An Ongoing Inspiration & Challenge

01 copyOn Facebook last December, a friend posted video from the Volvo  Around the World Ocean Race. The images & footage from onboard the boats really got my attention. Racing around the world takes tremendous endurance & the ability to follow it so dramatically got me hooked. When I found out Newport RI was one of 11 stops I began to plan a road trip to photograph these amazing boats.

02Last Summer I failed at connecting with Tall Ships as they were passing thru the Great Lakes. With a defined departure date from Narragansett Bay in Mid May, I was not going to miss a chance to get some shots of these unique boats. I established a connection with John Lincourt, a RI photographer with a portfolio of great sailing images. He provided me with some valuable info. Things work out better when you can talk to someone with both experience & local knowledge to develop a plan.

03Sailboats are a subject I enjoy watching as well as taking photographs of. Not only are their numerous types of boats but they offer a diversity of forms that are unique. The only other forms I can compare them to in my mind’s eye are dancers. Since I own a small sailboat & have done a bit of sailing I recognize the challenge of capturing the unseen power of the wind to guide your boat. Although photos from onboard a sailboat are OK, in my opinion the real beauty is seen from another boat or the shore.

04 7D2L9029 last saturdayOn Saturday they had an In-Port-Race. With only a very minor impact on the scoring for the competition it was really more of a dog & pony show for host cities to promote. Even in the rain crowds lined the shore & filled the fleet of spectator boats. I had decided to buy a seat on a Ferry for this event  This gave me a somewhat elevated position above the fleet of fans. On Sunday, as they started the race leg across the Atlantic to Whales, I took images from shore near Ft. Adams.

05These boats are a custom design for one thing. Sail around the world as fast as possible. If you’re not familiar with sailing take my word these things fly through the water. Slicing thru waves for 600 miles in 24 hours must be one heck of a ride! They have almost nothing in common with my lil 15 foot day-sailor other than they both float. The 3 dome shaped antennas on the stern provide a link via satellite for vital weather info as well as a uploading images & footage. With 5 fixed video cameras & an embedded photojournalist, each team gave updates from all over the worlds oceans. The technology & the effort to capture & distribute this 9-month event is unlike anything I have ever heard of. It makes video coverage of a marathon look easy.

06I knew the basics of racing sailboats having read a bit about America’s Cup & seen a few on Chautauqua. When I saw Narragansett Bay I realized this was about as perfect a venue as possible for holding a port race because of the locations for spectators to watch along Ft. Adams. I’m sure that without rain or fog it would be stunning. On the upside, the poor weather did soften the background. The decision to be on the Ferry on Saturday was indeed the right choice. Watching 2 of these monsters sail thru the crowded spectator boats was a demonstration of amazing confidence.

07It was a personal challenge to frame tight because I think the beauty is in the wide shot with the wind shaping the sails. However, having viewed many sailing images prior to my trip I understood the power of a tight shot without the complete sailing rig. This is especially true when the boat is horizontal to the camera or coming right at you.

07aRD Turn tideNaturally, on an event as big & as expensive as this, sponsorship by businesses & organizations is necessary. I’m not a fan of the NASCAR type of branding but I understand it provides the financial support to make it happen. Turn The Tide on Plastic sails under the flag of the United Nations & is sponsored by foundations seeking to raise awareness of our oceans health. It was the only boat with a woman skipper.

08

A unique aspect of trying to find the best sailing shots is the diversity of perspectives. In my perfect image, the horizon should not interfere which ideally would mean a position high enough to see only water in the background. This requires either a drone…I’m not buying another toy…or shooting from a helicopter, which is a very pricey platform. Ignoring the poor weather conditions this is about as close as I came to my “dream” shot.

09This is the crew that won it all 6 weeks later. As with any world-class competition, racing sailboats requires a level of experience, dedication & daring that only a handful of individuals can muster. To do it for over 45,000 nautical miles over 9 months makes it one of the most demanding sporting events any human can undertake. In the 13 races of this event since 1973, 9 people have lost their lives. John Fisher, one of the crew on Scallywag, was knocked overboard in the middle of the Southern Pacific Ocean. RIP

11a

As the boats headed off across the Atlantic for a 3300-mile sprint to Wales I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was not inspired to take up or closely follow sailboat racing. However, the imagery of sailboats remains an elusive photographic goal. I learned a great deal more about this event; I had made good decisions in my planning & I had expanded my understanding of personal motivations. Most rewarding, I got a few nice shots.

Inspired by a Road Trip

02 copy I’m a photographer motivated by subjects & stories. I’m not the type to have my camera over my shoulder always ready to capture something that catches my eye. So I planned a road trip with 4 primary photography destinations as my focus.

03 copyAs a low-no-budget project, I really didn’t want or need anything more than a place to sleep. I like the idea of supporting local businesses over chains so I stayed mostly in motels. None were absolutely terrible; all were under $100 a night. Since this was a solo trip I didn’t need to worry about Lori’s objections.

04 copyAs I took off along the Southern Tier of NY I didn’t have a tight schedule but hadn’t planned on side stops. Then, from the highway, I spotted people fly-fishing. There was a convenient exit & I pulled off. The light was good & the background was great but the deep pools with fish were near the opposite bank so I never saw faces. I was close to the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum so I made a note for possible future subject locations.

05 copyMy 1st destination was Mystic Seaport & Museum, the largest maritime museum in the US. The shipyard where Mayflower II was undergoing restoration for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims arrival was busy. Seeing workers using hand tools to shape the lumber precisely was inspiring to this wanna-be wood-worker. I strolled & explored the place for an entire day thoroughly enjoying myself.

06 copyFrom Mystic I spent a day with a talented, creative & inspiring friend I made during my career. I have known & respected Dave Taylor for well over 2 decades. He has a very media centered collection of antique electric toys as well as cutting-edge technology in his Mission Style influenced home.

07Although it wasn’t my main motivation for going to New England, Newport,  RI was the photography highlight of my Road-Trip. The Volvo Round the World Sailboat Race had a stopover in this historically significant sailing center of the US. The 2 days of sailing by the Volvo boats had very poor weather for photography. However, anytime I can snap a shot of a 12 Meter it is a very good day. Currently owned by Ted Turner American Eagle is for sale.

08Gatsby & ostentatious wealth are synonymous with Newport of a century ago. Touring the Vandergrift Mansion, I learned the term Gilded Age came from the title of a novel co-authored by Mark Twain. The themes of corruption & greed in the book came to represent a lifestyle & period of time that was unsustainable. By the 1930’s owners of this mansion couldn’t afford the upkeep. They stand as empty homes representing a brief period of history.  I believe that Andy Carnegie’s gift of libraries has had a more long-lasting impact demonstrating the value of philanthropy.

09The weather during the In-Harbor Race was rainy. Fortunately, I was prepared with an inexpensive but good rain cover for my camera. I had made a connection with John Lincourt a Sailboat Photographer & he said my 100-400 lens was the right tool. I purchased a seat onboard a ferry giving me an elevated position that worked out well. During this 9 month race, each of the 7 boats has an on-board photo journalist seen in yellow. Some of their work is absolutely spectacular. It is what inspired me to travel to Newport.

10
The day after the Volvo boats took off across the Atlantic to Whales I did an afternoon cruise on Narragansett Bay under a clear blue sky. I realized that I would have preferred the good weather when I was shooting the race over my enjoyment on the beautiful schooner Adirondack II.

11

The real motivation in New England was my daughter’s graduation. I arrived a few days before & went to her work-out to try & grab a few shots as she trained for the first USATF sanctioned Women’s Decathlon. I found a position where the background wasn’t too bad but there was very little light. ISO 5000 at 2.8 just isn’t going to give nice clear images.
12The moment of the trip was when we made eye contact just before she received her diploma. Her smile is as genuine as any face I’ve ever photographed. I just stood in the balcony waiting for her to notice me. No texting was necessary for us to connect.

13Her 4 years as a freshman proctor are over & we packed some of her stuff to bring back to Pittsburgh. She got a pass allowing me to “Pawk my Caw in Hawvawd Yawd.”

14
I’m a photog that looks for subjects & stories. However, having a camera handy when you see something unique does have value. Maybe this will become part of a story on foiling sailboats. Upcoming blogs will go into more detail about my road-trip. Look for new postings on the 1st & 15th of each month.