Daniel Botelho is a renowned marine photographer whose work has entailed swimming with great white sharks, ferocious Nile crocodiles, gigantic blue whales, and elusive narwhals in bone-numbing Arctic waters.
But photographing a model named Ane in the balmy Caribbean waters off St. Martin “was one the hardest assignments of my career,” he says. That's because Botelho's stunning "Swimming with Jets" series required stationing himself and Ane in such a manner as to feature her and the low-flying jets in symmetry.
The images are split-level, meaning Botelho's lens was half in and half out of the water to capture both Ane and the jets in focus. Wind chop or current makes this difficult task all the more challenging.
An airline company sponsored the shoot. The site was Maho Beach, in front of Princess Juliana International Airport, which is famous for extremely low flights over the beach.
The Brazilian photographer arrived at St. Martin with high hopes and in good spirits.
"When we arrived," Botelho said, "I was doing the check-in at the hotel and an airline pilot was doing the same. I told him, 'Captain, if during the next week you see a crazy diver in the water taking pictures, please send a 'bye-bye' from your flight-deck window.'
"The captain started to laugh. I think he thought I was joking or maybe just crazy."
But early into the project, frustration began to mount. Botelho had to rely on incoming flights being on time. Weather conditions had to be ideal, and the synchronization of Ane's swims, related to the jets, had to be perfect.
On some days during the course of a full week, the two spent eight hours nonstop in the water, working tirelessly "while people all around us were drinking beers on vacation," Botelho said.
At times the two became so frustrated that they felt like giving up.
"It was like mining for gold, taking tons and tons of land to achieve some small pieces of gold," Botelho said. "We needed many days and many photos to reach the set of images needed for this assignment."
A primary objective was a Boeing 747 from KLM, because a famous image of this jet’s fly-over was what inspired Botelho. (Some KLM images are included.)
"And this plane only comes on Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays," he said. "So during one week we had three times to do this. Of course we had some days of bad weather, and other days the model wasn’t in the right place, and other days the waves were so big that we couldn’t run the shoot."
All in all, though, it was a worthwhile effort, as far as Botelho is concerned. And we're thinking his fans who have seen the images feel the same way.
Said the photographer, "After hundreds of hours in the water and thousands of photos taken, it was pretty funny to find myself on my way back home inside the plane looking out my window at people on the beach, watching the takeoffs. I can say that I will never look at a plane the same way I did before this assignment."
-Note: Daniel Botelho allowed the use of these images for this story only. They are protected by copyright laws.
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