PDN: Do you get close to the action with lenses, or with the boat?
AC: Mostly with the boat. Yacht Shots had an awesome way to
photograph regattas: a large rigid inflatable dinghy with a powerful
engine, extended tiller and a harness for the photographer. We would
get into the racecourse, get the shot, and get out of the way quickly. [At
PhotoBoat] we own a 19-foot rigid inflatable boat. [It] is lightweight,
fast and maneuverable, which is extremely important for our edge on
PDN: What gear do you use?
AC: Our camera equipment includes a few Nikon D300s, a D700, and a
D800; a 600mm lens, a 200-400mm lens, a 70-200mm, a 17-55mm and
a 14mm fisheye with an Ikelite underwater housing for some fun shots
from the waterline. The 70-200mm is our workhorse lens.
PDN: Are the spray and saltwater air hard on the gear?
AC: You’d think so, but we keep them covered with Aqua Tech SS Sport
Shield Rain Covers, and the camera bodies are pretty weatherproof.
Also, when a wave is coming up, you tuck the camera into your body.
PDN: Do you have a lot of competition?
AC: There are a few successful companies, and a lot that come and go.
PDN: Why are some more successful?
AC: It’s kind of a popular hobby profession. A guy into photography
has a boat and wants to give it a try. It can be fun for a while, but it’s a
job. You have to work really hard.
PDN: Where does the hard work come in?
DC: A lot of it is on the back end, with the processing. We sort the
photos and put them online by boat name. That’s a lot of work. That’s
not the magic solution, but it’s that kind of thing: treating it like a full-time job.
PDN: How do you market yourselves?
AC: We set up a tent with monitors [at regattas], so people can see
the pictures as soon as they get off the water. [Talking] to the sailors
[in person], rather than being just an internet business, is really
important. We have a lot of repeat customers who anticipate us to be
at certain places.
DC: We also collect e-mail addresses so we can get in touch with
them. We put up a gallery [for each boat] and send them a link.
We’ve done minor advertising here and there in local sailing
magazines, and there’s a popular sailing website we’ll advertise
on now and again. But we can’t market too much to people whose
photos we haven’t taken.
PDN: What are the biggest challenges you have?
DC: Things we can’t control, like weather. Not enough wind is the
thing we probably complain about the most. The more you get out
there, the better chance you’re going to get those 25-knot-wind epic
days, when racers come off the water with their adrenaline up and
they’ve had a great time.
PDN: Isn’t the work seasonal?
DC: November and December are the only down times for sailboat
racing because of the holidays, but come the end of October we’re
[fulfilling] a lot of [orders for] Christmas, so it’s nice that we don’t have
to be out on the water as much.
PDN: How many regattas are you shooting each year?
AC: At the most, we’ve done 50. We’ve started to pick and choose, and
go to ones that generate more income for us.
PDN: What distinguishes the events that generate more income?
DC: There are a lot of factors: the number of boats, the types of boats—
some are bigger and have more people on them—and whether people
travel from far away. That makes it more special to them, so they’re
more likely to want photos to remember. Whether it’s a national
championship, as opposed to a weekend race at the yacht club—the
championship will be better for us.
PDN: What’s your advice to other photographers trying to get into
AC: Anybody who has the determination to do it should do it. But it’s
not just a fun hobby. You have to do the work. Even after long day on
water, you have to spend a long night on the computer.
PDN: After the novelty and fun wears off, what keeps you going?
DC: We have a lot of pride in this brand we’ve built. People know it,
and our photos are on the walls of thousands of people’s houses. That’s
satisfying, knowing we’re supplying a product that’s going to last and
[inspire] conversation and memories.
TOP: Business is best after regattas with strong winds and high waves, because
those conditions make for dramatic images. ABOVE: Clark uses a 14mm fisheye
with an Ikelite underwater housing for shots from at or below the waterline.