Cat in the Water: Staying Busy Between Assignments


The nature of the professional photography industry means that shooters often have to meet the demands of their clients. They have to shoot what their clients want, the way they want it and try to get the shots right as quickly as possible. But between jobs, good photographers always find ways to make their own assignments, and great photographers find assignments that allow them to indulge in their hobbies and interests.

Onne van der Wal is one of the premier nautical photographers in the world, and recently, with a few days to kill between assignments, he found himself at a boat show in Florida, making introductions, shaking hands and generating leads for his thriving photography business. “I was walking along the docks, taking in the warm air and checking out the various boats moored there, when I came upon this beautiful 30-foot catamaran. It just seemed like it shouldn’t be tied up here, but rather off on some tropical sailing adventure,” Onne explains. “I approached the builder of the boat, and after a few minutes of talking, I convinced him to let me, along with my sons and my nephew, borrow the cat and head down to the Bahamas for a few days of sailing and shooting. In return, all I had to promise was to send the builder some images of the Tiki 30 ABACO, as the cat was called, out in the water."

Onne’s photography style is unique; he’s usually shooting on the water, in the water or underwater, and he’s never been afraid to dive in with his camera, as long as it’s properly protected and he has the right gear. “The catamaran, while a thing of beauty, didn’t provide too much space for luxuries, especially for my photography. I’m used to shooting on boats, however, so it was pretty easy to get myself ready for this trip. I simply brought with me the bare necessities, including my cameras, a watertight camera housing and some other essential gear. Equipment I simply had to have were my Lexar Professional CF cards. They were big enough that I didn’t have to change cards too often, which meant I could stay in the water and shoot longer. They were also fast enough for me to photograph a fish just before it darted away, or catch my sons and nephew diving around under water,” says Onne.

Onne’s trip started out in Nassau, where he picked up the cat. From there, he, his sons and nephew sailed to Exuma Cays, over to Norman’s Cay, on to Southwest Allen’s Cay, then Hawksbill Cay and finally on to Rocky Dundas Cay. The Tiki 30 ABACO was perfect for sailing around in the cays, and its 24-inch draft let Onne and his crew sail places other, larger boats simply couldn’t go. Onne could even drag the cat up on the beaches when he and his boys wanted to relax for a few hours. “Being able to jump from the boat into the water and up on to the beach gave me great opportunities to shoot in a number of environments,” notes Onne. “The weather was incredible for just about our entire trip, and I was able to get loads of great images.”

With all the calm seas, perfect weather and amazing sites, Onne didn’t experience any major obstacles throughout the trip. “I’ve been on enough of these types of shoots to know what I need to come back with some amazing shots. Having large memory cards is crucial, because I can’t simply go back to my studio to transfer my images and clear the cards for more capacity,” Onne says.

Onne’s gear bag for this trip:

  • Canon 5D Mark II (for shooting underwater)
  • Canon 1DS Mark IV (for shooting on deck)
  • AquaTech underwater housing
  • A variety of Canon lenses
  • Lexar Professional UDMA 300x 16GB CompactFlash cards

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