A Photographer’s Story – Revisited

A Photographer’s Story – Revisited

I wanted to repost a story I wrote a couple of years ago as the cover feature for Berthon Lifestyle, a yachting lifestyle magazine published in the U.K. It was one of those times when the words came together extraordinarily well to help me express what photography means to me, how I approach it, and why I share my images.

I have to admit I’ve been mildly depressed these past months as we put AVATAR up for sale and our cruising days have come to an end. AVATAR was my main photo platform for many a year and it’s been hard to come to terms with the loss of a lifestyle. But summer sunshine always gives my spirits a lift, so with this blog post I’m renewing my commitment to share my photography with you.

I hope you will take the time to read and enjoy A Photographer’s’ Story. I’ll be back in a week or two with another story, this time from Hawaii. It’s time to dust off the keyboard and get back to my storytelling.

Image: Fringing Reef #4 Wavelet | Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands, South Pacific

Equipment: Nikon D700, 1/45 sec at f/4.8, ISO 200, 14mm (14.0-24.0mm f2.8)


A dozen years ago, my husband and I surprised ourselves by making an impulsive, pre-retirement decision to purchase a bluewater sailboat located in New Zealand, ideally situated for exploring the prime cruising grounds of the South Pacific. My first (as it turned out, naive) impulse was to cultivate an artistic hobby to fill the leisure time generated by our idyllic new lifestyle. Many options – oil paints, watercolors, pastels – were discarded as too messy for a vessel’s tight quarters. Finally I settled on photography and embarked on not one, but two new adventures.The best camera, as they say, is the one you have with you. Photography on a boat can be pursued with a smartphone or a pro DSLR. It is neat and clean and portable, whether on deck or ashore or even underwater. Add a computer and appropriate software for organizing and editing the images, and the onboard studio is complete.

From the deck of a cruising yacht there is a wealth of inspiration and source material that ranges from scenic vistas to wildlife to foreign cultures. These days my photo platform is a rugged aluminum FPB64 motor yacht, supplemented by an aging much-loved inflatable kayak.

All it takes is one simple click to ‘take a picture’, a rectangle, destined to hang on the wall as a print or glow on a screen as a digital image or join a collection in a book. But as a photographer/artist I don’t want to just record a photograph. I want to create art, to meld technical material with creative insight, elevating that rectangle to a higher plane.

The equipment and software available today are sophisticated and powerful, but to transform photography into an art form requires more than just good tools. Is a great novel the product of a good typewriter? It takes more than a good camera to produce an artistic photograph.

My finished photo-based artwork results from multiple technical choices made prior to pressing the shutter button – lens selection, exposure, depth of field, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, dynamic range and more. On the creative side I incorporate composition, light, shadow, color, texture, gesture and motion, all to play their part in capturing the raw image, the first step.

Step two is the selection process that takes place in the digital darkroom (my computer) reviewing and culling to find those select images that resonate with my imagination. The third phase is post-processing, the judicious application of a variety of digital darkroom tools – software and filters, layered and retouched by hand to manipulate the image into its final form.

In the beginning I took a cyberclass that taught me how to get the most out of my Nikon’s buttons, dials and menus. Early on I learned the important camera techniques necessary to achieve the best results. But on a boat, many of those best practices are impractical. Focusing on a cavorting dolphin or a diving pelican while striving for balance on a boat navigating ocean swells is not an ideal scenario for keeping the camera steady. A shore expedition in the company of non-photographers is a source of irritation for those who don’t appreciate a 20 minute pause for setting up and composing the perfectly executed shot.

As a result I’ve learned compromises. On a moving deck I compensate by shooting at higher shutter speeds or raising the ISO setting. To keep my balance I bend my knees and widen my stance to absorb the shock. I jam my elbows into my ribs and mash the camera viewfinder into my eye socket for additional stability. Often I fire off a burst of photos knowing that one of the bunch will by sheer luck be more crisp and clear than the others. There will be a lot of throwaways, but a few will be keepers.

I do a lot of shooting from my kayak. It’s a soothing, soul-satisfying experience to rise just before dawn and glide silently in quest of a sunrise, or a seabird, or a village just starting the day. Again, the gently rocking boat and the low light of early morning limit my choices, demanding compromise.

A good image should relate a story to the viewer, not simply recreate a scene but instead share an insight into the very essence of what first captured the photographer’s imagination. It may be about how the interplay of light and shadow illuminates a seascape for a brief magical moment. It may be about reflections on glassy water, or how a bird’s feathers flare in flight. Perhaps it’s a story of village life, a new friend, a beautiful scene, or the devastation of a storm.

But there’s a second story that accompanies each image, and that is the story that belongs solely to the photographer. The travel, the gear, the camaraderie, the solitude, the discomforts, the challenges, the accomplishments – all are embedded into the making of that simple rectangle. Not just sight but also sound, touch, smell, even taste, are part of the experience. Whenever I review my work the memories come flooding back to let me relive the adventure once again.

To illustrate, this particular image tells the viewer the story of a mother whale helping her new calf breathe in clear blue tropical water. But for me it contains the hidden short story of how she first swam away from me, then changed her mind and returned to within touching distance of her own volition, lingering passively in the water next to me, eye to eye, observing me as I observed her, while her baby slept.

An even lengthier version of that narrative begins with a 6,000 mile journey to the tropical kingdom where the humpbacks congregate. It includes my history of previous whale-watching expeditions led by professionals, where I learned whale behavior and how to observe them in the water safely and respectfully. It is colored by a Sunday morning sail in search of a cooperative whale, and the frisson of excitement as I donned snorkel gear, grabbed the underwater camera, and slid into the water from off the stern of the boat.

Each photo, that deceptively simple click, is embedded with two stories, one for the viewing public and one for the photographer alone. To produce them with forethought, investing time and energy into making them the best they can be, is to embed that memory even more deeply into my being.

All photos are copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Enjoy but please respect.

Posted by Carol in Seascapes, Whales, 0 comments
Caribbean Storm

Caribbean Storm

Confined to port on a day of blustery winds in the Bahamas, we elected to take a day trip to Harbour Island via high speed ferry that makes a daily round trip from Nassau to Spanish Wells to Harbourtown and back again. Wind and surging waves made it hard for the ferry to tie up to Harbourtown’s concrete sea wall, and as soon as all the passengers disembarked it made a hasty departure and we were informed it would not be returning for the afternoon run and that we would be taking alternate transportation home.

Harbour Island is known for its pink sand beach named, appropriately, The Pink Sands Beach, considered to be one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. Despite the windy weather, due to the wind direction on this day the Pink Sands Beach was tranquil and calm, protected in the lee of the island even though the sky threatened on the horizon. Although we toured the island end to end (via golf cart), we lingered here the longest in pursuit of a worthy addition to my wave studies collection.

We were back at the dock for transport home by 3 p.m. Small but powerful water taxis loaded up groups of passengers and then took off at high speed straight into the wind and waves, crossing the strait between Harbour Island and Eleuthera Island in excellent form. On Eleuthera we were shepherded into waiting vans which then transported us some ten miles or so across the island, where we were shuttled again into another flotilla of water taxis that sped us back to Spanish Wells. Happy to have arrived at our final destination, we didn’t envy the Nassau bound passengers who were in for a rough ride home on the final leg.

Sony a7Rii, 1/400 sec at f/8.0, ISO 100, 200mm (FE70.0-200.0 mm f/4 G OSS), hand held

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Enjoy, but please respect.

Posted by Carol in Bahamas, Caribbean, Scenic, Seascapes, 2 comments
See You Later

See You Later



The summer of 2014 we spent cruising the chilly waters near Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Especially at the north end of the Johnstone Straits, near Blackfish Sound and Echo Bay, marine wildlife was abundant. We enjoyed multiple sightings of humpback whales, orcas, dolphins and more. I spent hours on AVATAR’s foredeck, wearing cold wet socks on my feet, trying to capture photos of these impressive creatures. Sometimes I scarcely knew which way to point my camera as the whales surfaced on all sides of us, announcing their presence with the whoosh of their exhaled blows. This humpback whale swam past our small open boat in Echo Bay, then showed his tail as he dove down deep. I was also captivated by the beautiful scenery, especially the way the mountains were silhouetted in the moisture laden atmosphere into multiple shaded layers. I count 15 layers in this photo – how many do you see?

Composite of two images:
Whale: Nikon D4S, 1/2000 sec at f/11.0, ISO 800, 180mm (80.0-400.0 mm f/4.5-5.6) hand held
Mountains: Nikon D4S, 1/1000 sec at f/11.0, ISO 200, 160mm (80.0-400.0 mm f/4.5-5.6) hand held


Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in British Columbia, Canada, Landscapes, Marine Life, Scenic, Seascapes, Underwater, Whales, 0 comments
Early Start

Early Start


Only a week ago we were cruising in Maine! On our last morning before heading south again, I woke to the most spectacular sunrise I have seen in years. The intense colors only lasted for a few short moments before fading to softer shades of rose, then gold. I could hear the engines of nearby anchored boats as they warmed up for an early departure, and a small fishing boat was already on its way. We were anchored in a quiet cove near Penobscot Island, and the tide was out – exposing shoulders of boulders draped in weed. Every detail was reflected in the quiet glassy water for double impact. I captured what I could from AVATAR’s deck while the colors were at their peak, then went kayaking to further enjoy the moment.

Sony a7Rii, 1/320 sec at f/4.0, ISO 400, 119mm (FE 70-200 F4 G OSS), hand held


Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in Landscapes, Maine, Scenic, Seascapes, Sunrise/Sunset, USA, 0 comments
Contest Results!

Contest Results!



For those of you who voted in my Favorite Photo contest, thanks for playing along! It was fun for me to watch the results of the polling and see which images rose to the top! The winner? It’s a tie! Sunrise Flight and Fringing Reef Wavelet were the winners. Close runners-up, only a vote or two behind, were The Bobcat, High Heels, and Sail Into Sunrise.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer – the winner of the drawing for a free 12 x 18″ print is Mackenzie Sullivan. Mackenzie’s vote, maybe not so coincidentally, went to Sunrise Flight. Congratulations Mackenzie!

Sunrise Flight is an image captured as we sailed out of an anchorage early one morning in the Solomon Islands. A couple of summers ago it was displayed in an exhibition hosted by the San Diego Museum of Natural History, where it won an honorary prize. I actually use this photo as the wallpaper for my iPhone! It works just as well in both vertical or horizontal positions. It never fails to bring back memories of those tranquil but dramatic early mornings at sea.

Again, thanks to you all! And better luck next time!


Posted by Carol in Birds, Cook Islands, Seascapes, Solomon Islands, 1 comment
Sail Into Sunset

Sail Into Sunset


We purchased our sailboat RAVEN in 2004 in New Zealand, embarking on what has become more than a decade of exploring the oceans of the world. After cruising the South Pacific for several years, we brought the boat to North America and in 2008 we spent the year cruising Mexico, primarily the Sea of Cortez. This image, Sail Into Sunset, was captured as we crossed over from Mexico’s mainland to Cabo San Lucas on the tip of the Baja California peninsula. Fortunately we had a motor, as there was very little wind – either on that day or, for that matter, the majority of days that we spent cruising in Mexico. Rather than linger in one spot for days becalmed, we just cranked up the John Deere and continued on our way. This ultimately contributed to our decision to make the transition from a sailboat to a powerboat in 2010 – because we were probably motoring 90% of the time anyway! Perhaps the title should be modified to ‘Motorsail Into Sunset’, but that sort of takes away from the romance!

That said, my favorite conditions at sea are intrinsic to this image – the peaceful ambience of a smooth calm glassy sea reflecting the sky. Unobstructed views of the distant horizon, sunrise and sunset, blue skies and cloud formations, moon and stars, all viewed in fullscreen iMax glory. I would lie stretched out on the folded sails along the length of the boom and enjoy the soothing motion of the boat, while scouting out denizens of the sea lazing on the surface – turtles floating with a seabird perched atop their shells, flying fish skittering out of the way of our oncoming hull, a breaching whale, dolphins racing to play in our bow wave.

Prints of Sail Into Sunset are available for purchase HERE.

Nikon D3, 1/250 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, 14 mm (14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8 lens). Handheld.

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Please respect.



Posted by Carol in Mexico, Scenic, Seascapes, Sunrise/Sunset, 0 comments
Sunrise Flight

Sunrise Flight


Sunrise Flight is a composite image created from two photographs captured in the Solomon Islands. We left our anchorage at dawn one morning to get an early start for a long day’s passage. The rising sun lit the cumulus clouds building up on the horizon, giving them an internal glow. I was concentrating on capturing images of the dramatic sky when a booby joined us briefly, winging his way parallel to the boat, his eye reflecting the early light. Two captures taken just moments apart – the empty cloudscape and the sunlit bird in flight – were meant for each other, so I married them in one image that captures the essence of the moment as I experienced it.

The vast expanse of sea and sky and the perfectly positioned wings of the bird together create an image that expresses the unfettered freedom of flight.

Sunrise Flight has been exhibited from coast to coast, including the San Diego Museum of Natural History and, most recently, PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont, a contemporary photography venue. Prints of this award-winning image are available for purchase HERE

Nikon D4, 1/500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100, 165 mm (70.0-200.00 mm f/2.8 lens)

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Please respect.



Posted by Carol in Birds, Scenic, Seascapes, Solomon Islands, South Pacific, Sunrise/Sunset, USA, Vermont, Wildlife, 0 comments
Perfect Storm

Perfect Storm


A new addition to my online gallery. This is PERFECT STORM photographed at Cape Reinga in New Zealand

Cape Reinga is the northernmost tip of New Zealand, reaching into the sea and marking the meeting of two oceans – the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. On this day a perfect storm of weather convergence zones created fierce winds that whipped the ocean into a froth. The Cape is a narrow spine of land stretching its finger out into the ocean, and the footing was precarious as the 60 mph winds threatened to topple both my tripod and myself.

PERFECT STORM is available for purchase HERE.

Nikon D3S, 1/750 sec at f/8.0, ISO 400, 200mm (70.0-200.0 f2.8 lens).

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in New Zealand, Scenic, Seascapes, South Pacific, 0 comments
Fringing Reef #4 Wavelet

Fringing Reef #4 Wavelet


The 29th Annual Fund-Raising Gala for Salpointe High School here in Tucson is scheduled for this Saturday, April 23, at the elegant Cross Creek Riding Club estate. I’m pleased to support them by donating a 24″ x 36″ canvas gallery wrap to the text-to-bid silent auction. FRINGING REEF #4 WAVELET is one of my more popular images – I hope it generates a nice contribution to a worthy cause!

More information about the gala HERE:

FRINGING REEF #4 WAVELET is an artistic interpretation of dawn rising over the Pacific Ocean as it meets the fringing reef surrounding a South Pacific atoll, as a small wave breaks over the shallow coral.

In 2009 we were sailing our sailboat Raven from French Polynesia to Tonga, a distance of some 1300 miles. Mid voyage we laid over in the remote Cook Islands. It was a pleasure to pause and take respite in the quiet anchorage of uninhabited Suwarrow Atoll, protected from the open Pacific Ocean by the shallow circle of coral reef that surrounded the inner lagoon.

Early one morning I paddled my kayak to the reef to catch the sun as it rose. The corals of the reef were only submerged by a couple of feet, and their vibrant colors were visible beneath the clear water. I came back with so many stunning photos from that session, I can hardly choose which is my favorite.

FRINGING REEF #4 WAVELET is available for purchase HERE.

Nikon D700, 1/45 sec at f/4.8, ISO 200, 14mm (14.0-24.0mm f/2.8), hand held.

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the US Copyright Office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in Cook Islands, Scenic, Seascapes, South Pacific, Sunrise/Sunset, 0 comments
Reflected Sky

Reflected Sky

The International Masters Exhibition 2016 at the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art in Las Vegas will be closing this coming weekend after a three month run. I’m pleased to say that two of my images in the exhibition, ‘Reflected Sky‘ and ‘Sunrise Flight‘, have been added to the museum’s permanent collection!

One of my favorite things about being at sea is that the sky is totally uninterrupted by buildings, telephone wires, city lights, and all the other trappings of civilization. Cloud formations, sunrises and sunsets are visible in all their expansive glory above the backdrop of the ocean surface.

In 2012 we were cruising aboard our boat AVATAR in the Solomon Islands, a remote South Pacific island country, where calm weather and seas created a multitude of opportunities to photograph reflections in the glassy water. We anchored overnight in Mbaeroko Lagoon, where this sight greeted me early in the morning as we pulled up anchor and prepared to depart.

Nikon D800, 1/125 sec at f/9.0, 2/3 EV, ISO 100, 14mm (14-24mm f/2.8), hand-held.

REFLECTED SKY is available for purchase HERE

Photo is copyrighted and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Please respect.

Posted by Carol in Scenic, Seascapes, Solomon Islands, South Pacific, 2 comments