Shooting H20: Coffee Table Adrenaline

For Rick Tomlinson, photography was initially just something to do when he wasn’t on watch. In 1985, Tomlinson, then a sailor, and boatbuilder in England, snared a spot of Simon Le Bon’s maxi Drum for the Whitbread Race and offered to double as the onboard photographer. After that race he realized he might be able to make a career out of shooting boats instead of building them, and he soon switched to photography full time. Shooting H2O (Thomas Reed Publications, $79.95), his second collaboration with English writer and professional sailor Mark Chisnell, is a comprehensive collection of Tomlinson’s photography to date.

Fittingly, it’s Tomlinson’s four Whitbreads that make up the backbone of the 12-chapter, 192-page book. There are dozens of big, wet Whitbread photos, many of them showcasing Tomlinson’s creative approach to onboard time-exposure photography, an area where he’s become a pioneer. Theover 200 images in the book also cover Tomlinson’s other subjects, ranging from buoy racing to wildlife and expedition work to British lifeboats.

Illuminating personal anecdotes introduce each chapter and highlight the role of Lady Luck in sailing photography. Tomlinson shares some tips on positioning for thebest shot and getting the film safely to the lab. He also details some of his triumphs and a few of his toughest moments--the capsizing of Drum in the 1985 Fastnet Race opens the book. In other chapters, Tomlinson details everything from the challenges of working with volunteer press-boat drivers to the intensity of offshore sailing. Chisnell’s text adds narrative to Tomlinson’s recollections, outlining how this one-time boatbuilder became one of the world’s premier sailing photographers.

While he’s made his name shooting high-energy sailing from the Hauraki Gulf to Cowes, Tomlinson’s personality and eye for light truly shine through in his still images of arctic wildlife, water, and ice--the Antarctic ice cave photo on pg.120 is one of the most compelling in the book.

Shooting H2O is available in the United States at The Armchair Sailor, Newport, R.I., (401-847-4252, www.armchair In Canada contact Vanwell Publishing Ltd. (800-661-6136).