I'm an avid postcard collector and trader. It's been my full time job since 2013.
I'm also an aviation nut. Like all good planespotters, I'd always wanted to go to the most famous spotting location in the world, Princess Juliana International Airport (also known as PJIA or SXM) on the island of St. Martin / Sint Maarten.
In November 2013 it finally happened! Air France took me NCL-CDG and after a hectic connection myself and my friend finally made it to SXM. We had 11 days on the island, exploring both the Dutch and French sides including the respective capitals Philipsburg and Marigot.
The sea was quite rough when we were there, on one day I lost 2 pairs of sunglasses, my cap and contact lenses. It was fun though and a great way to cool down, the sun was scorching.
We stayed at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. The cheapest way to book was as a package, all-inclusive through Expedia (booking flights and hotel separately was much more expensive). The hotel grounds and location were perfect but the service was atrocious. I posted a bit of a rant to Tripadvisor. We'll stay at the Royal Islander time shares next time.
Internet access at the hotel was dodgy but on some mornings we managed to connect and download the aiport timetable for the day, to get an idea of the arrivals. You can also get the arrivals from the Sunset Bar - either on the TV screens inside or the famous surfboard outide (which I've turned into a postcard).
The aim of the trip was to take photos which I would then turn into postcards for aviation enthusiasts and postcard collectors. Before I created the "SXM Series", there were no listings of this sort on eBay, the main channel through which these things are traded. As far as I can tell, the SXM series is a world first!
1 problem though - I had no camera or photography experience. I duly purchased a fairly basic Nikon D3100 with 2 lenses, a Nikon 18-55mm VR kit lens and a Tamron 70-300mm F4/5.6 telephoto lens, and read up on the basics of photographing airliners. A trip to Edinburgh airport provided some experience shooting jets and props and I felt ready for Maho Beach.
The photos were taken at 3 locations.
1) South end of Maho Beach, near the Sunset Bar. This is probably the most famous spot, and it's close enough to the runway that even your iPhone will deliver fantastic shots of the landing aircraft. It can get busy when there are cruise ships docked as everybody goes to the Sunset Bar and the atmosphere is great.
2) North end of Maho Beach, from the Sonesta Maho pool / bar area. This was our chillout / sunbathing spot, we lay on the loungers with an airband radio and only got up when something was landing.
3) From the ridge overlooking the airport to the north, near the control tower. there was some building work going on so this location might be inaccessible now but there were mounds of dirt there in November 2013 - it was a bit of a balancing act but provided an interesting angle and with a bit of luck and a telephoto lens you can get decent landing shots.
We got a bit unlucky when it came to variety of aircraft and airlines, owing to the temptation of going in the sea for a swim, and the days spent exploring the other side of the island. Probably my favourite catch was the French President's jet, an A330 which didn't appear on the arivals board but i still managed to point the camera at in time.
Peak time was 1pm-5pm with maybe 8 large aircraft coming and going on a busy day, although some days were quieter (a good time to go exploring). It was normally the same airlines every day so anything different, like the FDNY Jetblue we saw, was extra special.
The really big birds, KLMís 747 and Air Franceís A340 only operate certain days. I regret not getting any landing shots of the KLM, although I did get some shots of it taxiing and got covered in oil / dirt standing behind the engine during takeoff.
There were plenty of smaller aircraft, particularly Winair (the local airline) Twin Otters and St. Barthís Commuter Cessna Caravans. The Winairs are great entertainment, they do a very steep 'nosedive' approach and the pilots taxi around with their doors open waving to the crowds on Maho Beach when itís busy.
We prebooked a day trip to St. Barth's on Winair. It cost around £100 ($150) return, most of which was taxes. It's only a 10 minute flight so the cost-per-mile is extraordinary but it was well worth the experience! Landing into St. Barth's for the first time was quite terrifying, the ground approaches so suddenly as you come over the hill at the end of the runway. Here's the video of that landing, I also uploaded a bunch more videos here.
Out of 1,500 photos taken over 11 days, I took the best and turned them into a top quality, limited edition range of postcards known as the SXM series.
You can scroll down or you can CLICK HERE for much bigger pictures!
All my cards are listed on my eBay shop and are searchable on the site.
If you prefer a spreadsheet format, with more detailed categories than eBay provides, then I have produced my own catalogue.
The file is in XLSX format which requires Excel or equivalent. If you can't open the file, then you can download a free reader here. The File is under 10Mb.
All my listings are now on eBay.co.uk, with worldwide postage offered.
I welcome all feedback, comments and suggestions!