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Onne van der Wal - Sailboat From Sea

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The racing I did was mostly transoceanic and long-distance ocean racing on boats in the 70-80ft range. I also competed in the fully crewed Whitbread Round the World yacht race (now called the Volvo Ocean Race). It was during this race that I received my first professional photography assignment, and was hired by SAIL Magazine. We won the race and my images were in demand. They were published far and wide, and as a result, friends and fellow sailors suggested I start a nautical photography business. I listened, and in 1987 I hung out my shingle in front of my new gallery in Newport, RI and never looked back. It’s been 30 years of hard but very rewarding work and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a living.

I feel that understanding one's subject is key to being a successful photographer. My sailing experience prior to launching my photography career has been instrumental in making a success of my business. I have been in the boating photography business for a long time but I still love getting on my 25 foot chase boat, “ONNEsignment”, to shoot a commercial advertising campaign for a boat builder or regatta sponsor. It’s always different on the water, from a calm ocean with beautiful reflections to a stormy sea with spray and amazing scenery and that is what keeps it interesting. I enjoy shooting every aspect of sailing and all over the world, from shooting little 8 foot kids’ Optimist prams on Narragansett Bay to the largest multimillion dollar, 300 foot sailing yachts in the Mediterranean.

Canon See Impossible - Onne van der Wal - Sailboat From Air

There are no secrets to becoming a successful photographer and one needs a few key ingredients; a good eye, drive and passion and tons of practice. It helps to be up well before sunrise and out well after sunrise to catch the magic light to get the perfect shot. I am always the one missing at the breakfast table and cocktail hour, as that’s the time when the light is at its best. You need to be very comfortable with your gear and the settings - to the point that when you see a good scene you instantly know how to capture it and be confident that the picture is “in the can”.

Canon See Impossible - Onne van der Wal - Sailboat From Sea

People look at my imagery and comment that they are tack sharp and the colors are bright and spot on. To get those results one needs a good camera and lenses, but they also need to understand post- processing. Knowing how to get the best out of the RAW file during post-processing is very important – not by over cranking or excessive tweaking, but just by bringing the images to what the original scene was when you were out there shooting it. The images need to have a natural beauty and glow about them and the colors cannot be over saturated and look unnatural.

People are often envious of my profession, which makes me realize how very fortunate I am to make a living at something that I love to do and I feel that my work reflects that.

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