I have been wanting to photograph the Dongfeng Race Team ever since when I first learnt about their stopover in Auckland in Feb 2015 as part of the Volvo Ocean Race. One Day, I got a last minute message from a media contact saying that this truly exciting opportunity had finally arrived. I got to go inside the sailboat to capture some behind the scene images.

Their incredible journey will be passing 10 cities in nine countries – Spain, South
Africa, United Arab Emirates, China, New Zealand, United States,
Portugal, France and Sweden – and will require the teams to cover 39,895
nautical miles – equivalent to 45,910 miles or 73,886 kilometers. During the stopover all the boats were parked at the Viaduct Harbour for the replenishment while the team crews were getting rest and planning for their upcoming legs. 

While I was on broad, I had the opportunity to really get a feel about standing on these boats and imagine how life was like for the 12 crew members when they were out in the rough ocean. It’s definitely not very spacious. It’s tight, very tight. It has basic amenities inside: a storage area, a “living room” with gas bottle cooking facility, purpose built bunk-beds to maximize space, a media centre, a single toilet and has no shower. Imagine one goes to a 20 day hike experience except you are spending every day and night inside a rocky boat. Due to the lack of good ventilation it feels pretty hot when you are inside, perhaps it’s meant to be that way to preserve heat when it’s cold at night in the ocean? It was very dark too for most parts inside the boat, crew members replied on headlamps to perform maintenance tasks. For the shot below I set my camera on a slow exposure of 1/4sec, and I was very surprised to find out the text written on the wall.

“You are amazing, creative & talented! A TRUE Storyteller!”

I wonder if they were just self encouraging. :)

There were 12 crew members, 6 French and 6 Chinese. In my head I was very excited, imagining myself getting to photograph an entire team on the deck, with beautiful sunset and have the team nicely lit with flash. At the time Profoto had just released their latest off-camera flash (OCF) B2 Air TTL units, I thought a tight space would be quite cool to practice with these lights. Unfortunately, the shipment did not arrive in time so in the end I brought along the B1 kit, a 2x3 softbox and a magnum reflector.

Of course the entire team shot was just in my head, it weren’t going to happen as some of their members were not present while everyone on broad seemed to be fairly busy having meetings and making adjustments to the boat. Despite all that I still pulled out the lights and grabbed some shots whenever I can with whoever was available. The last photos were shot as they were just doing their job so no posing at all. I was quite pleased with the dramatic results. I got a feeling I will have a to bring these lights to every photo assignments I go for the sake of getting different results.

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