Thoughts on Five Hundred

On Saturday, I had my 500th photo accepted on airliners.net. I was very lucky to have it come up as #1 of the Day for several hours on Sunday, something that happens very rarely for me. It’s also probably unusual to have two milestones in the span of a week (1 million hits and X number of photos).

I think the thing that’s the most important core of airliners.net is not really how many photos we have or how many hits they get. What really matters is the friendships and personal relationships that grow out of a common interest.

I first started looking at airliners.net back in 2003 or so, when I saw photos linked from Patrick Smith’s Ask the Pilot column. I liked seeing if someone caught a picture of the plane I was on when I traveled. I never really thought about contributing at that time because I only owned a small point-n-shoot digital and I couldn’t really afford to spend tons of money on slide film for my ancient Yashica camera. So I contented myself to simply checking in once in a while.

As time went on, I really started discovering the wealth of great photographs tucked away there. I started following what went on with airports local to me. As a lifelong (at the time) resident of Western Massachusetts, I keenly tracked all of the new photos at Bradley and Albany. But I didn’t really start getting into it then either, because I was completely involved with another less glamorous type of photography – road signs.

It took me till 2006, when I finally bought a modern digital SLR camera (Minolta Maxxum 5D) that I really started getting into watching planes as something more than a curiosity. I’d always enjoyed airplanes and aviation, but never seriously. I also had no real idea how this website worked, and quickly learned.

The past four years have seen a lot of change on a.net – the founder selling it to a large company, people coming and going, and even some tragedy here and there with the sad passing of Paulo. Though Paulo and I didn’t agree on everything, he was cordial to me both in public and in PMs. It really made me reconsider what the important thing about all the time and effort we put into this. It’s about the people, even ones we argue with and have differing opinions. It’s about running into new folk at the watching areas and sharing the tales about the 747 that you weren’t expecting came in and surprised you. It’s about the thrill of hearing an unusual callsign on the radio to find a hulking Antonov ready to depart. It’s about traveling to new and exciting places and seeing what may be mundane for the locals but completely new and exciting to you.

I’ve met JohnJ and his wonderful family. John and Paul Leach are the two guys that really inspired me to start taking this seriously with what they posted from BDL. I’ve made great friendships with Tony Printezis and Ron Stella. I’ve given guided tours to BOS with guys like Stefan Sonnenberg, Florian Kondziela, and Florian Trojer and learned from their expertise, as well as their knowledge of the Euro zone. The guys up in Montreal were super welcoming to me when they could have simply ignored a foreigner way out of his element. Gerry Isaacson gave me some pointers on getting my first private jets done when a lesser man would have just ignored me. The countless PMs to and from people about individual shots and congratulations. It’s all about the common thread of helping one another and bringing together birds of a feather – and that’s what really makes this place great.

This might seem like just a lot of words, but I’m really thankful for what’s grown out of contributing to a website about hulking mechanical beasts that the general public sees little more than excuses for airlines to gouge and security to manhandle them. There’s more to airplanes than just getting from point A to point B, and more to airliners.net than just photographs. Sometimes in the rush for numbers and “medals” and milestones, we might forget that. So a hearty thank you goes out to the friends and colleagues here at airliners, for without them, I wouldn’t be doing any of this.

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