Aviation photography competition scheduled for March – Toppix highlights thrill and excitement of landing in SXM

POSTED: 02/19/13 12:16 PM

St. Maarten – Plane spotters from around the world are expected to come down on St. Maarten in March to take part in Toppix 2013, an aviation photography competition initiated by photographer Robbie Cijntje and embraced by SXM airport and the tourist bureau. Participants get a four-day window (from March 18 to 22) to make their winning shot. The winner walks away with $2,500 in cash, while five nominees will have their work on display at the airport for four months.

Cijntje said yesterday that he got the idea for the competition in 2011 while he was studying photography in Amsterdam. But November of that year turned out to be an unfortunate choice because of the royal visit to the island. So he pushed back the plan to 2012, but in the end, it is now really going to happen in 2013.

“Since the beginning of flight people have been fascinated by its mysticism and magic,” Cijntje said. “St. Maarten needed something magical and the Maho-surrounding fits the bill. There are lots of Youtube videos and pictures of the destination. It is not everywhere that you are able to get so close to an airport for plane spotting.”

Cijntje said that the first plane spotter was a Dutchman called Pjotr Lawant, who shot his first picture on August 28, 1948 at Schiphol airport. Lawant also kept a detailed log of his spotting activities.

With the rise of the internet plane spotting has become a global phenomenon. Websites like jetphotos.net are the place where spotters post their work. “This is a unique breed of photographers that is striving for technical perfection,” Cijntje said.

The airport’s location has made St. Maarten a bit of a magnet for plane spotters. “Quite a lot of people come to St. Maarten only to do this,” Cijntje said. “They are from places like New Zealand, Poland, Europe, and the United States – and they are here every day.”

The idea for the competition is to generate pictures that the airport and the tourist bureau are able to use in their marketing. That there is interest in the competition rapidly appeared after Cijntje sent out his first press release: “People started to send pictures,” he said. But the pictures that qualify for the competition have to be taken between March 18 and 22. The competition’s tagline is St. Maarten – aircraft paradise.

The jury for the competition consists of three members: Peter Gunn, Chemaine Petit-Booi and Chris Killroy – the CEO of plane spotter web site jetphotos.net.

The jury will get prints of the pictures but no names of the photographers or information about the camera they used for their shot.

The tourism bureau and the airport retain the reproduction rights for the submitted pictures – enabling them to use the material for marketing purposes. The competing photographers keep the copyright of their work.

Cijntje said that up to now ten photographers have registered.  And we have a good safety record. They are from Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands, while three competitors are from St. Maarten.

Toppix (the name stands for top pictures) asks a registration fee of $20. This money will be donated to the foundation that promotes breast cancer awareness.

Cijntje said that Toppix will become a recurring event, for 2014 the dates of November 6 to 10 are already on the agenda. “Those dates are close to St. Maarten Day and to the inauguration date of the airport terminal,” Cijntje said.

Robert Brown, the airport’s special projects coordinator said that the competition is a good public relations opportunity for the island, but also for the airport. “This competition will present the panoramic approach to our airport. We have been named the most stunning landing in the world. Our airport is truly a leader in the region.”

Brown added that it is an excellent idea to build on the “thrill and excitement” of landing at SXM Airport. “This is a good opportunity to promote our brand. If you work here you see planes and you start to take them for granted. This competition may change that perspective.”

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