image that a group like Key Publishing would be interested in buying from you and publishing. Talking of sun, sun can give nice light, but fog, rain or dark clouds can make images very dramatic so don’t worry about the weather.


My key tips for those starting out:

Start off slowly by visiting your local airfield, and don’t invest in expensive equipment like DSLR cameras until you are sure that this is the right hobby for you. You will need some photo editing software and a work flow for effective editing.

Do your homework. The internet is full of useful tips and photography advice, one of the world’s biggest Aircraft Photograph Databases – Airliners.net has dedicated forums to help people with the hobby, lots of useful threads on editing and where to go to get up close and personal with aircraft.

Join spotter group email lists. Many airports have spotters groups that produce either email lists or Facebook groups that provide lists of what’s due and when at each airport. There are also a few ‘virtual radar’ sites that you can filter down by arrivals.

Keep your ears and eyes open for organised ramp tours and base tours. These normally fill up very fast as there is nothing more rewarding that being able to get airside at an airport for photography. The tour organisers normally get you up close to an active taxiway or runway, as well as step on step off bus trips to aircraft on the gate/stands.


What does the future hold for aviation photographers and enthusiasts?

As we look to the future more and more airports are asking members of the Aviation Community to join them in partnership to help make their airport the premier place to go to ‘spot/photograph’. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Tokyo, Dallas Fort Worth and Manchester are just a few that offer seated spots close to the action.

Some airports have been slow to follow suit, but are slowly working with the community to make our hobby/obsession more enjoyable.

One of the latest airports to take an active look at the aviation community and its ideas for the future is London Heathrow. Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited recently invited some members of the aviation community to spend an afternoon with them with the feedback from both sides is very positive.

Heathrow is already in the top three most visited airports for ‘AV Geeks’, and that’s without any dedicated photography locations provided by the airport. We have been told that something new and exciting is coming soon for aviation enthusiasts at the airport so we look forward to finding out what that is.


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