Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sailboat Racing Photography -- Or, Say "Yes"


So…I love the water and I love boats – and I adore being out on the water in a boat.  But my work – my passion – my focus (pardon the pun) is photographing architectural details.  You know, those quietly unique objects that surround us, but that no one actually sees.  Things like ancient door knockers, or painted dragons on a ceiling or creatures carved into buildings -- those quirky, colorful, sometimes strange things that a highly skilled craftsman or woman took the time to mould or paint or sculpt.  They’re everywhere, we just don’t see them anymore because we’re very busy looking down at our cell phones. 

It’s not as easy as it may appear to get a really good, clean, interesting shot of those “details”, but I’m never happier than when I’ve gotten one to the point where I’d be proud to see it hanging in someone’s home or office.  I’ve had the occasional, brief flirtation with landscape photography and exchanged the sly glance with a cuddly creature.  For a while I was obsessed with nature…and tree bark, but they weren’t serious relationships.  I always go back to my first love -- the details.

Recently, I was invited to join a group of friends in Newport, RI to help celebrate a “major” birthday.  Coincidently, my very favorite neighbor here in Philadelphia was driving up a day earlier than I’d planned to leave, to photograph the start of the 2012 Newport to Bermuda sailboat race.  He invited me to join him for the long ride up and then spend the following day out on a boat with good friends.  I’d never met his friends, nor had I been to Newport, and I was itching to spend that gift-of-an-extra-day alone, roaming the town, photographing the thousands of charming details I knew must be there waiting to be discovered.  The mansions along the famous Cliff Walk could have kept me fascinated for weeks at the very least. 

Something kept tugging at me though.   A persistent little voice kept whispering:  “Oh, say yes.  How often are you invited to spend the day on a lovely boat?  Don’t be dull”.   In the end, the little voice won.  Rather grudgingly, I grabbed a camera with a decent zoom lens and figured I’d snap some fun shots of my pal as he photographed the race.

The day was glorious.  The sky was a stunning shade of turquoise with the occasional puffy white clouds billowing by and sparkling navy blue seas.  A refreshing breeze meant wind enough for a visually vivid downwind spinnaker start.  Sounds like I know my stuff, doesn’t it?  I don’t.  I just wanted to show off the only sailing terminology I know!  A downwind spinnaker start simply means that the great-big-pretty sails were up – and they were fantastic. 

The race began, I took my first photograph and couldn’t put the camera down.  Photographing out on the big wide water felt so…expansive!   I could almost feel my middle aged brain cells start to multiply as the sea air and the excitement of the race kicked in.  Photographing racing boats, from a boat, amidst hundreds of other boats and circling helicopters is a bit like trying to shoot while astride a horse – everything is in motion.  It was wild and very wonderful. 

My hosts for the day, and fellow boaters, were a delight – I felt like I’d known them for years – they made me a very warm welcome.  Sometimes the details can take care of themselves I’m learning…and always, always, say “yes”.

I hope you enjoy the resulting photos – I’ve attached a few here and you can see more at


  1. What an inspiration to read about your experience!!! This blog is outstanding and the photography is gorgeous!!!

  2. Love it! Sailing is indeed wonderful, and you're right - ALWAYS say, "Yes!"