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News & Insight

At The #1 Airport In The World For Photographers, Aircraft Look Like Shooting Stars & Fireflies

By Kishore Sawh on August 15th 2014


Air travel is so far removed from what it once was, that it’s now part of the lexicon of cliches for a modern world. You can’t really say it anymore without getting glares from people like me who have had their fill of top-of-the-pile platitudes. Yet, at the same time, I’ll still sympathize, because damn if it isn’t true. There’s a certain amount of fear when it comes to flying; there’s little comfort unless you’re willing to spend a pot of gold for your ticket; airport lounges are ill-equipped, and now there are even patent submissions to fit certain aircraft with semi-standing chairs, which are more stools. It’s bleak at best.

[REWIND: ‘Enter PyongYang’ | Walk Into North Korea Through This Hyperlapse Of Unprecented Access]


Speaking of platitudes, we are always told that it’s not about the destination, but the journey, and clearly modern airports and travel authority didn’t get the memo. There are a few airports though, that cling to the vestiges of the golden age of travel. Airports, like Singapore’s Changi. Voted Best Airport In The World by Skytrax, a company that rates airline and airport performance worldwide, it may also be the best airport in the world for photographers, inside and out on the tarmac as we’ll see in the video below.

Singapore, ‘The Garden City,’ keeps up with its moniker through its airport. There is a rooftop pool, a sunflower garden, and free charging stations where you can lock your device. There’s also a Social Tree in Terminal 1 which features 8 photo booths for capturing memories with photos and videos and have them archived permanently, and waiting for you or loved ones as they pass through even years from now. There’s also a butterfly garden with 47 species and over 1000 butterflies who have all become accustomed to people, and allow for close up inspection and photographs. And if all of that isn’t enough, there are the aircraft.

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One of the busiest airports in the world, and an international business hub, Changi is filled with ‘the heavies;’ big beautiful aircraft that come and go every minute. From Singapore Airlines’ flagship A380s, to British Airways’ iconic 747-400s, they are all here. Photographer Milton Tan, was fortunate enough to be granted access to restricted areas of the airfields to get this brilliant time-lapse where the planes, in keeping with the ‘Garden City’ theme, looks like fireflies all over the sky. (Top Gun reference therecatch it?). He’s even so close that you can see camera shake from engine vibrations at some points (2:13).

After having shot a time-lapse of aircraft at Changi Beach, he was contacted to shoot this one. It’s been featured on National Geographic, and probably more to come. You can find some behind the scenes info here, and see the original film on his vimeo. Also keep up with Tan at his Facebook and 500px.

Special thanks to John for bringing this to my attention.

Images are screen captures from Video above.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Michael Moe

    great pictures, great timelapse!

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  2. Isaak Kwok

    Lovely time-lapse!

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  3. Matthew Saville

    Looks like a pretty gorgeous airport to me!

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    • Stan Rogers

      As airports go, yes. But the words of Douglas Adams always bear repeating:

      “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the expression ‘as pretty as an airport’.

      Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort. This ugliness arises because airports are full of people who are tired, cross, and have just discovered that their luggage has landed in Murmansk (Murmansk airport is the only known exception to this otherwise infallible rule), and architects have on the whole tried to reflect this in their designs.

      They have sought to highlight the tiredness and crossness motif with brutal shapes and nerve jangling colours, to make effortless the business of separating the traveller for ever from his or her luggage or loved ones, to confuse the traveller with arrows that appear to point at the windows, distant tie racks, or the current position of Ursa Minor in the night sky, and wherever possible to expose the plumbing on the grounds that it is functional, and conceal the location of the departure gates, presumably on the grounds that they are not.” (From The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul)

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    • Matthew Saville


      Just sayin!

      Sure, airports might be ugly for the most part, as far as buildings go, but if you’re a plane spotter, well…

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