Haneda Airport: My first aircraft photos

It was time for me to go to Haneda Airport. Why? 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, why did I choose it?

Well, Tokyo has many airports but half of them are on islands, which makes them hard to get to! 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.

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.

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. Click here to see it on Google Maps.

Where did I photograph?

I used the observation deck of Terminal three.

Tips for Haneda Airport Photography

  • After 11 a.m., lighting conditions are said to be best.
  • The fences are mesh, but there are gaps for cameras.
  • Both long and short lenses are useful.
  • (According to research) more runways are visible from this location than at other terminals. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
  • If you photograph from Terminal One, the aircraft will be backlit in the afternoon.

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 got too hot, you could always return to the air-conditioned 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 good fun.

I encountered two problems at Haneda Airport. 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. I cropped out any cables that entered my pictures.

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.

Photo spots near Haneda Airport:

Wrapping up

How was my first experience photographing aircraft at Haneda Airport? It was excellent. I had a great afternoon.  It was fun to see so many 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.

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.

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