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Lorry spotting

The hunt for the next snapshot of a lorry

Lorry spotting, photographing lorries, is still largely unknown in Germany. However, many people are interested in this odd hobby in the UK and the Netherlands. Their numbers show an upward trend. How does one describe this pastime?

Ryan Batty

A short walk to the nearest supermarket. The traffic along the pavement is calm and orderly. There are cars, bicycles, and motorbikes on the road. Every now and then a lorry passes by. This is a daily setting most people know and find normal. But it is different for lorry spotters. The mere sight of a lorry triggers excitement, and the urge to grab the camera. There is simply not enough time. In a split second, the spotters have to estimate light and perspective, skilfully set the camera, and snap; a new addition to the collection of photographs.

Lorry spotting, also called truck spotting, is a hobby which has many followers in Great Britain. So-called lorry spotters photograph lorries they encounter and compare them with the collection of snapshots. They upload their photographs on special websites dedicated to this hobby or share them on social media and exchange information with like-minded individuals. This hobby is gaining in popularity in Germany and Poland.

Lorry spotter features on Scania calendar

Widnes, Cheshire – an English town that has evolved into an industrial town over the years. This is where Ryan Batty lives. He is working for a logistics company and pursuing his dream to gain his HGV licence and become a driver. Lorries have fascinated him ever since he can remember. He discovered his passion for photography at some point and spent a lot of time photographing landscapes and wild fauna. A TV programme about lorries inspired him to combine his interest in lorries with his interest in photography, the start of a new hobby. He likes to go out with his friends in search of the perfect photograph. "I am especially interested in custom-made lorries," the young man says.

Batty shares his photos on his Facebook page. These have helped him expand his reach and reputation worldwide. In addition to his contacts on Facebook, Batty has met numerous lorry drivers and entrepreneurs at lorry shows. He has often received assignments to photograph custom-made lorries at exclusive photo shoots. "This gives me the opportunity to improve my skills. It is something I enjoy doing. I often receive compliments. They make all the hard work worthwhile," the lorry fan enthuses. The Swedish commercial vehicle manufacturer Scania featured the lorry spotter in its 2015 #wescania calendar, which is sold worldwide. Although Ryan Batty had to get in front of the lens for Scania, he wants to remain behind the lens to pursue his hobby.

Nicolai Rütz

From hobby to vocation

Nicolai Rütz runs the website truckspotter.de. He describes himself as an avid spotter. "I like many things about lorry spotting. It is the fascination for unlimited variety." After all, one can always discover new lorries at different places. "I have been taking photographs of lorries for a long time. It all started when I needed a photograph of a prototype for constructing a model of a lorry," he continues. "The website just happened to come along as I naturally wanted to show my photographs. Meanwhile, I use Facebook more; my own website with photos is now old school," says Rütz. Nevertheless, the platform brings advantages, "I have been able to draw attention to me and my photos through my website. As a result, I have received many requests from companies and editorial offices. These requests have led to opportunities to shoot photographs and also publication of my photographs in trade journals, technical literature for training for professional lorry drivers, and magazines."

Lorry spotters in Germany keep a low profile, so it is not very popular among Germans. Rütz does not know how many lorry spotters are actively practising this hobby in Germany.

Looking back: the early beginnings of lorry spotting

1997: John Martin is sitting in front of his computer and searching the internet for interesting lorries. He has always been enthusiastic about lorries and spent many hours in his childhood on motorway bridges observing lorries. Now that internet exists, it should be easier to look for unusual lorries, or so he thinks. He does not find many, so Martin decides to create a website and upload his photographs, in the hope that others would do the same. This is how lorryspotting.com began.

The website is now run by an English investment company. Fans from the UK can upload their photographs and exchange information with like-minded individuals. More than 3,500 hauliers are now listed on the database. However, only members can access this content.

Nagel Langdons, the British subsidiary of the Nagel-Group provides free PDF lists with all Nagel lorry numbers on its website. Spotters can use these lists to enter where and on which day they photographed a lorry.

Variety in the US - spotting and tracking

It is very important for lorry spotters to exchange experience and information on specific locations where you can photograph many lorries. "We have a small forum on our website dedicated to model construction as well as lorry spotting. Lorry spotters exchange information on this forum and also other forums, give or get advice and information," says Rütz.

They let the others know when freight forwarders introduce new lorries and also describe how these new lorries look like. "It is not long before someone has the truck in front of their lens and the first photographs appear. The same goes for lorry shows, for e.g. in Holland or Scandinavia. You cannot be everywhere so it helps to have a network of lorry spotters," he continues.

The Americans have altered the hobby somewhat and are especially interested in food lorries. They call themselves 'food trucks fanatics' and have their own website, truckspotting.com. These vehicles are equipped with tracking devices so spotters can find them using apps.

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