Photographers keep a close eye on the planes at Chek Lap Kok

It may not be as exciting as Kai Tak, but photographers remain happy at Chek Lap Kok

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 August, 2013, 3:33am

It wasn't hard for plane spotters to get their kicks back in the days when the airport was at Kai Tak. Getting to urban east Kowloon was easy, and once there, all they had to do was go to the airport car park and point their cameras to the skies. As the sun shifted, they would move to the balcony of a nearby high-rise and keep shooting away.

Then there were the shots to be had of planes skimming the rooftops as they came in to land. So popular was the rooftop of one Kowloon City silk shop that the owner set up a scanner there and sold T-shirts, postcards and even "near-miss" certificates to those who trekked up the five floors of steps to reach the desired vantage point.

Today, with the airport at Chek Lap Kok, just getting there requires a 34-kilometre trip from Central, and the backdrop to their photos is entirely different. But plane spotting is alive and well in the city, with the Association of Hong Kong Aviation Photographers celebrating its first anniversary this month.

The association's 17 members use freely accessible spotting locations at Chek Lap Kok. "We use public locations but have also been allowed by the Airport Authority to take photographs in other areas within the airport. We always act responsibly so there is never an issue," said association president Paul Chow.

"We just have a passion for this. It is like trainspotting, in that we know the registrations and types of planes that come and go. We just have a love for aviation," he said.

For 31-year-old teacher Mohit Purswani, plane spotting is a way of relaxing.

"It becomes a social occasion as you meet others who share the same interests as you. We host other plane spotters from other countries and they return the favour," he said.

Members are always on the lookout for planes with special insignias or advertising.

"Some of the best was when the film Lord of the Rings was being promoted by Air New Zealand on its planes or when Dragonair painted its planes to celebrate its 25th anniversary," said Christian Junker, 40, general manager of a Swiss company.

That's one aspect of the hobby that's more fun than in the old days, when then-plane spotter Colin Parker complained to the South China Morning Post: "For me, it has become boring. You just keep seeing Cathay Pacific. I don't really ever see much that is new."