Every once in a while, my adopted hometown of Santa Barbara, California serves up the fresh-to-frightening conditions that make for a truly epic day of shooting. One of those times happily coincided with the Santa Barbara Yacht Club’s hosting of the Laser Midwinters West.
After over 30 years at this, I can reliably peg a “calendar day,” from the moment I get out on the course. This was no different; it was a photographer’s dream.
As a former Laser sailor, it sure looked scary, but these competitors — adults and kids alike — were eating it up, planing through the waves downwind and carving around them on the way uphill.
Two of the three days were extremely challenging for the race committee. Seeing the signal boat bobbing around was enough to make my stomach churn. I spent one day on a dedicated photo boat and another on the weather mark-set boat. In both cases the drivers showed great skill in getting us into position while keeping the boat from being set broadside to the waves.
For my part, my job was to manage my monster lenses and camera bodies — some weigh up to 15-plus pounds — from a 22-ft whaler, try to keep them dry, and try to compose and focus in the huge sea state.I keep my gear in a cooler. It may sound odd to stow tens of thousands of dollars in camera gear in a $50 cooler, but it’s a great way to keep it (mostly) dry, readily accessible, and protected from impact damage. Nonetheless, that’s all meaningless if the whole thing falls overboard, which it nearly did a few times.
I’m fortunate to do what I do. When all it takes is a 15-minute commute to get to work, I really couldn’t be any luckier.
‘How did you get the boats to line up like that?’
I get quite the giggle out of that! But in truth, it is no laughing matter: it takes a lot of planning, logistics, the right photo boat and driver, a lively fleet of boats, and a solid knowledge of yacht racing to get an incredible shot like this!
Imagine my glee when this circuit launched and gave me the chance to capture thrilling bluewater action like our November Ultimate Sailing Calendar image – just a hop, skip and a helicopter ride from my home!
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