Some would say that sailing is a fine art – mastering the skill, knowing how to read the wind and sea, and how to set the sails so that you travel into the right direction is indeed a skill. In the summer many people choose this relaxing pastime because they love to be on the sea. From a photographer’s perspective, it’s a chance to get some fine images of the vessel, the sea, and to capture the nautical atmosphere.
When photographing a moving sail boat, you need to use a fast shutter speed. Turn the mode dial to TV or S (Shutter Priority) mode and choose a shutter speed of around 1/400th of a second to begin with. Let the camera select the correct aperture. Set the lens focus mode to AF (Autofocus) and select continuous focusing (AI Servo AF Canon/AF-C Nikon) mode to automatically re-focus the lens on the moving sail boat. If you struggle to get a sharp image you can push the ISO up although ISO 200 is a good starting point. Use a good quality wide-angle lens to capture the entire boat.
Sunrise is one of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of the day, and on a boat you will be able to see it in all its purity. Get up and out there early as sunrise doesn’t last for long. Use a wide-angle lens (10-42mm) for a broad perspective, and shoot with a variety of different exposures. You’ll want to capture the natural light, so a tripod or still surface is a must. Remember, if you’re actually on a boat, a tripod won’t help with reducing the wave motion, so you’ll want to use a high shutter speed and high ISO. Turn the mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority) mode and use a small aperture (between f/11-f/32) for a greater DOF (depth of field).
Sunset will give you strong reds and oranges. Sunrise and sunset photos are taken during the “golden hour”, which is the first or last hour of sunlight. You must work quickly – place your camera on a tripod, turn the flash off and set the mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority) mode. Aperture priority mode is ideal if you aren’t used to photographing sunsets, as the camera will determine the correct shutter speed. Use a small aperture f/16-f/32 to keep the whole picture sharp. Set the exposure compensation mode to -1 or -2. Underexposing the scene will increase the saturation of the colors.
The key to capturing a striking sunset silhouette is to have a strong background of bright colors and a strong shape in the foreground. Remember to turn off your flash and use either spot or multi-zone metering mode. First take a light reading of just the bright area, then press the shutter half way down, point the camera at your subject and snap the photo.
Shooting a portrait while sailing gives an interesting angle as the ship and sky will also feature in the image. Use either a standard or wide-angle lens (17mm to 50mm) for the most flattering look, and set the aperture to f/11-f/32 to keep the foreground and background sharp. If the day is bright, try using fill-in flash so the subject’s face is lit, not just a dark shadow. Experiment with poses; have the subject look at you and then look away.