Photography at London Stansted

Twenty years ago Stansted was a sleepy airfield 35 miles out of London, but popular with enthusiasts none-the-less for its obscure charters and varied freight traffic. Two decades on, Stansted is London's third airport and the third busiest airport in the country, handling in excess of 20 million passengers each year. Of course, this growth can be largely attributed to low cost carriers which today account for most of Stansted's traffic. Sadly, the days of obscure charters are mostly gone, though freighters are still a common sight, as well as executive aircraft - big and small.

For a summary of all the photography locations described below, see the Google Map at the bottom of the page.

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Runway 22 - Approach Photos

The end of runway 22 offers good opportunities for photography throughout the day. The threshold area can be easily reached by following the perimeter road which runs north of the airport boundary, between the nearby villages of Takeley and Elsenham. If you are on foot, look out for the public bridleway which runs under the 22 approach, or if you are traveling by car, look out for the small lane signposted Greet Street. Both run to a small car parking area directly under the runway centreline. From around this area, photos from all sorts of perspectives can be taken, regardless of the season or time of day. Here's a selection of photos from the runway 22 end, all taken with a 70-300mm lens -

Runway 04 - Approach and Line-Up Photos

The end of runway 04 also offers good opportunities for photography. From the terminal roundabout, the southern end of the airfield can be reached by taking Coopers End Road down past the car rental buildings towards Endevour House. Then cross over Bassingbourn Road and take Long Border Road, past the Alpha catering buildings and earthworks, down towards the SR Technics Diamond Hanger. Past the Diamond Hangar, Long Border Road then takes you right down to the 04 threshold.

For photography in the morning, use the public footpath which runs alongside the road directly under the approach. For the late afternoon and evenings once the sun has moved round, just to the west of the centerline and opposite the entrance to the Hilton hotel is a mound of earth which offers a good view of the approach, as well as aircraft lining up at the end of 04. Note that car parking is not easy at this end of the airport, though the Hilton does offer spaces for a fee.

There is another, alternative location for approach photos a little further south of the aiport boundary along the old A120, now known as the B1256. If travelling from the the M11 motorway junction, look out for a derelict house on your right hand side, just past a cluster of garages and small industrial units. Behind the house is a large mound of earth with gives good views of the 04 approach, though sadly this location is suitable for morning photos only. For car parking, simply use the lay-by opposite.

Mid Runway Views

Perhaps the most popular stopping point for enthusiasts at Stansted is located just off the road which runs between the small village of Burton End and the hamlet of Tye Green to the west of the airfield. Approximately half way between the two, the road widens and straightens out, running parallel to the airport perimeter fence. If the weather is nice, a good indicator that you're in the right place will be the number of other cars parked along this stretch of the road! Just the other side of the hedge which borders the road is a raised bank which gives a good view of the runway, plus a half decent view of the terminal buildings. In terms of photography, this location is good for catching 04 departures - most of which are above the perimeter fence by this time. Those with stepladders, and thus able to get a clean view over the perimeter fence from the bank, will also be able to photograph most 22 and 04 arrivals too, with a 70-300mm lens providing you with all the reach required.

Unfortunately, this location is also just about as far away as you can get from the terminal building around the airport perimeter. It is easily accessible by car as outlined above, but must be a good hour to two hours walk from the terminal.

Google Map of Locations