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.

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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

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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.

Capturing the Moment in Sports

I look for moments highlighting the sport, the athlete or capture an interesting moment.

 

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The thrill of my career doing instant replay for live sporting telecasts was when I could take the footage of terrific camera operators & get it into the show.  Now with my still camera, sporting events are wonderful challenges to capture a story. Photojournalists are charged with getting the winning moment. I look for moments highlighting the sport, the athlete or capturing an interesting moment. It isn’t just winners who display emotions but many competitors have dramatic expressions. Panning the subjects adds the feeling of motion to this frame. I took the opportunity of the multiple laps in this race to find the best shutter speed to get the effect I was looking for.

02       Indeed racing sailboats is a competitive sport. However, my appreciation is the challenge the sailors have with harnessing the wind. Images that show the unseen force has on the sails highlights the beauty of the boat design. There are diverse styles of sailboats as well as “points of sail” which define how they move in relation to the wind. For sailors it is an ever-changing juggle of physics, geometry & nature. For photogs finding the balance of lighting & background with a subject with 360-degree options can be frustrating.

03Athletes talk about “space & time”. In this image of the Pittsburgh Rugby Club one opponent is flatfooted & one is changing direction as the ball carrier has full stride very much in control of space. Often in sports where numerous players are interacting, my favorite images involves multiple players. Close-ups have personal drama, but the nature of the sport can be best shown in shots where 2, 3 or more individuals are involved.

04 copyDuring my career I had the privilege of being places few individuals were allowed. I did my job in a professional manner & respected athletes & the fans. Working for NJ Devils, my responsibilities didn’t involve the game. I found hockey tremendously difficult with the speed, the obstacles & constant change of direction. I was always impressed with how Marty Brodeur acted in practice, in the locker room & after the game.  So I chose him to concentrate my on.  Also, he stayed basically in 1 position. I admire his concentration as Evgeni Malkin is ready to pounce on a chance to get the puck past him.

05One of the ancillary advantages of photography is you give your own images a title. I call this one is “Pass the Ketchup Please.” After the pros morning skate a group of hockey enthusiasts would frequently take the ice. I called them the AHL the Afternoon Hockey League. If the title makes you smile it is a good thing.

06 copyI just recently discovered this fascinating activity. A combination of surfing, sailing, wind surfing, wake-boarding, snowboarding & hang-gliding, I would describe it as dancing with the wind on water. Initially I was disappointed that my position on a cliff overlooking the water was so far away I couldn’t get tight shots of the athletes as they launched themselves into the air. I then realized that the wider shot, which included the sail, was the best way to illustrate this sport.

06aSometimes a moment catapults your mind back to an image without warning. As a pack approached an early turn during the 1500 I was looking at getting a group shot of the runners. Although I didn’t see, or capture, what caused the fall, I reacted to the mishap. Moments after snapping my shutter the iconic Sports Illustrated image of Mary Decker on the ground during the 1984 Olympics flooded my memory. I now follow David Burnett who took that shot. His legacy of work is very impressive and inspiring.

07I just bought a 28mm & was looking for a subject to tune my eyes to this prime lens. It was afternoon in late fall with the sun low in the sky. I drove by a skate park & saw young men on boards. I observed them doing tricks to determine a good position. Most positions had terrible backgrounds. In the bottom of the bowl there were no distractions. I also noticed the shadow of the lip on the curved bowl.  I waited until this skater, & his shadow, were in the right position. Gravity is a subtle subject in this picture.

08Crew in competition or practice displays power, grace & symmetry. In my mind, this image as the 8 “Boys in the Boat” still working together as they end their workout on the Charles River represents the teamwork necessary for this sport. The boat had carried them gliding across the water. Now, they carry their shell to the boathouse.

11I was watching these students with envy on a beautiful fall afternoon. The Tech Dinghies are not the most beautiful boats on the water but they have a charm all their own. When I realized newbies were getting experience on the water I saw the potential for this encounter. I think the lesson for both boats was “Be aware of all that is around you!” Also good advice for a photog!

12 FinalI’m not a photojournalist & many of my images aren’t intended to document life so I’ve become ethically comfortable with editing my images. I’ve also learned my comfort zone with PS tools. I especially like how I can manipulate a shot with shortcomings into an acceptable image. I was slow in recognizing the opportunity of this position on a balcony until the last heat. The focus is off but I did capture/freeze “The Moment” I was looking for and altered it enough to make it a respectable shot of what my minds eye envisioned.