The winner of Heathrow Airport’s May #AvGeek of the Month is James Mellon.
James (AKA AviaColour) has travelled across the world in pursuit of photographing aircraft, but is most frequently found here at Heathrow.
We caught up with James to find out about his interest in aviation and shared a selection of his best Heathrow photos, enjoy!
Name: James Mellon
Location: Hertfordshire, England
Aviation enthusiast, spotter or photographer? Or all 3? All 3
What first interested you in aviation?
My Father took me to Luton Airport from a very young age. The sights and sounds of the aircraft were fascinating to me, and I was hooked. On special occasions I was taken to Heathrow, where we enjoyed the views from the visitors terrace on top of the old Terminal Two. The airport was so busy, there were aircraft everywhere. DC-9’s, 727’s, Concorde. Operated by airlines from across the world wearing colourful liveries and logos that I began to memorise. The experience from that vantage point, right in the middle of the action, ignited something within me. I soon knew that I wanted to grow up to be involved in all of this, somehow.
Check out a selection of James’ best shots at Heathrow Airport!
What do you love most about coming to Heathrow?
Nowadays I work right beside Heathrow (so I visit more frequently than when I was five years old!) I love many of the same things that excited me 30 years ago. It’s a very busy airport with almost constant movements, flown by a variety of airlines from across the world, some wearing colourful liveries. We also get to see aircraft wearing special liveries. I love to photograph these as many are unique, colourful designs, and some are worn on the aircraft for only a short period of time.
I like to see aircraft of all shapes and sizes, but the vast number of widebody jets present at Heathrow is staggering. It’s also a good place to see aircraft perform a banking manoeuvre shortly after take-off, turning left or right to head in the direction of their destination. It’s a particularly impressive sight when performed by a widebody, and the abundance of Boeing 747’s and Airbus A380’s here allow for some great photo opportunities.
Favourite aircraft livery at Heathrow?
The British Airways ‘Landor’ Boeing 747-400. It’s the one of BA’s four retro liveried aircraft which excites me the most, as it evokes memories of my earliest visits to Heathrow in the late eighties and nineties. This was the livery and brand identity used by BA during that period, designed by London-based agency Landor Associates.
Favourite fact about a particular aircraft? (or aviation?)
The General Electric GE90 is the world’s most powerful turbofan engine. The largest variant to date is rated to produce up to 115,300 lbf of thrust. For comparison, one GE90 has approximately the same amount of thrust as all four engines powering an Airbus A340-300. The GE90 was designed specifically for the Boeing 777, and dozens of GE90 powered 777’s can be seen and heard at Heathrow every day.
Social media accounts?
Flickr – jamesmellon
This is the primary location for my photos, with regular uploads of aircraft I’ve seen on my travels.
Twitter – AviaColour
Occasional tweets with photos, the vast majority taken at Heathrow.
Instagram – aviacolour
I’ve only just joined Instagram so I don’t have any followers! I’ll begin to use it if people would like to see my photos there!
Any tips for other #AvGeeks?
- Use a flight tracking app to help locate and identify aircraft. FlightRadar24 and Plane Finder are the preferred choices. Having an app to hand helps you track aircraft you wish to photograph while out at an airport, but it’s also useful if you wish to test your aircraft recognition skills when you see something fly overhead.
- Never forget, there are no set rules to aviation photography. Do whatever feels right and makes you happy from the photos you’ve caught. I’m happiest when taking photos during sunny weather, when the sun is at a good angle to illuminate the side of aircraft. Since I adopted this style I have taken more photos that I am happy with, and are the ones I prefer to share with the world. If you wish to emulate this, my tips are.
- Visit the airport when the weather is good, and while the sun is low in the sky. It may be cold in winter, but you can shoot all day and come away with some amazing photos. Summer days are longer, but the sun is lower for only the first few and last few hours of the day. Go out for shorter photo sessions in the mornings and evenings.
- Always keep the sun behind you. Give your neck a suntan (don’t forget the sun cream and a hat!).
- If you can acquire a DSLR camera this will be ideal. Entry level body and lens combinations can deliver fantastic results. Take time to learn what you can do with them, and I hope you enjoy the photos you catch with them.
- Not all of the aircraft in the world come to you. You have to go out into the world and find the ones you want to see. Just don’t forget to see the world while you are at it, it’s an amazing place!
- Stay in the know, keep up-to-date with what is going on in the airline industry. Find out what is happening at different airlines. Are they acquiring new aircraft, retiring old aircraft, starting new routes, introducing a new livery? New start-up airlines, perhaps you could spot them in future? How about airports developing new infrastructure.
- Take time to read the news, little and often. I’d recommend www.flightglobal.com. Over time your industry knowledge can become a powerful asset, not just to you as an avgeek, but particularly if you wish to work in the aviation industry too.