Michael Eudenbach crewed on yachts for five years after college before he turned to photography full-time. One night in 1999, 60 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida, he got a chance to practice his future profession on a dramatic subject: a storm that churned the waves up to 12 feet and smeared lightning across the sky. He was part of a team of 12 delivering the Endeavour, a restored 1930s America's Cup sloop, from Florida to Newport, Rhode Island. "The boat has a 168-foot aluminum mast. It's a miracle we didn't get struck," says Eudenbach, who lives in Newport.
He loaded 100-speed film, held his camera under his jacket to shield it from the pelting rain, opened his 17mm lens to f/5.6, and kept the shutter open for about five seconds.
Flip Nicklin attached his underwater camera and video monitoring equipment to a pole and dropped it off the side of his boat, just eight feet away from this polar bear in Wager Bay, in Canada's Northwest Territories. "The bears aren't much of a threat when they're swimming," says the professional photographer, who divides his time between Alaska and Hawaii.
He used a 16mm lens set at f/5.6, 100-speed film, and a shutter speed of 1/250 second.
Onne Van Der Wal was hoisted 100 feet up the mast of the sloop Shaman to scout a route through the iceberg congested Svalbard archipelago, in the Arctic Ocean, and capture this crow's-nest view of one of the boat's frozen obstacles. "It was calm and 39 degrees, a gorgeous tropical dayfor the Arctic," says the 47-year-old Dutchman, who raced oceangoing sailboats professionally before taking up photography.
Van der Wal used a 14mm lens, exposing 50-speed film at f/16 for 1/60 second
DANCING IN THE SHEETS
A shift in wind sent crew member Tom Davis shimmying over open water to attach a sheetthe nautical term for this ropeto a sail needing adjustment on
BACKSTORY: "It isn't precarious, as long as everything goes right," says 51-year-old Newport, Rhode Island-based Onne van der Wal of Davis's ropework. Davis wasn't the only one hanging tight. "I always hold on with one hand and shoot with the other," van der Wal says, in order not to get washed overboard during the race. "The crew would be really pissed if that happened."
THE TOOLS: Canon 1DS, ISO 100, f/22, 1/40 second, 16-35mm f/2.8 lens
Last September, Rod McLean landed a coveted spot on a chase boat during the Rolex Big Boat Series, in San Francisco Bay. But he almost missed his shot. "When I got out, there were beautiful blue skies and no wind. I just about went home," says the San Francisco-based photographer."I was really hoping for rough seas and sailors battling the elements."Luckily, McLean stayed, and in the afternoon the wind picked up. He snapped this shot just after the lead boat jibbed and was preparing to deploy its spinnaker.
THE TOOLS: Canon 1DsMark II, 28-70mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/2,500 second
While island-hopping in the Maldives last November, Thomas Pickard happened to catch this boat skirting the edge of an unidentified atoll. "In many ways, this is the Maldives. There's a dhoni [a traditional boat], the ocean, the lagoon, and a reef." The Australian shot the photo through the side window of a seaplane, about 3,000 feet overhead. "If you hold your thumb over the boat, it's just a pretty picture," he says. "The fact that there was a dhoni to give it scale is just luck."
THE TOOLS: Nikon D200, 17-55mm f/2.8 lens, ISO100, f/7.1, 1/180 second
Last November, during the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race (formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race), Paul Todd shot Aussie bowman Casey Smith getting drenched by a wave on the deck of Il Mostro, outside Cape Town, South Africa. "It was like a fire hydrant hitting him," says the UK-based photographer. "He got absolutely hosed." Todd was shooting from the open door of a helicopter trailing the yachts as close as possible. How close? After this shot was taken, the engine sputtered and the helicopter plunged 30 feet, likely the result of a rotor blade clipping the mast of a spectator boat. "We thought it was all over," says Todd.
THE TOOLS: Canon Mark II, 300mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 320, f/5, 1/4,000 second