Updated: Aug 2, 2020
This year I was asked again to help photograph the 24hr Yacht Race run by the Lowry Bay Yacht Club. Its starting point was the Seaview Marina in Lower Hutt Wellington. This is the second year I have provided my services to the club.
Travel light and with the right gear.
The forecast was bright and sunny with a light breeze. Since I am based on various boats both small and large, travelling light is paramount as I need to transfer boat to boat out on the water. I do not want to lug around a lot of equipment.
My gear I decided to use this year was the Nikon D810 because of its high megapixel count (36) and two lenses to cover both long reach and low light. Higher megapixels will allow me to crop without sacrificing too much quality. The Sigma has fantastic reach at 500mm however is not so great in low light but as conditions where excellent and bright on the day, the Sigma the only lens I ended up needing.
Sigma 150-500mm 5.6
Tamron 70-200mm G2 2.8
128GB SD Card
You can find a review of the Sigma here. https://www.kenrockwell.com/sigma/150-500mm.htm
Tips for shooting on a moving boat
It is essential that autofocus, manual ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed are used in a situation like this. The boat is constantly moving up and down and rocking side to side. My only lens I used was the Sigma 150-500mm. You don't want to get in the way of the yachts as they move fast but you do want to be able to get some nice action shots of the crew on board.
ISO 160 to 250
F8 to F12
Shutter speed 1000s to 2500s
Single spot AFC Focus
Focal range from 150 to 500mm
White Balance - Auto
The reason to choose single spot focus is that it is just easier and more efficient to focus on one section of the boat as its moving in all directions fast. By using an aperture of around F8 to F10 you are going to have the whole boat in focus as long as you get your single point focused correctly. When using 9 or 21 point focus, you may notice that the lens can end up hunting for focus. Timing is critical and you need to work fast, Single point is faster and more accurate.
When shooting in a situation like this because of the fast nature of yacht racing, I ended up taking multiple shots of the same vessel as they came into view. This was a safe way just in case focus was off because of the ever rocking up and down and sideways motion. You could spend time to check images on the back of the camera. They are almost impossible to see in the bright sun anyway. Make sure you have vibration stabilization on the camera or lens. In my case, the Sigma has it built into the lense.
I was out on the water for around 2.5 hours and came away with 950 images. As most of these were almost identical (often 30 shots of the same boat), I just went through in Adobe Lightroom and chose the one I preferred most.
Editing was done using a clean colour base (natural) then white and blacks clipped. Adobe standard was used. Next, I imported into photoshop and an Auto histogram fix was run. Next was a clean colour base using Greater Than Gatsby Carving Tree photoshop actions. Then a slight contrast pop was added as shooting in full bright sun can often wash colour and contrast out.
I finished up shooting around 6.30. It would have been nice to get some golden hour shots but the crew I was with had to head back for the club BBQ. A great afternoon and adventure and I the reason I do assignments like this is you can just not get these types of shots from the safety of land.
I look forward to next year's adventure.