There is no sight like that of an elegant yacht cutting through the waves on a Mediterranean yacht charter, set against an exotic background and under bright sunshine. Yacht photography is a fine art, and in the age of the internet, it has never been more important for luxury superyachts to be depicted in a light that does justice to their stunning aesthetics. We spoke to Captain and yacht photographer, Mark O’Connell – owner of an eponymous yacht photography website – to learn more about his favourite hobby.
How do you find time to be a Captain and a professional photographer?
I’m on a yacht that is travelling to some of the nicest places in the world, so I’m right there! It’s right in front of me! I’m in the best position imaginable to do both. Everywhere we go I get to see other yachts and these amazing places, and so I can capture images of fascinating things.
And how did you develop an interest in yacht photography?
I was trained by the military – a long time ago – while working in various places. I had to leave the military due to an injury but it meant I had to choose another professional. I got into yachting and it was on one of my trips that I realised that I didn’t have a camera to record these incredible places, so I decided to get back into it. I started taking photographs and everybody was impressed. They advised me to start selling them. I thought why not? So I started my own website, which now has over 5,000 photographs and it does very well.
What kind of yachts do you like to photograph?
Everything. I have no preference. I don’t only photograph yachts; I also photograph wildlife and art. I create art from my photographs – paintings. I print my photographs onto a canvas using a special programme, which makes them look like paintings. Everything I’ve produced so far has sold within hours of me producing it.
For what purpose are your photographs mainly used?
My website is used by people that need photographs for their websites, and for their advertising and marketing. It’s all about marketing really. Anybody that can afford a half-page of advertising in a magazine can certainly afford my pictures. People also buy my photos for their homes. I have just created a poster book called ‘Boys and their Toys’, and I also did a calendar called ‘Superyachts in the Mood’.
What makes for a great yacht photograph?
Content. Knowing what to put in the photograph. It’s no good having a picture with a dull background, taken in rough weather. It’s all about finding something very special. There’s one picture on my website of the Maltese Falcon under full sail, just at the moment of sunset in St Barts. They sailed past us as we were at anchor. Content is so important: people take pictures of sunsets but it’s boring. There has to be an object, such as a sail boat, going past it. It makes the picture much more interesting. You have to visualise what the photo will look like. Even if it’s a case of running along the beach to get a palm tree in the shot. It’s all to do with the make-up of the photo.
Which would you say is your favourite yachting destination?
I would probably say Asia. Asia in general – Indonesia, Thailand or the Philippines.
Is there anything about these countries that make them good for shooting photographs?
Yes. There’s a picture around every corner. There’s nothing boring about any of it. I take pictures of the people too. I have a whole section on my website on Asian culture.
Do you use one camera religiously? Are you loyal to one particular brand?
I was using a Canon but then I found out that Canon cameras use Sony sensors. I investigated further and decided to go for the latest Sony camera, called a Sony Alpha 7R. It’s amazing: it has 42 million pixels! It gives you so many more things than a Canon. I can produce amazing photographs with it. I use an adaptor that means I can use my Canon lenses.
Have you ever entered your photographs into competitions?
Yes, I have won competitions through various websites. I am quite highly ranked on a website called Guru. Thousands of other photographers grade you; I’m now on Master.
Have you every displayed your paintings in a public setting?
Yes, the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. They sold immediately. The Brokers are more than happy to display them on their stands. I haven’t pushed photography enough because of my schedule. I’m sure I could display my photos in more places.