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28 August 2011

Interview with Sam Chui

Sam Chui is a well-known name in the aviation photography community. With over 4,000 photos in the database from all around the world and from all possible angles, he is indeed an interesting person. Ostersund Photography took the opportunity to get to know him better.

Sam has been photographing for quite some time and he got his interest in aviation early.
- I grew up in Hong Kong and frequently visited Kai Tak airport when I was young. You could easily see planes over the city and in the skyline everyday. I went to watch the planes after school on a regular basis.
He tells us he flew on a Boeing 747 with United Airlines when he was 12 years old on his first trip to USA. Since then he loves civil aviation.

The interest in aviation photography and obvious talent for it has given him opportunities to do assignments and have his photos published. But Sam does not think of his photography as work.
- This is a hobby for me, as always, and I don’t do any assignments deliberately. I have to be interested and I don't make money out of this.
Still, he is a frequently hired photographer and by practicing his photography he has built an impressive contact network over time.
- I was fortunate to meet some of the industrial journalist initially and they introduced me to contacts at airports, airlines and officials etc, which helped me to build connections to carry out my passion of spotting. Eventually people know you and you build up more contacts.

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Shot from the air over Los Angeles in 2010.

Sam is currently using a Nikon D300 when he is shooting and Nikon has always been his choice.
- I chose Nikon at the time when there was no digital cameras and when the Nikon F5 was the best
SLR camera for slides and film. Since then I have been using Nikon’s system.

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Dramatic scenery in Lukla, Nepal in 2011.

While most of us stay on the ground, trying to get a clear view over fences and other obstacles, Sam Chui join the planes in the air. According to us, some of his greatest shots are his air-to-air photos from Los Angeles. He tells us how he conducts a shoot like that, something that takes a lot of planning to avoid mistakes.
- This is made possible through approval from the Air Traffic Control, arrangements with a good helicopter pilot, understanding the aerospace and with clear and precise communication, he explains.
But Los Angeles is only one of all the destinations he has visited. He has covered most of USA and paid a lot of visits to the Asian-Pacific countries and Australia. He is a big fan of traveling, even outside his aviation photography interest, and enjoys trying out different airlines and meeting people and friends from other cultures.
- Every country is unique. The most interesting countries are the ones we don’t know so much about, Sam says.

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Approaching Quito, Ecuador shot from cockpit in 2006.

As a traveler and photographer you experience a lot and for Sam Chui there is no exception. He tells us about one specific feeling.
- It is always exciting when you stand next to the runway photographing a fully loaded Boeing 747 rotating just in front of you. The following second the jet blast will hit you and you have to escape and hide.
His years of travel and taking photos have not only led to his many photos on the Internet. A couple of years ago he published his first book with some of his photos from all around the world. The book, titled Air, is doing very well and we can expect the next one in July 2012. This means he will get even more attention worldwide and the possibility to develop his hobby as an aviation photographer further. He believes that being consistent, motivated and keeping up to date is the key to progress.
- Aviation and photography keep evolving, I have to do the same to keep pace with the development.

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Heavy departure from Los Angeles in 2005.

Our last question to Sam Chui was what he thought was the most fun thing about being an aviation photographer. To this he replied that there is a lot of fun about the travelling, planning trips and meeting different people.
- But nothing is as satisfying as getting the plane you want and photograph it in the best condition possible smooth like charms, he says.

See more of Sam Chui on and Sam's gallery on

Thanks to Sam Chui for participating in this interview!

All photos © Sam Chui.

This was the first interview of an aviation photographer in our upcoming series of interviews. Check back for more on the website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jonas Herjeby
Ostersund Photography

Simon Brygg
Ostersund Photography

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