Father and Son Duo Capture Low-Flying Planes as They Pass Over Maho Beach

low flying airplane

What happens when you combine a beach with a runway? Lots of opportunity for truly odd photographs. After all, you don’t really associate aircraft coming or going with bikini clad figures. This is exactly what you see at the Dutch/French Maho Beach, situated on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. It happens to be right beside the short runway of the Princess Juliana International Airport.  Beachgoers frolic in the sand and surf while roaring planes hover low overhead.

Josef Hoflehner

Photographer Josef Hoflehner along with his son Jakob Hoflehner dwelled more than two months at this odd beach to shoot images for their book, Jet Airliner: The Complete Works. “It’s is an extraordinary place,” said the elder Hoflehner.  “There simply isn’t anything like this airport anywhere on the planet. With all the heightened security we have today, one cannot get that close to a plane anywhere else without buying a ticket.”

Josef Hoflehner airplane

Over a period between 2009 and 2011, they made four trips to the island, taking pictures every day for about three weeks at a time. They were also careful to note each landing plane’s flight data. “On average, there were only five or six passengers’ jets coming in per day, and often there as an hour or more between the landings. It’s not like we were relaxing on the beach like other beachgoers. We had the cameras in our hands, standing on the beach, since you never know when exactly the plane is arriving. When we’d go to the restroom or go get something to drink, then the plane, which was usually late, would suddenly come in,” lamented Josef.

Josef Hoflehner maho beach

Father and son shot using two 6-by-6 Hasselblad SWC cameras, which allowed for photographing only one image per landing. They also had some trouble getting people into the frame due to the activity on the beach. “It’s pretty difficult since most people on the beach are in constant movement and you have to walk or run with them if you want them in the image,” said Josef.  There would in general only be a split-second window of opportunity to capture the ideal shot.

maho beach Josef Hoflehner

Josef Hoflehner maho beach

jet airliner Josef Hoflehner

If skin and metal is your cup of tea, head on over to their website to see how you can get a copy of Jet Airliner: The Complete Works.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.