An excited group of plane spotters has gathered under the light boards of Terminal 2 at Helsinki Airport. The air is filled with suspense.
Totte Välkki, Elias Hadjari and Aleksi Hämäläinen, the winners of the Plane Spotters Dream Day contest, have arrived at the airport with their spotter friends. The youngest of the visitors are in secondary school, the oldest are in their twenties.
The equipment reveals that these are no first-timers: today is about photography, not snapshots.
Planes up close and from a bird's-eye view
During the Dream Day, the spotters get to visit a number of places not usually accessible to visitors, such as the control tower and the Finnair hangar. Although photography is not allowed in the airplane service hall, many photographers consider their visit a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
– It was amazing to see a new and shiny A350 closer than ever before, says a smiling Mikko Heimo, a friend of Hämäläinen.
The car carrying the participants on the apron stops whenever the photographers spot something interesting. At times, the entire group is squatting in a row; at other times, everyone is looking for the perfect angle from different sides of the plane. One is peeking behind the tyres, another is zooming around under the wing...
It's all in the atmosphere and angle
As cloudy weather comes up in the conversation often over the course of the day, it becomes clear that weather plays a significant role in the quality of the photos. Now that we have gathered together a group of experts, it’s time to find out what other ingredients make up the recipe for a perfect airplane photo.
– Above all else, the photo must deliver a positive feeling to the viewer. The photo should be packed with action, says Heimo.
The colouring of the plane is also important.
– Airlines have special colours or livery. They always yield more interesting photos than the usual, white planes, says Jon Ekman, a friend of Hadjari.
In addition to the atmosphere, people are fascinated by peculiarities. The photographers agree that rare planes combined with surprising angles are the keys to a successful shot.
– When, for example, sunlight hits the side of the plane beautifully from below and you're able to capture it from an interesting angle, the photo is bound to look great, says Hadjari enthusiastically.
Shared joy is a thousand times more fun
Despite the independent nature of photography, spotting and taking pictures of planes is, above all else, a social activity. Just as with today, enthusiasts often take a friend along on photography trips.
The social aspect is highlighted in social media. Most airplane spotters share their pictures on their Instagram accounts, etc., with hashtags such as #HELspotting. Many spotters who took part in the contest have hundreds, if not thousands, of followers.
The accounts of other photographers are also actively followed. By following the photography community, it’s easy to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the field. The pictures also provide inspiration for your own hobby.
– I follow a number of other spotters because the photos they publish are great, says Välkki.
Otto Rajasalo, a photographer friend of Totte, agrees.
– I think many of the participants in this contest would have deserved to be among the winners!
Are you interested in airplane spotting?
Learn about the best spotting places at Helsinki Airport and share your photos on Instagram with the hashtag #HELspotting!