Photographing Cowes Week

Photography at Cowes Week

The Cowes Week Regatta is a wonderful opportunity for photographers to capture the magic of this annual event. I will be covering the event as usual, from the press boat on some days and a chartered boat on others to provide some variety.

If you wish to capture the action from a boat yourself, whether your own or as part of an organised trip, here are some pointers that may be of interest.

If you are unsure about your sea legs, on the day it is advisable to take some form of sea sickness pills and well in advance, (it’s usually no good taking them just before you board). Therefore, please consult your doctor and/or pharmacist for advise as to which are suitable for you. The Solent can be quite choppy or even rough at times and you won’t know the weather conditions on the day, which may be calm and milky or windy and rough. In that same thread, it is advisable for you to have wet weather gear with you, including trousers and good, grippy footwear. Likewise, sunglasses, sun cream, water and a sunhat are more than useful as are warm clothing in layers. It is colder on the water than on land so at least one fleece is normally required. (You can always take it off but it’s difficult to put on if you’ve left it at home!) Safety is paramount at sea, so please wear a lifejacket if at all choppy and make sure before you need it, that it fits you correctly and you know where it is! Ask your skipper if in doubt.

Camera wise, I would recommend getting some form of waterproof cover for your camera. This can be as basic as a plastic bag or sophisticated as a bespoke breathable cover – it’s your choice. or have various alternatives or if local to Southampton, London Camera Exchange LCEGroupopposite the Civic Centre are worth a try.

A chamois leather and/or a towel is also useful to wipe down your camera together with dry lint free wipes or lens cloths. It is also worthwhile sticking some electrical tape over the doors, gaps and covers on your camera body and especially the flash area including over the hot shoe itself, which is an electrical contact. (Any adhesive left by the tape can be removed afterwards quite easily.) It is also useful to have a plain (skylight) filter on each of your lenses. Salt is abrasive and repeated wiping of the front lens element itself may damage or remove the lens coating. The filter acts as a sacrificial cover.

The most used lenses will likely be a standard zoom (24-70mm in 35mm equivalent) and mid telephoto (70-200mm in 35mm equivalent). If you have longer lenses, you may find them useful, but they are difficult to use without practice on the moving boat. On occasions I also use a wide angle lens, but these times are rare. Remember, you are likely to use a number of memory cards and/or rolls of or film plus charged batteries, so bring back-ups. A polariser is very useful but you are unlikely to need ND graduated filters and won’t need a tripod.

Of course, for Cowes Week there is always the spectacle on land as well. I often spend at least one day on shore capturing the action there both on and off the water. The white group of boat classes start off the Royal Yacht Squadron at the entrance to Cowes. This is where the famous cannons are located and you can spend many a hour trying to capture the smoke emitting from one – it’s more difficult than you think! The racing starts here are action packed normally and take place just a few dozen metres from the shore. My advice is to get in position early, sit and wait for the starts. Afterwards you can wander around the town a set yourself a challenge of capturing the ‘flavour of Cowes week’ maybe.

One thing to remember, whether on the water or on land, is that the yachts are moving. Therefore a fast shutter speed is normally required to ensure crisp, sharp images. This isn’t usually a problem as the weather is normally bright, but just check your images and zoom in, in review to make sure. There is nothing worse than getting home to find you have a set of blurry images because you didn’t check them in the field. If you need to increase the speed, then knowledge of the exposure triangle will obviously help as to which settings to change, particularly if you need to maintain depth of field. If this is beyond you, then switching to your cameras’ ‘sports’ mode may help.

Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week is firmly ensconced within the sporting calendar. It is a wonderful opportunity to capture action shots and put your photographic skills to good use. I hope this helps.

Keep practising

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