Photo of the Month: St. Barths Bucket

We caught up with photographer Shirley O'Hara Falcone as she was off to watch the launch of Oracle Team USA's AC72 in San Francisco. She told us about this breathtaking shot from the St. Barths Bucket Regatta and how she got into the world of sailing photography.

Tell us about this photo.
I was sailing on the J Class Hanuman for the Bucket, and we were out for a practice sail, sparring with Ranger. It was really light air, and we had just hoisted the jib. We were jibing, and I was lying on the deck looking up at the sail. The breeze was so light, the jib made an almost spiral in slow motion as it came across. It was really beautiful—I knew before it happened that this was a shot I couldn't miss—I was excited the picture looked as good as it did.

What sort of editing do you do?
I use a wonderful program called Lightroom, and I try to keep editing to a minimum. In the digital world today, sometimes you can't tell what's real and what isn't. With photography, I think taking the picture is your skill, and then you can use editing to add personality. It can be a more artistic approach. I play with contrast, and sometimes desaturate the color, as I did with this one. I took the color out of the sky and sails, and just accentuated a few colors on the sailors to give the picture more impact.

What camera do you use?
I use a Canon 5D MarkII. When I'm sailing I like to use a 16-35mm (wide angle) lens because you're often in a cramped space, but the wide angle allows you to capture more expanse. If I'm further away, I'll switch to a telephoto lens that allows me to put one boat in crisp focus and blur the background a little.

How did you get into sailing photography?
I was born in Antigua and come from a big sailing family. Taking pictures of boats combines my loves for art and extreme sports. My brother Shannon Falcone sails with Oracle Team USA. It was through his sailing buddies, the ex-Volvo Puma crew, that I got to sail the Bucket. I had raced on Hanuman before and my name had come up again as crew, but I pushed my role as a photographer and it worked out beautifully. Photography has really become my profession in the last three years—with sailing I get to travel to amazing places around the world and photograph all along the way.

What's the coolest place sailing and photography has taken you?
My real passion with photography comes hand-in-hand with the people I meet. For me, one of the most incredible places in the world, where people live in harmony with their surroundings, is the South Pacific. From the Marquesas Islands through the Tuamotu Islands and onto the Tahitian Archipelago, I felt immediately "at home." Another "ocean jewel" is the San Blas Islands off Panama. There are hundreds of tiny white sandy islands covered in coconut trees. You can swim from one to the next. It's so beautiful it's surreal!

What do you like to do outside of photography?
Anything that offers a bit of adrenaline! I enjoy kite surfing, island life, and occasional rallies—I'm a certified rally driver. All things extreme. I also love spending time with my brothers (we have to chase each other all over the world to get to visit!), and of course good food and good wine.

What's next?
I've applied for the onboard media position with the next Volvo Ocean Race. I had considered trying to do the race just as a sailor, but then the media openings popped up and it's really in line with what I want to do with my career. It would be hard core, but I'm hungry for it. The Volvo Ocean Race is a mental challenge, an emotional and physical challenge, not to mention a professional challenge … the real question is whether you can sustain that level of intensity for nine months. To work and race with the all-female SCA team, representing and empowering women, in the next race would be the most amazing experience.

See more of Shirley's work at her website, shirleyfalcone.com, or on Facebook at Shell Shot Studio.