PROFESSIONAL SNAPPERS – ED HOLT
Posted March 22, 2012, 3:40 p.m.
PROFESSIONAL SNAPPERS – ED HOLT
Yachting Matters showcases the world’s top professional marine photographers and a selection of their favourite shots.
It was purely accidental that Ed Holt became involved with yacht photography and this is how it began.
After leaving art school and setting up as a fashion photographer with his own studio in London he was asked in 1976 if he would like to help with the delivery of a 34ft yacht which would take him across the Bay of Biscay. It was Easter, he had the time, it sounded like fun and even though he set off knowing nothing about sailing he had an incredible adventure. Three years later as he sat in a traffic jam enjoying the rain in the Kings Road he decided that fashion photography was not for him. It was time to up roots and go sailing !
OK, what do you do if you cannot sail but have the dream of owning a boat and travelling to warmer climes? First, obviously, you get a boat that is just about large enough to live on and affordable, in Ed’s case around 24ft. Ed’s next problem was that he did not want to sail in tidal waters, simply because he did not know how to! The Cornish Crabber would be ideal with it’s shallow draft and lifting keel. With a trailer and an old London Parks Landrover he towed it from Suffolk in the UK via Austria & Yugoslavia to the Mediterranean and the north of Greece. The idea was to sail and photograph the Greek Islands and Turkey and supply images to a library in London, but it wasn’t long before the sailing took over and yachting became his main way of life. He lived on the Crabber for four years in Greece & Turkey, then upgraded to a 43ft ketch. After the Crabber with no loo, it was luxury ! He also sailed as skipper or crew on other yachts, completed several Atlantic crossings and visited the Caribbean, Bahamas and Newport for the 1983 America`s Cup spending eight years afloat in total.
There were foreign yachts starting to charter in Turkey in the early 80`s. He had the cameras and the knowledge and so the yacht photography began. Yachts like Shiwara, China Belle, Chinook, SinbadSan, Viking Girl, Sandpiper, and many many more needed photography to promote their charter businesses. Yacht photography became Ed’s main source of income and certainly suited his bohemian lifestyle at the time. But their were no helicopters in those days!, certainly not ones that could be chartered for a few hours at sensible prices simply to take a few photos. After his wanderlust abated he spent a brief spell in England before relocating to Mallorca, to continue his passion for yacht photography. Now he spends his time between Mallorca and his second home in Antibes, France.
Things have certainly changed rapidly in the field of photography in recent years and as he remarked “15 years ago there were relatively few “yacht” photographers: Now things are completely different. As in all areas of photography, since the advent of the digital camera, suddenly the man on the street has become a photographer. This has not been good for the professionals. But, I suppose, the saving grace is that many amateurs still don’t understand how a camera works and how they happened to take that special shot! And they never will, because they have never learnt the initial principles of photography. In my opinion, it is crucial to know how and why you have created “that” image, and understand the processes involved.’
In today’s instant consumer world the pressure is on, ‘Whatever the image, get it online now, or tomorrow it will be in the archives.’ Others may disagree with Ed’s view and as he remarked to me ‘Something that still surprises me is that yachts nowadays are always so busy. Do they always have warranty work, are they always on charter, or do the crew simply need a break. Looking back 5 to10 years, it was normal to have 4 or 5 days to do a charter shoot on a 60m yacht. Now, you’re lucky to get 2 or 3 days and yet photographing a yacht that has cost say 70 million euro and charters for 350,000 euro per week needs time and it has to be done perfectly. There was no problem in years past to find four free days, there has been a change in priorities and it’s as if marketing is expected to happen on its own!’
Photographing from a helicopter has become a passion for Ed but it has its problems and as he notes, ‘Helicopters are reasonably simple to fly in a straight line, but aerial photography can sometimes push the pilot and his machine to the limit. I have nearly been dumped into the water on a few occasions when trying to achieve the right shot. In my pioneering days with the Robinson 22 it was always a matter of weight and keeping an eye on the manifold pressure gauge. For a shoot we could never fly with full tanks, a few kilos here and there makes a difference. It happened once under the bow of a 40mt yacht doing 10 knots that, due to the wind direction, left us with very little lift in the hover and I noticed that manifold pressure was into the red. That means no more power and possible “cut out”. The engine coughed for an instant and we bore away to get some lift. It had been close.’
‘Perhaps more alarming in a similar helicopter, during a shoot in Menorca, was as we were moving at 45 knots sideways off the bow of a 50 ft powerboat. For wide angle shots we were about 3ft above his bow. I had given the yacht captain instructions to drive in a straight line. He got bored and decided to turn towards us at 45 knots. If it had not been for Alberto’s brilliant flying and reactions it would have been very messy! The helicopter skid was only 25cms from being hooked under the pulpit rail. I had a few unrepeatable words with the captain later!’
‘Just one more, as happened with me in Imperia, Italy on a helicopter shoot for Jongert with a young Italian pilot. When you ask the pilot to move to the starboard side of the yacht and go backwards, and he says “Helicopters don’t fly backwards”….you know you’ve got a problem and you don't ask again!’
Ed’s final words- “Owners, agents and captains, need to realise that professional photographers need time to create and be creative with the images that are needed to promote a yacht to its full potential and that has to benefit everybody concerned in its marketing’