Today we get the privilege of a wonderful photoshoot from Kent O. Smith, and what goes into getting these amazing images. We all think flat water and sunsets are the trick. It’s really talent and a special eye. I stand and do the slow clap for you Sir Kent Shoot A-lot!
The Really Rough Water Photo Shoot
Every boat event that photograph, I try to get people to go out and run their boats. After all, action shots are much more exciting that dock shots that most anyone can do with a good cell phone these days. Matt used to tell me “dock shots are deadly” and I agree wholeheartedly.
So each year I’m in St. Michaels, MD for the Chesapeake Bay Chapter (CBC) show, I try to organize an on water photoshoot. If you follow the work of the Wangards in their Classic Boating magazine, you’ll see some very nice golden hour imagery. But exhibitors at the CBC show complained about being up so early in the morning. The annual boat festival is Father’s Day weekend in June which is very close to summer solstice, so sunrise comes around 5:40 AM. After an evening of indulging during the Captain’s cocktail party, no one, not even the photographer, wants to be up at that hour.
Several years ago I suggested an afternoon shoot instead and the exhibitors were appreciative. It works out well for the location as the harbor in St. Michaels faces to the east, so we have the sun behind us when we go out on the Miles River, and the far side of the river has very few homes which makes for a more pleasing background.
Unfortunately, at last year’s show, the weather was very gray and overcast on Saturday afternoon when we did the shoot, so the photos tend to be flat and washed out. This year in particular, the chapter wanted new action imagery for their annual calendar. No problem, we’ll organize a shoot for Saturday afternoon…
Well, the best laid plans never hold up to Mother Nature. Saturday and Sunday were very comfortable in the mid 70s with little humidity, but, there was a small craft advisory with winds from the northeast which would be blowing right down the river from the Chesapeake Bay. All day Saturday we could see the whitecaps whipping by. Boat rides for the day were canceled and so was the afternoon photoshoot.
Boat show chairperson Alicia Boardman came up to me and said “What are we going to do? Without photos, we can’t produce a good calendar.” Someone on the dock nearby checked his weather app and said at 6 AM the wind would lay down for a short while. It was currently gusting to 35 knots, in the morning, the prediction was for 20 knots.
Alicia immediately for her husband Bob, who had a Chris Craft Cobra 18’ on land display and told him to be prepared to launch it in the morning. She also recruited her daughter, Bailey and friend Tyler to run their Larson Falls Flyer, also a land display.
Alicia also twisted some other arms. Larry and Kathy Jones said they would take their 1938 Century Seamaid 18’ out. Chip Paradis and friend Darlene agreed to run his 1933 Chris Craft 18’ split cockpit. And Ray Glenn and friend Diane would bring the 1956 Shepherd 22’.
Next problem was the sunlight direction. The river would be very rough, so we’d have to stay close to shore. There would be homes in the background, we would have to live with that. Then Scott & Barbara Bessette said they would be willing to take their 1929 Chesapeake Bay Buyboat cruiser out, the “Iva W,” it’s 65’ long and has an enclosed helm station on the second level with a nice deck. I envisioned shooting from that upper deck down at the boats as they passed by. If the angle was right, the houses in the background wouldn’t get in the image!
We gathered at 6 AM Sunday morning, beautiful golden sunlight was shining, but it was still blowing a good 15 knots with gusts up to 25. Despite knowing they would get wet, everyone was still up for it. A half hour later we were on the river and the waves were big. The “Iva W” made a great shooting platform! It was amazing to see the boats plow through the seas the dramatic spray patterns that ensued. I wish someone there had taken some video!
After the boaters got completely drenched and I had fired off a couple thousand shots, I transferred to Ray’s Shepherd so we could shoot the “Iva W” heading back to the harbor. Ray had the top up, a great idea to keep the folks in the front seats dry. But as we paced the cruiser at maybe 6 mph, the Shepherd started taking waves over the bow. Yes, that’s how rough it was for waves to get on the front deck of a Shepherd 22’. One aggressive wave slid across the front deck, up the windshield and rolled across the convertible top, landing on me and both of my cameras! Soaked! Fortunately my Canon gear is quite well weather sealed and was okay.
As we headed back into the harbor, I spied Todd Warner coming out in the 1948 Ventnor 18’. I had told him we’d be using the “Iva W” as a photo boat so he was headed out there. Ray turned the Shepherd around and we caught up to Todd so he could see where I was. He made some passes so we could get shots of the Ventnor, but being so close to shore, there were some homes in the background.
These are some of the most fun images of classic boats that I’ve ever shot. At a typical show with nice weather, I might be lucky to get a dramatic spray shot when someone crosses some other boat wakes. But this time, it was a whole new level. From now on, I may only do rough water photoshoots, LOL. Small craft advisory, gale force winds, hurricanes, etc. Who’s up for that?