Disclaimer! With today's heightened airport security, particularly in the United States, spotting and aviation photography is viewed as a suspicious activity and may result in the spotters/photographers being approached and questioned by local and airport authorities. The information presented on Photovation's spotting pages represents legal activities at the time we spotted at the subject airport, however, there is no guarantee you will not be stopped, questioned and told to leave or worse. Your decision to visit these areas is your own free choice and whatever happens is your responsibility. We advise you to stay within the letter of the law and act responsibly so we can continue to enjoy our sport freely.

John F. Kennedy International Airport - JFK

Last visited: Local airport visited frequently.

Due to the large number of requests we receive asking our favorite spotting locations at JFK it's impossible to answer each one personally. Forgive us, but the time required is enormous and you know there's never enough time. Hopefully this page answers your questions and provides you with the information needed to spot/photograph at JFK.

The information below, in combination with a good detail map of New York City, should enable you to locate the spots we use for our photography most often. Samples of photos we've taken from those spots with the lens mm settings are shown to give you some idea as to the focal length needed for that aircraft type at that location. There are, of course, more areas on and around airport property you can discover by just driving around. Considering today's high security and the jitters around our airports I'm hesitant to list spots when I know the authorities will ask you to leave. Sorry, but there's nothing I can do about that. Perhaps in better times.

A basic map just to give you an idea of the layout and locations for
spotting at JFK. If you are driving I would suggest you purchase a
detailed New York City map and refer to it and not this map.

Recommended locations for active runways:

04s: Spot F (good in the morning till about Noon) is good for inbounds to 04R. You can also shoot departures in position on 04L with a long lens.

31L departures: Spot A preferred and B. Spot A is what we call Howard Beach. Located just after you cross the bridge on Cross Bay Blvd. you can shoot departures on 31L the entire day. Depending on conditions the aircraft can be anywhere from in front, overhead or behind. Depends on when they rotate and how heavy they are. Spot B, another park across the bay from Spot A, is good in the morning and late afternoon, however, many aircraft will be either overhead or behind you. Heavies are good from this location generally.

31R arrivals: Spot E (best in the afternoon)

22L and 13L arrivals: Spot D (what we call the Mounds) for 22L. (best in the afternoon) They almost always use these two runways simultaneously. Normally 22L will get the European traffic and 13L the domestic and traffic arriving from the west. Spot C for 13L arrivals. If you visit the Mounds check yourself after leaving for ticks. They are common because of the tall weeds.

13R arrivals: Spot B may be good, not sure. Used occasionally for arrivals you can get some good bank shots from this general area.

Now, about spotting and photography at JFK. JFK is not the easiest to take pictures at. JFK is a four runway operation and most of the time three of them are active. Plus the locations pretty much require a long lens to get decent pictures and even then some of the smaller aircraft will still be distant.

Important! (The mm indicated under each picture appear as 200mm/300mm. The first number represents the actual mm used when the photo was taken. The second number indicates the digital factor, which on the D100 is 1.5, multiplier. To get an equivalent shot with a non-digital camera or one that does not have a multiplying factor you would need the equivalent mm of the second number to get the same image size.

Point A - For departures on 31L: This is a small parking area at the end of the bridge coming from Howard Beach frequented mostly by fishermen who fish from the bridge. Take Cross Bay Blvd. through Howard Beach, cross the bridge and make a right into the parking lot at the end of the bridge. Just drive around the parking lot back to the light and cross Cross Bay Blvd. into the parking lot on the other side of the highway (no left at the light). Park facing the water and you'll have a good view of JFK across the bay. Runway 31L will be in front of you and the planes will be taking off from your right to your left. They will climb and make a left turn so that they come toward you. Depending on the aircraft, route, weight, etc. they can be as far over as the other side of the shore (Howard Beach), mid-channel, directly overhead or to your right. It really depends on the aircraft and where they're going. The heavies will most often be somewhere between mid-channel and Howard Beach. You'll need a long lens for this location.

Now, some shots from the location to show you the kinds of pictures you can expect. These are all digital and are the full frame shot with no cropping and have not been post processed to improve quality.

370/555 mm

280/420 mm

122/183 mm

400/600 mm

340/510 mm

250/375 mm

You can see from the various aircraft sizes and the fluctuations in the mm of the lens that this location does require a good long lens. It all depends on where they rotate and begin that procedural left turn.

Point B - For departures on 31L: This spot is a small park located at the tip of Howard Beach and pretty close to JFK. To reach the park turn left (if coming from the Belt Parkway direction) onto 157th St. and then make a right turn onto the first one way street heading in that direction. Follow this to the end, make a left and park at the east most end of the park. We've tried this spot only once and feel it could be good or bad depending on where they turn and how heavy they are. You'll definitely miss a lot of shots because they will turn early and the Sun will be wrong, but the few you might get could be good. I definitely need to explore this park more. Probably a good spot for 13R arrivals when, and if, they are ever doing that. Lighting here may be a challenge and very dependent on time of day.


Point C - For arrivals on 13L: We've used this spot only once while we were waiting for Sam Chui to arrive. It's the parking lot of the JFK Ramada Hotel. While we experienced no problems (we were there to visit a registered guest) they may ask you to move. Park on the rear right side of the hotel (with the hotel in front and to your right) under the trees to get some shade. You can see the approaching aircraft through the trees and they will be either directly overhead or slightly out in front of you.

120/180 mm

62/90 mm

35/53 mm

Point D - For arrivals on 22L: This is an afternoon spot that we use frequently for arrivals on 22L. Usually when 22L is active they are departing on 13R with a few departures also on 13L and landing on 13L. Usually (most often true but not always!) 22L will have the European arrivals where 13L will have the domestic and arrivals from the west). During July 2003 it seems that they've been putting more and more arrivals on 13L and leaving 22L for the sporadic few, but you just can't tell. You might have some long waits between aircraft at this location, but if it's like it used to be it will be pretty active. You can get some good inbound shots from here.

Follow Rockaway Blvd. past the airport. Make a left at the first light, Brookville Blvd., past the airport property. Continue on Brookville to the next light and make another left onto 147th Ave. Proceed to 230th St. and make another left. Go to the end where there is a soccer field and school. On the left side of the soccer field you will see a mound of dirt about 10 feet high. Take up a position on this mound and click-away. They'll come from your left and pass right in front of you.

400/600 mm

130/195 mm

400/600 mm

400/600 mm (A Mark Bess shot!)

135/200 mm

400/600 mm

You can see from the shots above you're either shooting at max mm capabilities or pretty close in. Just about all of the approaching shots will require 400 mm's and the straight side on shots about 135 mm (Those are the digital mm equivalents. For normal lens on a film camera without the digital factor you're looking at 600 mm and 200 mm for the same results.

Point E - For arrivals on 31R: This is an afternoon spot that we use frequently for arrivals on 31R. It's a well known spot that is frequented by many New York area photographers and visitors, the parking lot of the COSTCO on Rockaway Blvd. Depending on factors not yet known you may be approached by NYC police, questioned, searched and whatever else they may do before determining you are not a threat and then telling you to leave the parking lot. We've been lucky so far and never stopped by the police at this location, but we know many who have. If approached, keep your cool and cooperate. You may not be allowed to continue taking photos at that spot, but you shouldn't be unnecessarily detained if you cooperate.

Inbound aircraft will come from your right and proceed in front of you. You'll have to keep an eye open for power lines and other obstructions that can get in your way.

130/195 mm (see power lines)

185/278 mm

200/300 mm

270/405 mm

400/600 mm

400/600 mm

Point F - For arrivals on 04R, departure lineup for 04L and departures on 22R: This is an morning spot that we use frequently for arrivals on 04R and departures on 22R. If it's not summer bring your long johns as you'll need them and if it's summer bring your bug repellent because you might need it. Also, bring a pair of old shoes, preferably waterproof if it's been raining. For everything except 04R arrivals you're going to need a really long lens at this location. When they are landing on 04R you can get good shots of the inbounds and in the distance the line up for 04L departures. If they're departing 22R you'll need a long lens to get anything worthwhile. Also, sometimes when 04R is active they'll put a few arrivals on 04L. You can get touchdown zone shots from here with a very long lens of the larger aircraft.

These photos were taken from Bayswater State Park at the end of Mott Ave. To reach the park take Rockaway Blvd. to the light by COSTCO. Turn right at the light (believe it's the Nassau Expressway) and go to the second light and make another right. I believe this is Burnside Ave., however, it will change to Sheridan Blvd. at some point. Follow the road about 2 miles to a light on the corner of Mott Ave. Turn right and follow all the way to the end. Park on the street and then walk through the gates to the park area. If it's rained recently expect an inch or more of standing water and some very muddy areas between you and the viewing area.

400/600 mm 31L departure
Lousy weather and A320 under

400/600 mm 31L departure
Good weather and 747 under

400/600 mm 22R departure

400/600 mm 04L departure

400/600 mm 04L arrival

130/195 mm 04R arrival

400/600 mm 04R arrival

200/300 mm 04R arrival

270/400 mm 22R departure

370/555 mm 04L departure

400/600 mm 22R departure

400/600 mm 04L departure

Hope this helps you get some nice shots of the JFK aircraft.

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