Photographing Planes at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport


Last week I took a two-day trip to Paris for research. I have already done posts about the elements that were related to my research in some way – my visit to the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France), my visit to the Concorde Memorials, and my visit to the Paris Catacombs. The visit to the Concorde Memorials was done on the final day, before flying back to the UK from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). Having a few hours to spare, I took advantage of the location and weather to get some photos of planes.

Taking photos of planes is one of my hobbies, but is something that I have done mostly in Japan (see this page for a list of places (with links to posts) where I have taken photographs of planes (not just in Japan), and also of the shinkansen. It’s not just a hobby, however, as, particularly when in Japan, I have used the photographs of planes and observations made at the time for my research on aviation and symbolism – see, for example, the discussions in Japan: The Basics and my publication ‘Contents Tourism in Plane Sight‘.

In terms of where I took the photos that you will see below, all of them were taken from the layby next to the Concorde Memorial. Most the time while I was there, there was a large lorry that partly blocked my view – but a small grass bank helped provide sufficient extra height to ensure that it wasn’t in the way that much. And, even after the lorry left, I found the angle was better from that point, so didn’t go back down to road level. I had originally planned on going to another popular spot, about 2km west of the memorial, but it looked like the car park spaces were all taken and, after being out in 35C heat for nearly three hours by this point, I was ready to go and have lunch. I suspect that other spot would have been good for getting some more side on views of planes taking off – and perhaps some larger planes than I saw as it would be next to the longer of the two runways shown in the map below.

As noted in my post my visit to the Concorde Memorials, there is also a Concorde on display at the airport, but other than that, there aren’t actually (apparently) many good photo spots in and around the airport, so the Concorde Memorial spot may be your best option if you plan to take photos yourself. There was one other spot that I went to, but I’ll get to that further down. For all of these photos I was using a camera with a 100-300m lens, sometimes using a digital zoom with it.

CDG is a busy airport
An easyJet plane on final approach

I had a few main observations while I was at this spot. First, I didn’t see any A380s or B747s – which was a shame – particularly B747s as they are my favourite plane (see, for example, Boeing 747 Model – Owning a part of an actual B747). Second, at the time, I thought that the majority of landings looked very smooth, judging by a lack of tyre smoke. It wasn’t until I got home and saw the photographs that I realised that there had been some tyre smoke (such as in the Air China landing above). Overall, though, whether it’s something about the tarmac at CDG or pilot skill, the majority of landings did look very smooth. I say majority as, third observation, was that there was one go-around. Nothing like when I saw a large number at Narita Airport (see Photographing Planes near Narita Airport) one time and much more unexpected since the weather seemed OK. I happened to have been taking quite a few photos of this plane, so here is an animation of what happened…

Having finished at this spot, I went and had lunch in Roissey-en-France. Roissey sits at the end of CDG, with traffic from two runways either side of it. I managed to get a few more shots before I finally got in my car to go to the airport itself.

Overall I found the area around CDG very good for photographing – but it does have the downside of needing a car to get to the sites.

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