Happy Holidays! We wrap up 2020 with one of my favorite spreads of this year’s Ultimate Sailing Calendar: Marina Semenova’s stunning interpretation of Melges 32s racing in Porto Ercole and Cagliari, Italy.
I love the sweeping motion and composition in the featured (top) photo, and how amidst the commotion of the takedown you see a crewmember peering out with determination; while Marina’s vertical image, with stormy skies and looming mountains, is dramatic and moody. One of the things I love about curating the calendar is getting to select and introduce talented photographers from around the world!
Marina is relatively new to the field, but has made headway in this male-dominated vocation, bringing her unique and artistic perspective to yachting photography. I am so excited to share her beautiful work and inspiring journey!
From Saint-Petersburg, Russia, Marina discovered an early passion for photography, but couldn’t reconcile how to turn her dream into a career. An Economics and Management grad, she started working in the corporate world, even while pursuing her passion on the side: acquiring camera equipment and taking photography courses.
“I had a good career in a large international company, so I put my dreams on hold,” Marina admitted; traveling and shooting on days off. But in 2013, “the puzzle came together,” she revealed. While working as a Brand Manager for Heineken (a keen sponsor of regattas) she said, “One day I was scrolling through our Facebook feed and saw beautiful photos of the ocean, yachts racing, splashing seas, the struggle and unity of sailors and the elements.” It was an event covered by Carlo Borlenghi and as she delved further into his magnificent work, she confessed, “My heart began to beat harder and harder, and I realized that this is what I wanted: to be a yachting photographer!”
Sailing experience helped advance Marina’s dream: having raced in the Baltic Sea on sport boats like SB20s and Platu25s, and the Alegro 33. But it was an introduction to Carlo Borlenghi, arranged by her husband Nikita, that solidified her path. Not only did Carlo’s work make such an impression that Marina quit her office job immediately; but an invitation to photograph alongside him at the Monaco Primo Cup gave her a taste of what it was really like to shoot a premier event. Marina was hooked!
Since then she has wasted no time making an impact. Marina is currently the official photographer of the Melges World League and Melges 40 Grand Prix and is co-owner of the Barracuda Communication media agency.
Of her work, she revealed, “I am inspired by abstractionism and impressionism; constantly searching for moments where wind, light, speed, sail and team compositions create aesthetically pleasing images that illustrate what the sport of sailing sport is really like.”
Her unique skill and perspective, which transforms real objects and phenomena into artful graphics is evidenced in December’s featured calendar image.
To capture that shot, Marina described being on a RIB at the leeward mark, waiting for the fleet to advance. “The moment when they approach the mark rounding, especially in strong wind, is always very intense. The most important thing is not to become confused and miss the most interesting shots, since so much is happening. At one point, three boats flew up to the mark at once, so I followed the Mascalzone Latino Team team in the center. The wind was strong and the kites were dropping very quickly, and this shot unfolded in a second. It was breathtaking, I felt like a real hunter! The frames before and after this one were nothing; this was the one sure and perfect shot!”
Marina was using her Nikon D800 camera and Nikkor 70-200 2.8 lens, which she said is her go-to equipment 80-percent of the time.
For the vertical calendar shot, conditions were changing rapidly as winds gusted to 25-knots beneath gray, rainy skies. “In the afternoon dramatic clouds had appeared and obscured the sun. Suddenly everything changed: the sun's rays began to break through the clouds creating such a dramatic picture; and we rushed toward the sunbeams at full speed.”
“To be honest, it was scary,” Marina added. “The waves were huge and the boat flew off them. My feelings were mixed: I wanted to make beautiful shots, but I also wanted to stay alive!”
“I love the strong wind, of course, for the action and adrenaline. For that moment, you turn into a hunter. But I love light breezes too, because there is time to pursue more artistic shots. Although most often in light wind it can be a long wait: like meditation,” she laughed.
Marina acknowledged the circumstances and people who supported her dream and helped it come true, as she makes strides in a promising career. Selected to photograph the world premiere of the Melges 40, she excitedly admitted, “The whole world saw it through my eyes!” And now, to know all of Ultimate Sailing’s friends and fans are enjoying her spectacular work, is a thrill. “It was a great honor for me to receive your invitation to participate in the famous Ultimate Sailing Calendar. I am so proud and grateful, and the news that I am the only other female photographer (besides Sharon) to have been featured, stunned me! I know how hard it is to be a successful sailing photographer, it is such an extreme profession, and I so admire what you do.”
Thank you, Marina, and we admire you too and welcome you to the Ultimate Sailing Calendar and legacy we have been building for 39 years!
Happy Holidays – buy a calendar!
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