Pursuit of a Passion

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Newport is a city on an island. That means 3 things. #1 Water. #2 Boats. #3 Bridge. The bridge did not interest me but the water & the boats, specifically sailboats, is something I’ve been drawn to for a long time.

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My initial attraction to this historical sailing center was America’s Cup in 1977 won by Courageous captained by Ted Turner. When I saw pictures of the 12 meter boats that raced off of Newport I was enamored with their form, beauty & grace. As a teenager, I had been on a few sailboats enjoying being on the water powered only by the wind. I also admired the way they added a nice visual element to views of Chautauqua. When the leprechauns of logistics & scheduling fell onto my calendar this past May, Newport was a road-trip destination that couldn’t be ignored.

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I found out about a layover in RI of astonishing sailboats that were racing around the world. They had a scheduled in-harbor-race the day before starting the next leg of the 9 month race. More about The Volvo in my mid-September post. These boats do not have the grace of a 12-meter, but these thoroughbreds are FAST. They easily can more than double the speed of a 12-meter. While most sailing speed increase has been with multi-hulls & hydrofoil boats, Volvo 65’s are a dramatic upgrade to a classic mono-hull design. OBTW The building on shore was a summer playhouse of Jacqueline Bouvier.

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From Connecticut north most of the towns on the Atlantic coast are not very large & all have a history with the sea. Newport is no exception. Rhode Island was established on the principles of religious freedom as well as the separation of church & state after a radical priest was banished from Boston in 1636.

05 copyNewport was an ideal summer retreat for wealthy. At the height of the industrial revolution, plantation owners from the south & affluent families from NYC were lured to there with its cool consistent breezes. Yacht racing was a pastime of this elite crowd & it became the on-the-water clubhouse home of the New York Yacht Club. From 1930 to 1983 the Americas Cup Challenge & Defense were held off the coast of this ideal sailing port.

06 copyWhile the wealthy still come to their summer cottages in Newport, many of the mansions symbolic of the Gatsby era of wealth are now museums. The grandiose architecture that identified enormous wealth is indeed impressive & well worth strolling Bellevue Ave. to see how the 1% of the previous century lived. While I may be taken back by the amount of money it took to build these get-away homes I am glad that some of the wealthy still spend big bucks on sailboats. Priorities.

07But for me this trip, this destination was about sailboats. An opportunity to purse a subject with my camera I toughly enjoy. Ft. Adams is an excellent venue to host a event that is centered around the water. It has lots of space & good views of the boats on the natural harbor of Narragansett Bay. This State Park also has hosted music festivals including one where a kid named Bob Dylan shocked the world of Folk music by picking up his electric guitar.

08When I first arrived on site the schooner Adirondack II was the 1st boat to catch my eye. Coincidentally it was the boat I had booked an afternoon sail on the day after the 7 Volvo boats departed the natural Harbor of Narragansett Bay. Always in search of the perfect image I realized that my 100-400 was the perfect lens but the backgrounds were going to be a distraction. It took me a while but soon I was concentrating on the subject while trying to ignore the distractions. I’m learning to accept the things I can’t change.

09The reduced waterline of the dual hulls of catamarans makes them inherently faster than mono hulls. Comparatively less expensive than other high-end high-speed demons the M32 class of boats has a sail area to weight ratio that makes it a very popular racer. Here in Newport sponsors & paying guests could go for a spin with a crew. I wouldn’t turn down a chance to ride on one but if I had to choose between this or a slower 12-meter it is an easy decision. I am old-school fond of mono hulls.

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I am still shocked that there are professional racing sailors. I guess if you grew up around the coast where this sport is common it is a little bit easier to understand. Like any other sport or skill it is helpful to start when you are young.

11For me the passion for a wind powered boat isn’t about speed. It is not about the competitive rush of racing. My enthusiasm of sailing is about harnessing the unseen force of the wind to control where you are going on the water. With my camera it is about the soft forms of the sails & the lines on the boat blending with the natural world as they cut thru the waves on a sunny day.

Inspired by Unseen Forces

Sailboats photographs represent forces, which cannot be seen. Wind, physics & the power of the water are all part the story.

Sailboat photographs represent forces, which cannot be seen. Wind, physics & the power of the water are all part the story.

01Even when this beautiful mono-hull is tethered to a buoy I see a balance with nature. The sloping bow & stern exhibit grace. Her wooden mast, deck and trim speak to the character of her design. Dragonfly, which is moored at Chautauqua Institution, is the most elegant sailboat on the lake. Motivated by patience someday I will get pictures when she is under sail.

02The sailboat in this image is only about 1% of the photograph yet dominates the story. My elevated position eliminates the horizon line going thru the boat or the sails. Having recently sailed on that class of boat I recognize the forward mast with the bowsprit as a “Friendship Schooner” As it sails thru a field of lobster traps, it is helpful to know the design of the boat was as a ‘working lobster boat”. It is wide for stability & the mast position allows for more workspace on deck. Acadia National Park

02aAlthough outriggers & catamaran designs go back over 500 years, when the Hobie Cat was introduced in the early 60’s it dramatically created opportunities for more recreational sailors. The design allows for less weight & more speed. The colorful sails give it an eye-catching personality. The diversity of sailboat designs & rigging is a testimony to the understanding of nautical engineers who built them for a specific use. Chautauqua Lake

03Since most of my sailboat photos are from water level, multiple horizontal lines from water to land & land to sky bother me. Here, the line of the hillside meeting the water isn’t objectionable because the land then fills the frame with a contrasting background to the sails. This line also provides a point of reference to the power of the wind pushing the boat onto its starboard side. Also, the cut in the steep hillside parallels the mast. This is a poor transfer of a Kodachrome slide from the early 80’s. The image quality is poor but it is one of my favorites. Somewhere in the Virgin Islands

altIn this capture, there are 3 horizon lines interfering with the boat. The bridge, the land & the water. However, the peninsula of land disappears behind the support structure opening the left edge of the frame to the Pacific. Also, the geometric forms of the suspension cables somewhat clone the cut of the sails. The boat, which really caught my eye from about 2 miles away, is a former Americas Cup competitor USA 76. Now that I know she is there my next trip to SFO will include a day sail from Pier 39

05When I saw this boat sailing away from me headed toward Long Point in deep water, I knew the captain would be doing a tack close to shore that would bring her straight to me. Subject & location knowledge is helpful. I was patient & got another chance for a pleasing background. One interesting virtue of sailboat photography is that you can find opportunities around all 360 degrees of the subject. Chautauqua Lake.

06People always provide interesting layers. However, shots of the crew on sailboats eliminates the entire form of the sails. Here, just the corner clew of the sail gives a hint of that form & the energy. Enhancing that feeling of force is the heeling position of the boat & the crew hiked out over the side to add stability. Shooting towards the stern you see the name of the boat & the class. I’ve learned to live with the horizon lines instead of considering a drone camera. CLYC Chautauqua Lake

07 copyShooting towards the bow I now get faces of the crew practicing race tactics. I love how she has the main sheet in one hand & the other is extended. It reminds me of the position of a bull rider. The background is petty good & there is enough of the jib & main sails to represent the wind. ISO 2000 278mm 1/1250 & f16. More important than the tech-info is the person driving the boat I am in. Here Lori got me right where I need to be. Community Sailing Foundation Lakewood NY

07aThe story of this image resonates with people who sail. The wooden block & boom speak to the character of the craft. The cut of the sail with the clouds in the background whisper of the sounds of the wind pushing your boat thru the water. The contrasting angle of the lines to the boom gives hint to the physics of navigating the boat. Lake Champlain.

07bMy enthusiasm for sailing overrides my enjoyment of taking pictures of sailboats. By no means am I an expert in either. However, given the choice, I’d much rather have my hands on the wheel of a sailboat, not the camera.  Dreams do come true. I plan on adding to my portfolio of sailing in the near future. Sydney Australia.

On the Water Part One

I’ve always been drawn to water & boats. My summers spent on the shores of Lake Chautauqua as a kid are the seed of this inspiration. I invite you will subscribe to my blog and discover other images and subjects that inspire me.

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In my eyes, the simple beauty of sailboats grasping the unseen power of the wind is an attention grabber. The curve of the sails & the synergy of the wind & water is the essence of serene grace. Although I’m not a competitive person, the photo by Eric Schweikardt at 1977 Americas Cup is an image I consider outstanding. It introduced me to “Captain Courageous” aka Ted Turner. A renegade with flaws that changed the TV landscape in a way few others have done. This pair of E Scows are part of the Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club. Watching these boats on opposite tacks my minds eye recalled that iconic shot from 77 & I knew I might have an opportunity to capture a similar image.   I call this a success.

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This is a digitized image of an old Kodachrome from the early 80’s. It was taken off of Key Biscayne. The trim of the sails on this sloop with the golden hour light of sunset makes this one of my all-time favorite sailboat images I have taken. The quality of my old Kodachrome slides was still outstanding. Unfortunately, the budget digitizer I used doesn’t represent the true quality of the original image

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A close-hauled tack is a great visualization of harnessing the power of the wind. The full sails with the boat pointed a few degrees off wind push the boat while the keel holds it tight. This was taken in the Virgin Islands on one of our 1st sailing vacations in the early 80’s. Even though this is another poor digitization, the subject overrides the quality. The islands are wonderful sailing grounds & the angle of the mountain with its shadows mirrors the angle of the mast making a great background.

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On a kayaking vacation to Belize we stayed a few nights on South Water Caye just inside the barrier reef. The juxtaposition of this old style canoe paddle by a young child with the modern catamaran in the background speaks to the diversity of styles of boats & their use. It also emphasizes that our oldest form of transportation/exploration still has value.

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Taking your camera on a boat requires extra precautions. The limited space when spending a week on a kayak in Belize amplified the challenge. Dry bags, clean towels at hand & plenty of optical wipes are a must. I’m glad I pay my insurance company to worry! The photo opps in the kayak going from island to island were limited. This is one of the few images I liked, a bird sanctuary we paused at on our paddle to South Water Caye.

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I was introduced to white water rafting in boy scouts. I’m thrilled my family shares my sense of adventure it offers. My daughter & I rode the Tara River that defines part of the boarder of Bosnia & Montenegro. Rafting on the cold blue/green waters thru the gorge, aka the Grand Canyon of Europe, was spectacular. Along the way there are many waterfall tributaries that contribute to the class III and IV rapids. If I were to do more rafting photography I would invest in a waterproof cover. On this trip, I just made good/safe choices when to pull my camera out of the dry bag. This particular day inspired me to invest in a wide-angle zoom.

 

More On the Water coming soon in Part Two