Photo Shoot: Lessons at the Figawi sailboat race and aboard Ernestina-Morrissey tall ship

It was the second time in three days the Cape Cod Times sent me to sea.

The wind was picking up as the Beach Boys sang on the boat’s stereo. My long-time press boat captain Paul Marshall navigated the waters off Hyannisport in a rolling sea filled with sailboats circling the starting line of the 52nd annual Figawi sailboat race heading to Nantucket. The race features a staggered start, sending off slower boats precisely at 10 a.m., with later times for each division.

The most dramatic sailing photos are ones that put the camera right in the way of competitors.  A good media boat captain can place you in the best spot and then get you out quickly. As a noontime deadline loomed, we broke away from the race and were back at the Hyannis Yacht Club getting the photo in with time to spare as I edited down 579 photos into one selection for the Sunday paper.

A big sky shows off the lines of the tall ship Ernestina-Morrissey sailing from MMA heading to New Bedford.
A big sky shows off the lines of the tall ship Ernestina-Morrissey sailing from MMA heading to New Bedford.

Two days earlier, Capt. Tiffany Krihwan and crew were waiting at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy dock when I arrived. The tall ship Ernestina-Morrissey was heading from Buzzards Bay back to her berth in New Bedford, the Cape Cod Times invited to tag along.

This ship has a long and storied history and is back in Massachusetts waters after a major renovation in Maine. The ship was launched from Essex, Massachusetts in 1894 as a fishing boat used on the Grand Banks. It went into service as a polar exploration vessel and set a record for a sailing vessel at the time, reaching within 578 miles of the North Pole, in 1940. From the late '40s until 1965, it sailed from the Cape Verde Islands to the United States carrying immigrants and goods, according to the ship’s website.

Our afternoon sail took us nowhere near Arctic waters.

There was a cool north breeze on Buzzards Bay, though, to fill her sails beneath a sky dappled with cotton ball clouds. Being a photographer on a tall ship setting sail is a lesson in humility. Most of the time, no matter where one stands, you are usually in the way of someone. The captain and crew were most tolerant of their shipmate photographers. With the sails set, we made our way down a ladder hanging off the port side and were assisted into a small inflatable boat. This excursion was a great luxury, because when photographing aboard any boat it is always impossible to make a photo of the entire boat. So off we went, circling around the boat, dancing with the in-and-out sun to be in the right spot at the right time, hats off to our small boat captain Sicily Didomenico. Her boat maneuvering made the photo you see possible.

The best photo assignments always start where the land ends. Perhaps best stated by the quote from “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, “there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: How to get the best boat photos: Figawi sailboat race and a tall ship