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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | Art Talk | March 2009 

Photo Tip of the Week: Photographing the Banderas Bay Sailing Regatta - Part 1
email this pageprint this pageemail usLarry and Linda Bennett - PVNN

Photo Tips of the Week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. To view more of his work, visit
Photographing the Sailing Regatta is one of my favorite weeks on the bay! Not only do I get to shoot images of my beloved humpback whales, but now I get to shoot images of the whales with sailboats in the background.

Each year Puerto Vallarta gets to host the Sailing Regatta. The racing lasts for almost the entire week and fills our beautiful bay with sailing boats of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

It's my understanding that a lot of these boats are from Southern California as well as some representation from the bay area and Mexico. It's very exciting to follow these boats and the crew as they compete. The splendor of colors observed as they go under full sail makes this photographer's camera go into overload.

Over the next few weeks, I will share with you some of the many things that I do to capture images of the men, women and vessels as they fly through the brilliant blue waters of Banderas Bay.

Shooting Images From a Boat or From the Shore

This particular topic will really depends on how involved you want to get. You can walk around and shoot some beautiful images of the boats from dock side or you can stand along the shores of Nuevo Vallarta and photograph the boats as they pull into the bay from the Marina.

However, keep in mind that once the race starts the boats are a distant memory while they get further and further away and suddenly become a very tiny spec out on the vast blue waters of the bay. If you want to have some fun, consider renting a boat.

In fact, the same boat that took you out to see the whales may also be available to take you out to see the Regatta. Just remember to keep a safe distance and follow as they start and run the course. Ask your captain to keep your boat at a steady and even pace, as this helps in making it easier for you to shoot.

The most fun is at the start of the race and when the boats make the turn in the course, the rest of the race is like a road race, but it's all fun. I have sent many emails to different members of the Vallarta Yacht Club inquiring about a photo boat or spectator boat for those fans that love sailing but can't afford to be on the water.

So far, I have only been able to get one person from the Yacht Club to return my emails and it was a fellow photographer, Jay Ailworth. Jay has taken some wonderful images of the Regatta over the years and I admire his work and talent. To the best of my knowledge, there are no photo or spectator boats available.

Let's Look at Our Equipment and Some Shooting Tips

If you are using a point and shoot and are limited to shooting from around the docks, you may be able to get some good images of the sailboats at the start and finish of the race.

If your point and shoot has a good optical zoom, you may capture some good images of the start of the race including images of the boats entering the bay. I would shoot all you can or want with the optical zoom because once you start using the digital zoom, your images are losing quality fast and will start to blur if your subject is moving too fast.

Shooting your images on high quality will allow you to crop your image a little, giving you a bigger picture. As a rule of thumb and my personal preference, I do not crop much over 50%. It's a pixel game when it comes to cropping your images, the more pixels - the nicer the crop.

If you're shooting a DSLR, it's a wide open game; what do you want to shoot? You can shoot the sailors, the whole boat, parts and pieces of the boat, or all the above.

I'm fortunate enough to get to shoot with multiple cameras so I will be shooting the Regatta with three cameras set side by side. I will shoot using one of my favorite lens (70-200mm /2.8), as well as an 18-105mm lens and a 10mm-20mm lens. I shoot a lot of images and shoot in bursts of 4-6 images and lots and lots of bursts.

The 70mm-200mm is perfect for shooting directly on the boat while gaining that human element, the crew working, running from side to side, pulling ropes, raising sails, and it's a fast moving circus and a whole lot of fun to shoot.

The 18mm-105mm is a fun lens for shooting pictures that tell the story of the big picture, you can usually get most of the boat and crew and usually a little ocean in your entire image.

The 10mm-20mm wide angle lens is very cool for some up close shooting, you can shoot and capture the entire boat while getting some of the other boats as well. If you're creative in using a wide angle lens, you can turn out some really unusual and fun images.

Regardless of what lens you're shooting, you need to shoot using fairly fast shutter speeds, 800 to 1000 are some pretty well rounded speeds. I would also try to keep my F stops close to about F8, that's the best range for color and good white balance.

Try keeping your ISO on the lower side as well. Keep the shutter speed as a priority, adjusting your F stop by adjusting your ISO and keep an eye on your histogram. Using your histogram is a fail safe way of keeping yourself and your images in check. If you have not used your histogram before or this is something new for you, please read, or re-read, your cameras owner's manual and start using your histogram.

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Photo Tips of the week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. These tips are to be just tips, refer to your cameras owner's manual for specifics on your camera. Readers are welcome to enjoy Larry's website at

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the included information for research and educational purposes m3 © 2009 BanderasNews ® all rights reserved carpe aestus