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17 January 2012

Interview with Tim de Groot

Tim de Groot, photographer of AirTeamImages, is probably one of the most aesthetic photographers in the aviation photo community. With his well-composed pictures he shows that all aviation photos does not have to look the same.

Tim de Groot began to develop his interest in aviation photography through his father, Peter de Groot, who started out in the early 1970’s.
– He gave me his old Praktica camera when I was about 9 or 10, Tim remembers. It was all manual and he taught me the basics of photography.
As his interest in aviation and photography grew, he eventually bought his own gear and father and son de Groot took some trips together to various European and American airports to shoot.

Most aviation photos today follow the standards set by sites like, with the plane centered and often shot straight from the side. Tim de Groot however shows a talent in composition and aesthetics, something that is rather rare for this genre.
Tim tells us that when digital photography became popular, he became more driven to be creative. He started to feel that it is important that the photo is interesting and this is something he still is trying to accomplish when he shoot.
– Aviation has almost become secondary to the photography part. I don't really care whether I see aircraft X or Y, but more about how I can capture it in an aesthetically pleasing way, he explains.

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A KLM 747 heading out from Amsterdam Schiphol generates colourful vapor in 2009.

The given question is if he ever studied photography or art, or if he simply is born with ”the gift”. But he has never taken a photography course and says that his artistic approach has been developed over many years of being out shooting. And by looking at pictures taken by others he has also picked up inspiration.
– The Internet has helped in my development. There are so many inspirational photos available online these days. It has been and still is a great learning tool for me.

But great photos don’t take themselves. To Tim great photos are all about the light, and on hazy or overcast days he rarely head out to the airport at all. But on days with more extreme weather, the opportunities might open up.
– I love aircraft reversing on wet runways or cutting through cloud formations. You don't get to see stuff like that on perfect blue-sky days, he says.
– I'm often at the airport at times when other photographers prefer to stay at home.

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A dramatic sun face this KLM 747 as it's about to touch down on Amsterdam Schiphol in 2011.

When it comes to camera gear, Tim de Groot is a Canon user. His father used Canon gear and it was practical for Tim to use the same system. By doing this he could borrow his fathers L-lenses when he couldn’t afford his own.
Now he has his own EF 300/2.8L IS that he use when he is out shooting around airports. By using extenders on a prime lens like the 300mm he can get in really close on details, such as landing gears, with good quality. On most of his close-ups he use an equivalent focal length of 600mm.
So what camera body goes with this set-up?
– I use a relatively old 40D but do not see an immediate reason to upgrade. I'm not one to buy a new camera every year, he explains.

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Tim de Groot sometimes get in real close on details, like the main gear on this KLM 747. The photo was taken at Amsterdam Schiphol in 2011.

In The Netherlands and in Germany flight spotting and aviation photography are big hobbies and it’s common to meet other photographers around the airports in Europe. We ask Tim why he thinks the spotting culture is so big in Europe.
– I am not sure, but one of the reasons must be the easy access to good spotting locations, Tim tells us. He gives Amsterdam Schiphol as an example with almost no fences and bike lanes running around the airport next to the runways.
– Also the police are fairly tolerant of spotting here, especially when compared to other countries. I think that helps.

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Wide angle shot of a Malaysia Airlines 747 on final for Amsterdam Schiphol in 2008.

Tim de Groot is an experienced photographer and we are curious on what he think has made him the photographer he is today. One key thing, he think, is learning from other photographers, like he did from his father for example. He also mentions Joe Pries, another well-known aviation photographer, as a person who thought him a lot.
Tim also shares some wise words for those who are fairly new and want to take their aviation photography further.
– If you are starting out and want to get better, my tip would be to start with the basics. Don't go out and buy all the fancy gear when you can't even explain the basics of photography.
– And of course, practice, practice and practice some more and try to learn from those who are more experienced, he ads.

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The belly of this KLM 777 was captured in golden light on Amsterdam Schiphol in 2011 as it was departing.

When Tim is not hanging around the fences of an airport he spend most of his time working for an American IT company. When he has free time he enjoys travelling, often combined with photography, running, movies and music.
He has no ambitions of making a living out of his photography, but on occasion he has done a few photo assignments.
– I don't do any commercial work, but I have shot a few weddings. It is something I really enjoy and have gotten quite good at as well, he tells us, but adds that photography purely is a hobby for him.

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A well-composed shot of a KLM 737 on it's way in to Amsterdam Schiphol in 2011.

As our final question we wanted to know what Tim finds to be the most fun about being an aviation photographer. For him the most fun and the reason why it never gets boring, is that there always is a new challenge to tackle. These challenges can be to visit a new airport, find new locations to shoot from or catch a rare aircraft. And since Tim de Groot is keen to get that special angle and composition, he always looks for it.
– Trying to get different shots that no one else has thought of is one of my drivers.

Thanks to Tim de Groot for participating in this interview! If you want to see more of his photos, have a look in Tim's gallery on

All photos © Tim de Groot.

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Jonas Herjeby
Ostersund Photography

Simon Brygg
Ostersund Photography

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