Nautical Photography is My Passion

Nautical photography is my passion! If I could only take one type of photo it would be a photo of a boat. Old boats, new boats, classic sails, mega yachts, tugs, you name it and I'll be there to shoot it! My father taught me to sail at an early age. He was a sailing instructor during college summers. His dad, my grandfather, took me on sailing adventures throughout Buzzards Bay. He also taught me how to strip a boat of varnish, prep it and reapply. It's what I did to earn the adventure every Summer!

Taking photos of moving objects is a challenge. Any time you add several factors to an image, the opportunity for failure is multiplied. Add to that the need to shoot frames quickly and a sailing moment can easily contain 25-50 shots that might contain one or two good ones. Having someone who knows how to drive a chase boat specifically for nautical photography makes a big positive difference. Ive been on other sailboats, dinghy's, an occasional power boat and a few times as a member of the press, riding on a boat driven by a professional. Thats the best ride by far. They know where to put the boat to get the best shots! I had that kind of ride for two days off Newport, RI for the 12 Metre World Championships in July 2019. Shooting boats out on the water with the sun beating, salt spray everywhere and the boat you are on pitching in all manner is quite the experience!

This is a subject I am going to visit many times in my blog because, quite frankly, i'm obsessed with nautical photography. I cannot get enough! I've created a collection of black and white nautical photography of the 12 Metre World Championships to begin the journey with you here. You will find this collection called, Classic Sailing. There is something about the power of a yacht that only a black and white photo can portray. When the colors are stripped out you are left with the raw emotion, geometric shapes and sheer energy of the moment. A moment that is never repeated exactly like that ever again.

To shoot moving boats from the shore they need to be fairly close or they will not dominate the image. In fact a secret of nautical photography pros is to get up close to the action so that a wider lens can be used. On land, I have to use a telephoto. I have two of these lenses currently. A hefty Canon 400mm and a Tamron 70-200mm zoom. On a boat shooting, the 70-200 provides a lot of latitude between a short and long lens perspective. The 70-200 also has more modern antishock technology which helps to get a sharp shot. I tend to keep a polarizing filter on the whole time because the light can be so harsh on the water even if its overcast. Like any sports photography you have to shoot fast. I like to be at least 1/500th or more. If possible 1/1250th can produce those great moments that freeze the splash of the water perfectly. But to do this sort of thing requires you to shoot at a high ISO; like 400 or more. This is where the newer the camera body, the better off you will be, as manufacturers are getting really good at filtering out the noise (graininess) caused by a high ISO with every successive camera body upgrade. The whole process revolves around the desire to shoot an F-stop that is the "sweet spot" for the lens. In the case of my 200-400 that F-stop is 9. An F10 can be a little "soft."

This is a new black and white edit of an image that just joined the Classic Sailing collection. It's "Courageous," a legendary 12 Metre that is actually the Rhode Island "State Yacht," she is so beloved. She was built in 1974 to Olin Stephens design at the Minneford Yacht Yard in New York. She is one of just two America's Cup Yachts to win the cup twice. The first time in 1974 with Ted Hood and Dennis Conner. The second time was under the helm of Ted Turner. During this contest nearly half a century later she had a veteran crew that included Gary Jobson as tactician. They finished tied for second place in the most competitive, 8 - boat, Modern Class. They are seen here on the course in a spinnaker take-down maneuver. 

Not every photo is worthy of a black and white treatment. The ones that are, almost jump out at me when I am doing the first cull of the images. For instance, the only time this nautical photo spent in color was the moment i took it! I had fun in production turning it into a long lost photo found in a trunk!

There is a certain level of sophistication in the black and white images of sailboats. Nothing is left to distract the view of the sheer power and grace they display in a timely manner. I like the negative space and textures of the sails. I hope you enjoy my black and white nautical photography. Next time we will look at some color images and one of the best sellers from my time at the 12 Metre Worlds.

It's not hard for me to choose a tune to accompany this post for your listening enjoyment. Like The Beatles in my last post, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young might just have been the heir apparent songwriting team following the Fab Four. One thing is for certain, they are sailors! They penned several sailing tunes. "Southern Cross" holds a special place in my heart as I got to see the Southern Cross star formation in the Southern Hemisphere from a... sailboat. With a little luck we will look at some of that nautical photography in the future!

If you have nautical photography needs and you are on the west coast, contact me to see if I can shoot your yacht. No travel expense from Dana Point to San Diego. Minimal travel cost to Los Angeles and negotiable for further North.