November 26, 2007

Journey of a Thousand Photos

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Written by: Tom Alfano

Tom AlfanoEver since I can remember I have enjoyed planes. I love watching them, hearing them, flying in them (obviously) and at one point in my life I started taking pictures of them. I remember clearly the first picture I took of a plane: It was an Eastern Airlines 727 at Islip MacArthur Airport. I was 10 years old at the time traveling to Disney World with my mother. I’m not sure what possessed me but I stopped, took out the camera my uncle gave me for my birthday, and snapped a picture of the nose of that 727. In fact, it was one of the first photos I ever uploaded to many years ago. I look at that photo today and for me it’s not just a photo of an Eastern Airlines 727, but it’s a memory. It’s a memory of a journey that made me laugh and smile.

photo by tom alfano
(Photograph by Tom Alfano)

Recently I’ve added my 1,000th photo to Jetphoto’s database of plane pictures and I took the advice of a friend who told me to step back. Step back and think about why I partake in this hobby so I can rediscover its enjoyment. What I learned is is that it’s not about the photos or who sees them, but its about the journey along the way and the memories that I’ve made along that path.

If I look back around my 100th picture, it tells me about the first of many times Fred Miller dragged me out at some ungodly hour. Fred may keep you out until 3A.M. on a work night, but you’re damn sure going to remember it for years to come.

Or my 200th photo, which was the first time I ever spotted at JFK and LGA and met many of the NYC spotters that I spot with today.

photo by tom alfano
(Photograph by Tom Alfano)

And how can I forget my 400th photo, when I went with my best friend to LAX for the first time.

With each photo and each milestone there’s a memory that goes along with the it, each one unique in its own way.

Along this journey the one thing that stands out most in my mind is the people I’ve meet but more importantly the friends that I’ve made. In many ways when I go out spotting it’s not even about the planes, it’s about a group of good friends getting together, sharing stories, laughing, and enjoying a common interest. I never thought in my entire life that I would meet people from all around the world and have them invite me into their homes. I’ve meet people like Paul Massey and his family from Great Britain. I met a highly talented photographer from Austria by the name of Florian Trojer and an Australian named Monty, who when you talk to him, you need a translator for all but one of the words he speaks. In addition to the folks I’ve met from France, Germany, Columbia, Singapore, Egypt, and a few other countries that slip my mind at the moment, and that’s not to mention that I think I know or have become friends with a spotter in just about every state in our great Union.

photo by tom alfano
(Photograph by Tom Alfano)

Sometimes we forgot those things that I’ve mentioned, getting so wrapped up in mundane nonsense that we lose sight of why we do this. It’s not about the views, it’s not about your name in lights on some homepage, and it’s not about which website is better than the other one. It is about the memories we make along the way and the joy those memories provide us. I had to be reminded of that this past week and I’m glad I was. I’m glad the person who reminded me of this was someone I met along this journey of 1,000 photos because he’s been a huge part of the laughter, excitement, and fun behind a lot of my photos and without his friendship and guidance I don’t think the photo I chose as my 1,000th would have been for the most sincere reasons.

photo by tom alfano
(Photograph by Tom Alfano: #1,000!)

My 1,000th photo isn’t going to be a “Screener’s Choice,” a “Top of the Day,” or even a “Photographers’ Choice”. My 1,000th photo is simply a photo that I like, a photo that I’ll look at 20 years from now and remember the amazing conversation I had with a pilot who’s flown for over 50 years and in the short period of time I spent with him, he made me smile and remember why I love aviation as much as I do. I hope the journey to the next 1,000 is just as exciting and I truly hope that your journey is as rewarding as mine has been.

About the Author

Tom Alfano



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