8 Tips for Photographing Sailboat Regattas, with Maritime Photographer Onne van der Wal

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When most of us think of “sports photography,” we immediately think of iconic images from the world of land-based sports—American football, track and field, boxing, baseball, and others. One could argue, however, that yacht racing and sailing regattas provide the canvas for some of the most spectacular images in all of sports. And, if you have spent time around the water, seen the framed print on the wall of my physical therapist’s office, or flipped through the pages of any sailing magazine, you might have noticed that professional sailboat racer-turned-professional photographer and Canon Explorer of Light Onne van der Wal is the photographer behind many epic sailing images.

B&H Photo Video chatted with van der Wal before one of his recent on-water workshops, to get some tips on photographing sailboat racing from one of the masters of the genre.


“Obviously, you need to have a good vehicle to get out there,” says van der Wal. Options include a standard, rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB—pronounced “rib”); or another type of powerboat as a chase platform; getting on a racing sailboat itself as a shooter or onboard reporter (OBR); or getting in the water with a waterproof housing or camera and shooting boats turning at the mark. van der Wal says, “You can swim around at the mark, which is a little risky, but fun.” All those options, minus the swimming, have costs involved.Your last option is going airborne in a helicopter.

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