In August 2011 I was offered a heaven-sent opportunity to show some of the photographic skills I had been patiently developing over the previous six years or so, writes photographer Penny Slacke of marinelens.co.uk.
Jim Vintner, a close friend of my father, invited myself and Michelle, my partner, to join his family on the powerful Osmotech RIB to follow the start of the Fastnet Race. With Jim at the helm, we belted after the big multihulls such as Veolia and Banque Populaire, flying down the Solent at 30 plus knots.
I managed to get some good close up shots, using my modest Canon EOS 300D and a good zoom lens. Using fast shutter speeds and manual focus, I was able to get good, pin-sharp images of the action. We then followed the closely-packed fleet of the other Fastnet yachts as they set off from the start line. A fantastic range of entries as always, beating hard to windward, closing the shore at west Cowes. By then the wind had really freshened, creating the classic Solent chop. Great for action shots. Away they went towards the Needles and we then headed back over to Cowes for a pit stop.
Then out again to follow the big monohulls, Azzam, Beau Geste, ICAP Leopard 3, Rambler 100, Team Sanya. As with the multihulls, this was the most amazing blast. Jim knows the skipper of Leopard 3 and so we shot off to catch them and sat virtually on their transom for a while at 25 plus knots! The skippers of these huge yachts manoeuvre them like dinghies, bang as the massive boom is flung to port just yards above us, crack as the vast area of the mainsail fills and is sheeted in bar tight.
Leopard 3 heeled sharply as Rambler 100, bearing down on us at high speed, gave chase! Jim spun the RIB around and away across Leopard’s wake; huge adrenaline rush and yet I managed to capture these moments. I was totally focused on getting the shots. Half-seated, half-standing at the back of the RIB, with my knees flexed to take the impact as we hit the waves, I twisted around continuously, mindful of my back, to get the best shots.
When we got back I found I had taken well over 400 photographs, the majority of them good enough to keep. I was so chuffed. After some minor tweaking I shared them with Jim Vintner and Georgie, his wife. She said I should put them on the internet for others to see. Then a semi-pro photographer friend at Swanwick Marina said that I should seriously consider creating a website, as he said the images were good enough to sell. I have been vigorously job-searching for over a year now, since being made redundant and need to earn a living, so that’s what I did. Using a very reasonably-priced template for a commercial website by Vistaprint, with the freedom to build it as I chose and using my own domain name, "marinelens.co.uk" went live in October last year.
Michelle, my partner of nearly nine years, bought me a brand new Canon EOS 550D, which I just love using. I am out every day, unless it’s raining hard, capturing the landscape and wildlife around the River Hamble or else up at the Durlston Country Park in Swanage.
Without a decent RIB and outboard, I’m unable to get out to follow the local sailing club events in the Solent every weekend. Very frustrating. However, I have had a very generous offer from Martin Burtinshaw, who owns the lovely Swordsman 37 that is one of the press boats for events off Cowes. I had captured him in action, quite close up, during the start of the Fastnet Race and as he also keeps his boat at Swanwick Marina, I gave him the prints. He was delighted with them and has offered me a place on his Swordsman motorboat, for a small contribution to the fuel cost, the next time he’s out for an event! Brilliant piece of luck!!
I am very aware that I have much to learn and so I am studying for the Diploma in Photography run by The Photography Institute. A very practical online course of 12 modules, with a practical assignment at the end of each one. The high quality feedback and practical suggestions from the tutor assigned to me make this an outstanding and challenging course. All the tutors are active and successful pro photographers, with years of experience.
I now shoot in raw format and have had to become familiar with the editing and post-production features of Photoshop. However I always use neutral density filters and a polariser, when conditions are right, as I much prefer to compose and make good photographs at the time, "in camera". That for me is what photography is all about, fully capturing the image that captured me.
- www.marinelens.co.uk marinelens.co.uk