Ship Spotter Spotlight: Max from Germany

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In 2021, we started to put the spotlight on our passionate ship spotters. Each month, we introduce another ship spotter of In Mai, you’ll meet ship spotter Max (User name: dragonflyer11), a nautical student from Germany.

What is your maritime background?

I am 21 years old. I come from Frankfurt/Main – Germany. I have always been interested in vehicles but later ships caught all of my attention. I‘ve been onboard several inland vessels and ferries which helped me establish more and more contacts over the time. Then I worked for a year as a skipper on small sailing cutters for tourist group trips on Lake Constance in Southern Germany. At the moment, I study navigation and maritime transport in Elsfleth which is between Bremen and Bremerhaven in Northern Germany. In 2020, I went to sea for half a year on a coaster where I found many great spotting motives! My aim is to become a captain once.

When did you start to take photos of vessels?

I started with ship spotting in 2014 when I was 14 old. At this time, I started to build my private vessel database sorted by purpose and later alphabetically by ship names. Over time, I became more professionel and today I have photos of over 2.000 ships.

Usually, I go ship spotting several times a week.

What is your motivation for being a ship spotter?

Especially at the beginning of my “ship spotting career”, I had in mind to give the vessels a “face”. So that everybody could see how the ships for example in my home region look like. Locations near the coast of Northern Germany were covered pretty well by ship spotters. Since I’m from the inland, I decided to take photos of inland vessels, especially those not having a picture uploaded to FleetMon, yet.

Moreover, my motivation in ship spotting is a historical one. When I take a picture of a vessel today and in the future, she possibly changes her name or her colour scheme. I feel like I create historical documents by taking photos of ships. And I try to capture a vessel’s life until it is scrapped or sold or converted. I like documenting the story of the ships: how they are built, where they sail, what their names are and how all this changes over time.

I’m especially interested in transfers of ships for example to new operating areas after a sale. I like to be there when vessels reach locations where they have never been before.

Which technical equipment do you use for vessel photography?

My technical equipment is not very spectacular. I always use a Canon compact camera. That suits me well because of the small size. Additionally, I have a couple of tripods for night scenes.

Which vessel types do you like to take photos of the most and why?

I really like tugs for spotting because of their small size compared to container ships and they often create a high bow wave which I like a lot! Furthermore, tugs are fascinating ships in that they contain so much power.

How many pictures of different vessels have you collected since you started?

I actually stopped counting. There are too many! I would estimate around 200.000.

What are your favorite ship spotting locations?

Oh, that is an interesting question. Generally, I like bridges because they offer the possibility to catch vessels from the bird’s-eye view and to realize their size. Also being on board a ship is a great location because then I have the chance to pass by close to other ships.

My favorite location when we are talking of a place is not really surprising: It is Hamburg. I love the constant vessel traffic in the background of my photos. Whenever I go to Hamburg, I take the ferries in the port back and forth and shoot ships whenever I spot any.

And I would love to see the huge inland push boats on the Mississippi. They sometimes carry over 41 barges!

Which is your best shot on Please tell us about the moment when you took it.

Max’ favorite vessel photo of the inland ferry WALTER KOLB

This is a photo of the inland ferry WALTER KOLB that operates on River Main between my home Frankfurt-Höchst and Frankfurt-Schwanheim in Germany. I got to know the ferryman there in 2015. Since then he is a good friend of mine. And he was my first contact in shipping. Many of my ship photos were taken on this ferry and sometimes the ferry passes the ships extraordinarily close, so that I can take better photos! :-D