Our boat under full sail (photo copyright 2010 by Joe McCary; used by permission)
It’s easy enough to get pictures of your boat at anchor. Set the hook firmly in a beautiful cove, and take photos from your dinghy or a ashore. But a picture of a boat at rest is nothing like the grace and excitement of being under way. Good pictures of your boat underway are hard to come by. If you’re underway, you’re in the boat, sailing it, and you can’t very well be taking photos from outside the boat. So getting underway photos takes some doing. Over the years we’ve worked out various schemes, sailing in parallel with friends and snapping photos of each others’ boats. Once our good friend James Forsyth zipped around our boat holding onto his dinghy with one hand and his camera in the other while we were sailing in 20-plus-knot winds to get some excellent photos. They were the best we’d had to that point. Until now.
The only thing cooler than on-water photos is aerial photos, and hiring one of the photo services that flies over you with a helicopter to get the best possible photo angles is far, far, out of our budget. But Wayne Wilson, a member of our online sailing forum, had an inspiration. In retrospect the idea was amazingly simple, and it resulted in pictures that were simply amazing. “I am going to post my son on the Academy Bridge (38°59.59'N x 76°29.21'W) over the Severn R. in Annapolis with a 12M-pix camera,” he posted. “…I have wanted some good pictures of the boat for years, up river with headsail - down river with spinnaker (or vice versa depending on wind). But, it is no more difficult to take multiple boats than one - so if anyone else is interested let me know.”
Interested? Interested? Within the next few days, dozens of messages were flying back and forth. When we learned that one member of the group was a professional photographer, things really took off. In the end, twelve boats and 4 photographers were lined up. We made contact with the Coast Guard and other local law enforcement to make sure they knew what we were up to – and that we were merely obsessed sailors, not terrorists scoping out the bridge to bomb it. Email addresses and cellphone numbers were exchanged and boats were polished and spruced up. Joe McCary, the lead photographer, even promised to digitally repair the damage to our teak from last weekend’s unfortunate anchor dragging incident. Would that the fix were so easy in real life! (In the end, digital edited proved unnecessary as the wind put our undamaged side toward the photographers).
The gang gathered at Fleet Reserve Club for dinner the night before, to share laughter and sea stories and some last-minute logistics. Several of us had never met in person before, though we’d been trading notes on line in some cases for years. This is the part I always love – seeing people in other contexts. I know their online personae and their slant on sailing – who’s a racer, who’s just starting out with dreams of moving aboard and cruising as we did, who’s doing a major refit – but that’s all. It’s fun to round out my understanding of who they are, putting faces to (screen) names and meeting people’s families, learning their professions, seeing their boats. Another delightful side note to rounding out our knowledge of our online friends was learning that one of them, Shawn Harlan, is also a professional chef teaching at Anne Arundel Community College’s Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute. He arranged a gourmet “care package” of sandwiches and snacks to sustain the photo crew, who expected to be standing out on the bridge for hours as the boats paraded back and forth underneath.The weather on the appointed day was underwhelming – gray and drizzly with almost no wind. Spirits were high as we circled about, though, each boat awaiting its cue from the photo team to begin its pass under the bridge. Of course, we all took on-water shots of each other as well. Soon I realized there was a subtle game going on - in addition to photos of each other sailing well, people tried to catch their fellow sailors in flubs or with badly trimmed sails and threatened to post those less-flattering pictures to the website (though no one in fact did). After the sail/motor trip back home, we were all glued to our computers waiting for the pictures to come in – and when they did, they were spectacular. Like drool-on-the-keyboard spectacular. Between the photo team and the other sailors, there are literally hundreds of images, and I wanted them all. “The hardest artistic thing to do is transfer your passion through your work and to get others to feel it,” commented Dave Perlman, another member. And even in the less-than-ideal conditions, the photos did exactly that, captured the grace and beauty and magic of being under sail. Those who couldn’t make it, or learned about the event too late, were (deservedly) jealous. I’ve got a hunch we’ll be doing this again.
bridge photo team: Joe McCary, his brother Mike and Don Wagner. Photo by Jamison Hurst (copyright 2010, used by permission) riding on sailing vessel Auspicious.
The last 5 boats passing the Naval Academy as they are heading homeward after the shoot. Photo by Joe McCary (copyright 2010, used by permission).