DSLR shooting in the sea - tips and tricks

A sail race is all about waves, fun, and adrenaline. Shooting a video of it might be quite an endeavor. Here some tips about DSLR shooting in the sea.


The IRC Mittel Europa Criterium is a regatta held in the adriatic coast between the 8th and 14th July.

It was filmed with a Sony A35
Lenses DT 1.8/50 SAM, 3.5-5.6/18-55 SAM and 4.5-5.6/75-300
Sound recorded with Sony linear PCM recorder PCM-M10

I thought it was a great chance to document the thrill to participate in a boat race. I was always amazed by yatchs, boats, and the sailing world, specially the Volvo Ocean Race.
I even took the skipper course, which was a wonderful experience.
Shooting a sailing video is something really hard because the shooting conditions are always extreme. The sail boat that you’re shooting is always away from the motor boat that you’re in, and you’re in need of using some good tele lens, at least from 75 on. Other than that it’s impossible to get a shot other than a wide one.
The other major problem is stabilization. The waves are always pounding against the hull so you have never a steady surface to put the camera on. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Canon or a Nikon DSLR, or the best camera in the world, if you don’t have some kind of gyroscopic rig, the shot will be as good as the cameraman.
I did the shooting with a SONY a35 SLT, which is I must say a wonderful camera for its price.
A good choice if you have the chance is to shoot in 1080 and then stabilize the shots and finish in 720, but this wasn’t my choice because I liked the shaky style that is more representative of the reality in the ocean.
The other shooter’s best friend in that environment is a circular polarize filter. It’s a must I would say since the landscape of a sail race is highly dependant of the weather. By not having one you risk to have only blue hazy shots which are harder to fix in post. Starting with a colorful shot is always better when you sit on the computer, it might save you a lot of time of color correction.
Tripods and monopods are rather useless while on the motorboat. A shoulder rig might help but only if you have someone else that’s able to hold you up stand on the boat. Otherwise, it’s always useful to be able to have your hands ready to catch yourself on a fall, which is very most likely to happen on board.
A good raincover is always useful, if you don’t have one, always carry a lens cleaner and a towel, and be aware of splashes.
GoPro cameras are great but unless you have a lot or you change their position constantly (which is not something you can ask to a crew while working, so it means you have to be on board and that is not always possible) they will become only a 20% of your edit shots.
Last but not least, have a lot of fun! It’s a wonderful experience and you should not miss it.

Am I missing something? Do you have another useful tip for shooting in the sea? Leave it on the comments below!


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