Portfolio: The hand held point of view, shot while sailing.


      I guess I really should have known better. But it even seemed the perfect solution to the dilemma all boardhead photographers face.  Whether to shoot or go shred.

If you’ve seen some of the fallout from this project, you may even agree there could be no better way to get a camera right next to the action than to sail it there.  To slip into the sweetest angles with the most amazing lighting while pacing the subject to allow the best action to unfold.  It seemed  to be the grail.  And perhaps it is.  Though it turns out to be a rather mean grail.     

It’s not just me either.  Everybody I know who’s tried shooting hand held on the fly, seems to have pretty much hated it.  And I can certainly relate because even after well more than a couple decades of working with the angle, I still find myself hating it most the time.  Like when I’m getting worked by a wave I would have otherwise been riding had I not fallen because I was looking at the camera to check the settings or to see if there were any waterspots on the port.   Or when I’m swimming for the rig as the camera weighs me down like the medium sized stone it is, with the bag dragging like a sea anchor.  Or when the camera drops inside the boom and the leash loops around it as the camera swings over again, creating the worst possible time to catapult as you fumble one-handed to recover a grip and untangle yourself. 

I especially hate what chasing some elusive image can do to my sailing experience.  Then there’s what having a camera out on the water can do to everybody else’s sailing as well.  For something odd seems to happen when I break it out.  All too often, people seem to bear down and blaze off in single-minded determination to blast some hero move -- totally forgetting that I’m trying to keep up with them sailing one-handed, in their dirty air, on wave gear.  And that I’m typically shooting with a fairly wide angle lens.  That close is good.  Real close is better.  And scary close makes for an interesting shot.   So blazing off into the distance looking for the hero move isn’t going to make the cover.  

I really do mean it when I say “spray me.”  And I even made an extra camera holster to loan out, in the hopes of finding someone who’s good enough at sailing one handed that I could spray them.  Not many takers on that one though.  And those that have, well, they’re already hatin’ it the first time they drop the camera while at speed, it hits the water and comes looping back at them.  Or when they realize for some reason they can no longer make a jibe.  Or they find themselves doing a big swim because carrying the camera makes them kook so heavily. 

Just wait till you get hit in the face with it.  Or realize that your average windsurfer doesn’t typically schedule their sessions around the best light -- often sleeping through the early shoot and having just gotten off the water and headed for beers, a shower and dinner by the time the colors sweeten up again late in the afternoon.

And what’s with all the fat claims there could be such a thing as a waterproof camera?  Water resistant perhaps but nothing it seems, is actually waterproof.  For all it takes is a grain of sand to let a drop or two of saltwater by some O-ring and your warrantee is canceled. 

There is of course, a lot more to go wrong with water photography than water in your “waterproof” camera.  Water beads on the lens port, water driving you to the bottom as you’re swept over the falls, water up your nose and worse.  Soft focus, unfortunate framing, bad exposure or the shutter might lock up.  The batteries might be weak.  Maybe rain clouds just eclipsed the sun.  Or now the sun’s back out but you just ran out of film or memory.  And if you really want to obsess on things, is this person treating you with love and respect because they enjoy your company or are they all about getting in the magazine?

Hey even if you get lucky and score the perfect shot -- sun bleached happiness flying along with a geographically recognizable background, politically correct, perfectly exposed, sharp enough to publish, interesting enough to use and on fairly current gear (a fleeting element at best) -- now it’s all about the damn Kiting or Stand Up Paddling even.  And you may have to pretty much give your stuff away to get it published in a windsurfing mag, no matter what you went through to get the shot. 

So perhaps you’re wondering why I’m talking about getting back into it.  Well, even with so much to go wrong, every once in a long while, I score a sesh where I’m so totally dialed that I sail one-handed without thought and I am the camera.  Where epic conditions, great light and superb talent coincide.  When somehow I zen a shot that begins to capture what it’s like out there.  Then I get all stoked, forget how hateful certain elements of the process can be and go nuts chasing the next cool photo. 

       And in spite of the continuing frustrations, I’ve always thought I should be doing more with my ability to do this.  I know a lot of people that have tried it and given it up.  I even seem to have given it up there for awhile but I’m back.  Especially now that the game has gone digital and the feedback is so much more immediate.   So I’d be way stoked to shoot something for one of your projects.  Gear for an ad or a catalog.  Maybe some hand held video.  A portrait.   Or anything else you might want to capture from the hand held platform.  And in most any sailing environment, for I’m totally willing to go places you wouldn’t dream of taking your jetski.  I’m a lot cheaper and more environmentally friendly than a Helicopter too.  So yeah, let’s get together and capture something they haven’t seen yet.

I finally even came around and got a digital rig to experiment with. So how about some spray?


       “As much as I love to see clamp on perspectives and shots taken from down in the water, it’s always seemed a bit like cheating to me.  To really get next to windsurfing with a camera, and to best capture the available light, I contend that you too have to be windsurfing.  And of course, who better than another windsurfer will understand the mind of the windsurfer and the peak moments that we most crave seeing?  So even back in the mid-1980‘s as I was getting started with windsurfing, shooting on board while sailing along next to my subject seemed like the best way to go at it.”