Night Magic and Leaping Dolphins

Some of the best parts of the cruising life are nearly impossible to photograph.

March 1, 2017
Sunsets at sea
Sunsets? Got it. A photo of the amazing moonrise a few hours later? Not so much. Jen Brett

I’ve dabbled in photography for years as a hobby, and I have found that life aboard provides plenty of beautiful subject material. Look through my photo files, and you’ll find shots of boats and sailing, seaside towns, picturesque harbors and more sunsets than I care to admit to (I’m a sucker for a good sunset). But on a particularly lovely night watch recently, I found myself musing about all the things that I can’t seem to get a photo of. Or if I do, the shots just don’t do the scene justice.

There is nothing like being on watch on boat under sail on a clear night, under a sky with the Milky Way splashed across . It’s easy (and a little unnerving) to feel like the whole display is just for you when the only indication of mankind visible is the occasional satellite steadily moving along the starry dome. Shooting stars, glowing plankton, a red moon rising on the horizon — magic, all of it. And it’s all equally impossible to photograph. Due to the darkness requiring a long exposure, the motion of the boat pretty much ensures that all I will get from my efforts is a blurry smudge, if anything. But that hasn’t stopped me from trying (or taking a ton of sunrise photos to make up for it).

Timing is everything when it comes to shooting dolphins, and how cool would it be to manage a shot of a leaping eagle ray (which I think would be pure luck)? While I’ve seen some incredible pics of dolphins riding the bow wake, my shots are usually a second too late. But I’ve managed to at least catch a dorsal fin or two. I have a few goals for this winter’s cruise south: one of them being to capture a star-trail photo. I won’t be able to get it from the boat of course (I really should just give up taking night photos aboard), but given the clear nights and abundant beaches here in the Bahamas, I’m sure I can find a place to pitch a tripod for a while. Now if I can just figure out how to make the dolphins go just a little bit slower…


CW senior editor Jen Brett, along with her husband, Green, and two daughters, is on a winter cruising sabbatical aboard their Reliance 44 ketch, Lyra.

Dolphins off the bow
Lest you think that I actually got a shot of a dolphin off the bow, this photo is actually a screenshot from a video I took. Much easier that way… Jen Brett

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