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My first aircraft photos from Haneda Airport

I’ve been an aviation enthusiast for a very long time but have never photographed airliners.  It was time to rectify that.  Of course, I needed an airport.  Luckily, Tokyo has many of those.  The big question was, which one would I use?

JAL Boeing 777-346(ER) at gate

Well, half of them are on islands, which makes them hard for me to use!  That left me with three civilian ones within the metropolitan area.  The first was Narita International.  But, it was too far (in Chiba prefecture), and the cost of getting there was too high.  

Skymark Airlines Boeing 737-800 landing at Haneda Airport

Another was Chofu airport.  That was more attractive as it is only a few kilometers from home.  The catch was only light propeller aircraft use it.  I wanted to photograph large jet airliners, so it was out.

That left me with the last one, Haneda International.  Haneda has three terminals and isn’t too far from the city’s center.  All I needed to do was get to Hamamatsucho Station and catch the Tokyo Monorail.  As the trip would take me about an hour, it seemed the best choice.  And as this was my first time photographing aircraft, I didn’t want to invest a huge amount of time and money on travel.  

Skymark Airlines Boeing 737 Pokemon livery

Where is Haneda International Airport?

It is in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, and two train lines go there.  One is the Keikyu Line from Shinagawa.  The other is the Tokyo Monorail line from Hamamatsucho.

Here is a Google map:

Where is the best place to photograph there?

I used the observation deck of Terminal three.    

Japan Airlines Boeing 767

Tips for Haneda Airport photography

  • After 11 am, lighting conditions are said to be best.
  • The mesh fence has gaps for cameras.
  • Both long and short lenses are useful.
  • (According to research) more runways are available for photography than other terminals.
  • If you photograph from the roof of Terminal One, the aircraft will be backlit in the afternoon.
Japan Airlines passenger jet approaching Haneda Airport

What’s aircraft photography like there?

  • I photographed from the outside observation deck on the fifth floor.  It’s a good place as it is very spacious.  You will be under the sun, and that might be a problem on a hot summer day.  But, there are plenty of drink machines, tables, and chairs around.  If it did get too hot, you could always withdraw back into the airconditioned comfort of the terminal!
  • It was a good experience as a runway is right in front of you, with lots of aircraft all around.  Takeoffs and landings seemed to happen every few minutes.  There was enough action happening to keep my camera busy all afternoon.
  • One thing I enjoyed was the different liveries on each aircraft.  Some advertised Pokemon and others were in Olympic colors.  It was all good fun.
  • I encountered two problems there.  The first was due to obvious safety concerns; there is a barrier between yourself and the tarmac.  It is made of cables, with a roughly ten-centimeter gap between strands.  You won’t be able to squeeze your lens through, but it is enough to take photographs.  Any cables that entered my pictures, I cropped out.
  • The other problem was heat haze. I shot there on a hot summer day which compounded the exhaust put out by the jet engines.  That meant some objects in the background got obscured in the shimmering air.
  • And boarding gates are right under you, which means shorter lenses are useful.  But, for good takeoff and landing photos, longer lenses will be necessary.  The runways are a little far away.
Japan Airlines Airbus A350-900

What’s to photograph from the observation deck?

Other photo spots near Haneda Airport include:

Wrapping up

How was my first experience photographing aircraft at Haneda International Airport?  It was excellent.  I had a great afternoon.  It was fun to see so many different planes in their company colors.  And it was easy to get them in different situations (e.g., takeoff, landing, and on the apron).  Even dealing with the cable barrier wasn’t a burden.  For my first effort, I was satisfied. 

ANA jetliner approaching Haneda Airport

I’ll be doing this again for sure.  And the good thing is that this airport has two more terminals, one and two.  There are also Narita and Chofu airports to enjoy as well.

AIR DO Boeing 767-381 on Haneda airport runway

For more aviation articles, look at:

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