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Photo of the Month: Ingrid Abery

London-based photographer Ingrid Abery shares the story behind her aerial shot of Moonbeam IV at PalmaVela this month.

May 28, 2013
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An alternative to an on-the-water shooting platform is a heli.** Adjust your tools, think outside of the box. So it was a call to my friend and heli pilot Hallvar at Rotorflug. PalmaVela had potential for plenty of photo opportunities. Buckled in with camera bodies and three lenses, a wide angle, medium 70-200 mm telephoto and the big daddy–the prime 500 mm–in hand we assessed the forecast and starting sequence. Heading out to the start in the bay of Palma, a postponement flag was being raised. After honing in on a handful of yachts milling about making use of the extra prep time, it was prudent to settle on one of the headlands and conserve air time. After 45 minutes of waiting around, the PRO canned all racing for the day. So it was back to base.

Saturday morning and a sense of déjà vu as the rotor blades propelled us back out to the starting line. This time we had a race on our hands. The Maxi, Mini Maxi, and Wally class, and the classic fleet set off at ten-minute intervals. Two converging wind patterns from the day before had subsided to allow for some fresh breeze as my cameras thrived on the visual feast opening up beneath my feet. Yachts jostled within feet of one another on the starting line, and then out of the traps like a greyhound race went these thoroughbred Maxis. Swapping between cameras at speed, grabbing and holding tightly whilst firing as many quality images as possible, the chopper spinning around each yacht was, as always, exhilarating. That last upper body gym workout was certainly worthwhile for having a good hold on my 500 mm lens.

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After a while Moonbeam IV caught my eye and proved a refreshing change from all the modern nautical furniture scattered out across Palma’s vast bay. Taking a steady approach in behind the classic and not too close, my Canon 5D, 7D with Canon 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 and 500 mm lenses respectively fed upon the breathtaking sight, the motor drive working at a medium pace.

I had seen Moonbeam on a number of occasions from the water on the classic Med circuit but never from the air. The image captured of Moonbeam here shows her in all her glory, with as much sail cloth up as possible negotiating the leeward mark. If you look closely there is a crewmember hoisted halfway up the mast looking for valuable breeze. A single loop of the yacht was made as instructions were given to the pilot during which time 15 to 20 frames were banked. Resplendent in her finery it was clear that our lenses had saved the best for last.

As we finally peeled away leaving the fleet to head down to their second leeward mark, my mind drifted back to my first experiences of photographing sailing. I cut my photographic teeth in a helicopter chasing the 18-foot skiff fleet down Sydney Harbour in an ideal 26-knot Nor’easter some 14 years ago. How the world of photography has changed, the immediacy of it all. Digital format facilitates an even greater sense of urgency, and with it comes a wider scope of styles.

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I like to experiment, to push the image a little, yet always keeping it real. To get as much right in-camera as possible is preferable to long hours at the computer. That way you get to grab a quick dip in the sea post-racing and a cooly before settling down to edit for the magazine deadlines.

View more of Abery’s photos from PalmaVela.
Click here to visit Abery’s website.

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