One of my favorite places to shoot is San Francisco Bay, and you can see why, when you look at the February image (which is also the cover) of the 2018 Ultimate Sailing Calendar!
San Francisco always delivers. The combination of stiff breeze, strong currents and spectacular backdrop set the perfect stage for ‘ultimate’ sailing images. Add the competitive J/70 fleet and you have the perfect recipe!
I went to the J/70 Worlds, hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club, specifically with a cover shot in mind.
The weather forecast had shaped up for the event: super windy, sunny, with epic tides. These are challenging conditions for the racers, and dicey for the photo boat too! I had an excellent driver, Pat Lopez; but even so, with the breeze pushing the boat around, it was a struggle to put us in the middle of the action and get the shots, while keeping us out of the way of the racers!
But the J/70’s are most photogenic off the wind – so once we figured out their trajectory, we positioned ourselves so they were coming right at us. Okay, there were a few times we had to maneuver to the outside of the layline, to let them pass below us. But they look great sailing away, too, so I captured an incredible number of super shots, both coming and going.
In these ‘victory at sea’ conditions I had to be especially careful about my camera equipment. Onboard I store my camera gear in a very large Igloo cooler, modified with hinges and a latch and seal around the opening. Coolers are great for containing ice and water, right? So they’re just as good for keeping water out. I set up the cooler so I can leave the lenses on the bodies and just switch back and forth between cameras. No changing lenses in that sloppy environment! The hinged top allows me to quickly swap cameras, then the hinged top slams shut before the next wave crashes over the boat.
For this shoot, I was using a very long lens to compress the images, but I had a total of 3-4 camera bodies set up, all Canon: 200 - 400 F4L with the 1.4 x extender; one zoom 70 - 200 2.8L; and a wide angle 16-35 2.8L. When my arm is exhausted and it is too rough, I use the 100 – 400 4.5.
For the most part I shoot horizontal, unless I’m in the air. This makes it really difficult to select images for the magazine covers: I almost always have to crop a horizontal to make it work.
But it’s perfect for the calendar!
I was really trying hard for this shot, or this type of sequence for a cover, and was thrilled when all our hard work and preparation panned out. I had a lot of images that would have worked for the cover, but this got my final vote. The vibrant spinnakers, and compact fleet charging toward us through foamy waves and spray, really represents what I’m constantly looking for, in the ‘ultimate’ sailing image!
The legendary J-class yacht Velsheda plunges into a surly Mediterranean with might and determination at the top of our January 2023 pages. Much like our entrance to the New Year, this treasured classic battles ahead with hope and determination. It’s what we do!
Join our crew!