As I mentioned previously at this time (in 2018) I used to live in the UK. In February, I went back home to visit my family. Budapest is approximately 1600 km away from London, so the most reasonable solution for travelling is by plane. The main airport of the country is Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport.
I was so excited because never spotted planes in Hungary before. All I knew that the airport has two runways with directions 31 and 13 and that’s all. So after landing there I discovered the spotter places around the airport and took some shots from a few aircraft.
Therefore, I met with 2-3 local spotters, and they’ve invited me to join a night spotter tour. My reaction was something like this: “Wooow! It sounds good!” I was so happy, but after a few minutes, I realized that I’ve never done it before and don’t even know what to do! All I know that night photography is totally different from day photography, cause of lack of light conditions. Plus, if I want to take shots, I would definitely need a tripod what I don’t have. So, I’ve talked with the guys and luckily one of them lent me one of his tripods for the tour. On top of that, I didn’t even know how to set it up.
Like I said the tour was in February so it was very very cold, I can still remember! I had “only” one pair of gloves and I couldn’t feel my fingers at all, so one of the guys gave me his spare ones. We met at the parking place in front of the airport, and a bus took us around the airport.
I was listening about conversations between the spotters what settings are recommended for taking night shots. And to be honest, that really made me confused because I’ve heard at least 3-4 versions and didn’t know what to do. Which one is good for me? What is the difference between the settings? There wasn’t any time for explanations either. I felt really desperate and disappointed. I had to admit that I was wrong and night spotting tour is too hard for me yet. I’ve just started aviation photography about a month ago and now I am here and I don’t know anything about photography! I wanted to sink into the ground in shame, I wanted to go home. But I am not like this, I am not a person who gives up easily. I am already here, so let`s turn the situation around and bring out the best of it! If I can take at least one nice picture by the end of the day, I will be happy and satisfied.
First, we visited the cargo area where we had the opportunity to see how airport workers load the enormous Boeing 747-400F freighter. I took a few shots about the aircraft with different settings. I found it very useful that on the display of the camera I can check the image what I’ve taken. Obviously, I had to cancel lots of pictures, especially the blurry ones.
Then, we went to see the UPS and MNG cargo planes. I’ve set up my camera to take a shot with certain shutter speed and the aircraft suddenly started to move before the camera finished with the exposure. It was really annoying. (Now I understand why certain people use different settings.) After this experiment, I had to realize that it’s impossible to take shots from moving vehicles when it’s dark.
After the cargo area, we went to the other side of the airport, to see the commercial planes. At this area, we had better light conditions, so I’ve managed to take some nice shots with acceptable results. On that night we’ve seen Wizzair, Ryanair, Edelweiss and Aer Lingus commercial planes.
The last part of our trip was on that side of the airport where there isn’t any light at all, so we took some light sources to illuminate the disassembled wreckage of a Boeing 767-200 (HA-LHB). This aircraft used to belong to Malév Hungarian Airlines and was a former flagship between 1993-2008. Then, she’s been towed and placed on a remote part of the airport and been scrapped in 2013. Rest in peace “old” lady! As I said it was too dark in this place, so the autofocus of the camera didn’t work. It was impossible to get a focus at all, even through the viewfinder. That’s why I used a live view mode for other spotter’s recommendation. Thanks to them, I was able to find focus and finally took some shots.
When the tour finished, I went home quickly and transferred the pictures to my computer. I couldn’t believe in my eyes, but I’ve found a few usable pictures. I didn’t want to believe it!
Also learned a lot today:
- When don’t know what to do, get prepared and google it before!
- A good tripod is mandatory for night photography! It will help steady the camera and ensure sharp pictures.
- At night time we need to use longer exposure times because less light is reaching the sensor.
- Static aircraft stands still, so it doesn’t matter how long the exposure is.
- To capture a moving aircraft at night time is very difficult, better to forget about it at the beginning.
- The biggest challenge is to stabilize the camera, as it picks up the tiniest shaking like the wind, even the smallest movements, etc.
- Using live view mode helps find focus better when shooting from a tripod.