Fans of photographing planes in El Prat change angles

Fans of photographing planes in El Prat change angles (because of the coronavirus)

Spotters move their usual location because of the pandemic, which has also led them to discover new aircraft

Barcelona Airport
Spotters portraying a plane in the parking lot of the Municipal Sailing Center of El Prat, one of its meeting points this strange summer (Montse Giralt)

Five people meet in the car park of the Municipal Sailing Centre of El Prat de Llobregat, next to Can Camins beach. They draw their cameras, armed with telephoto lenses. One of them consults the Flight radar application on a mobile phone and gives the warning: “In less than a minute, one will take off”, she exclaims. There is silence, and when the plane passes you can only hear the roar of the engine and the sound of the shutters. Click, click, click.

The shots follow one another rapidly, pointing to the sky. They twist the torso in sync, like a sunflower looking for the sun. But their aim is to catch the best shot of the steel bird. These are the spotters, the airplane photography fans.

“The Prat is one of the best airports for capturing images of planes. We even have our own towers to take the photos”, boasts Jorge Medina, who has been enjoying this hobby since 2009 and is a member of the Associació Spotters Barcelona airport El Prat, the only Catalan organisation dedicated to this subject, which currently has around one hundred members.

His passion is complicated by the fact that in El Prat there are 60% fewer aircraft circulating than in a normal summer

However, this summer 60% fewer planes are flying through Barcelona’s airfield than usual in the summer season because of the coronavirus pandemic and their routine has also been distorted. “It costs a lot more because there is less movement. Most national or European airlines based here. We come less”, says Jorge Lobo, another spotter . The Municipal Sailing Center was not a usual enclave for them, but in view of the decrease in the number of flights, the configuration of the airport runways is not the same as always and they must find other places. They have been forced to change their viewing angle.

But the pandemic has also brought them some positive surprises in the form of airplanes that are normally less visible and now somewhat more accessible. “We have seen more cargo planes and also private planes. But getting these pictures is also a matter of luck. It’s about being there at the right time. It happens like with the military, they don’t come out in the application,” confesses Lobo.

The hardest weeks were those of the confinement. “The worst thing was seeing very strange planes coming and not being able to photograph them. I found out that some Russian cargo planes landed,” laments Manuel González. The more strange the machine that is photographed, the more valuable the photo is, which is posted on websites specializing in this passion for the love of art. “I once flew a DHL plane that ate a bird and I caught the flash that hit it,” recalls Oscar Martinez, who has four hard disks full of images, with nostalgia.

In addition, the Open Day was also cancelled, the only day they can go inside the airport to enjoy their hobby. It was scheduled for April 19th. They doubt that it can be organized again, at least this year, in the current context.

Even so, many continue without missing their appointment, which for some is a daily one. “With the association it’s easier to meet other colleagues with whom you share a hobby,” says Tomás Méndez, who would like the other members to have some advantage when it comes to paying for parking. He is from El Prat and can park for free, but this is where people from various parts of Catalonia come in. Sometimes they also organize trips to other airports, such as Madrid airport Girona or Toulouse.

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