Capturing all the action at the Optimist World Championship is a vital job and this year we are lucky to have local company Acquafilms in charge of filming the event. We caught up with Roddy Grimes Graeme who owns the company about his work, his background and what inspires him.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m an Antiguan commercial marine photographer and filmmaker. I started out by apprenticing in Antigua after getting my Marine Biology BSC in Nova Scotia in 1997. The degree was great but working in academics really did not suit me and I’d already developed my photography while doing field work in Canada. After I graduated I went home and got started learning to build websites. Photography was sort of included in the deal in those days and I worked with a digital camera for the first time. It had 3 whole megapixels!!
What made you want to work in film making / photography?
My motivations for working in imaging were varied but included a love for nature and the underwater world as well as a sense of awe at creatures that move through air and water. This translated well to shooting boats which do both and which are built to convey us puny humans through nature. My friends and I lived to surf and windsurf and shared a desire to show others what it was like to enjoy nature’s forces through these sports. This is how my photography became ‘marinized’ and to this day, my favourite shots are ones which catch a subject at a moment when something extraordinary is happening with the elements of wind, water and light. Surfing a big wave, reaching off at speed with spray flying or sillhouetted against a backlit sea. Juxtaposing tiny, vulnerable humans against those natural forces makes for the most compelling images in racing photography and filming.
How did Acquafilms start?
I was lucky enough to apprentice by assisting commercial yacht photographer, Alexis Andrews for a few years. I would help him to shoot big motor yachts for their charter brochures. At that time I started to develop my interest and abilities with moving images, sometimes filming short promos during Alexis’ still shoots.
I formed Acquafilms in 2004 with university friend Iain Mc Glashan as business partner and we signed Panerai as a launch client at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in 2005. Iain and I parted ways amicably in 2015 and I run Acquafilms alone now. Filming racing probably accounts for 70% of my work and I produce about a feature length film worth of content every year. I’ve found filming yacht racing very satisfying in 3 main ways; 1) Shooting the action that takes place in our rough waters 2) telling the stories of the events for private clients, organisers or sponsors 3) developing friendships with the crew and colleagues that I work with and also telling their stories.
Luckily Antigua and the northern Caribbean have a great racing calendar and I’ve been lucky enough to call some of those regattas and their sponsors repeat clients.
It must be very challenging to capture shots of fast moving boats in rough conditions. How do you overcome this?
I’ve always wanted to deliver technically excellent images and in filming, this means stability. The camera and the subject are both moving and nobody likes wobbly pictures. Given the rough sea state and fresh winds in the Caribbean its the biggest challenge of the job. Floating around in a Helicopter is hands down the best way to do things but even there you’re fighting to keep the image stable. Physically stabilizing the shot is exhausting, but a longstanding relationship with Greg Scott of Caribbean Helicopters maximises the quality of images I can get in a given flight time.
Chase boats are also important. They give the low angle and the water is often the star of these shots, hiding boats and crew behind big waves, spray off the bow and the ripples from wind rushing through the ‘slot’ onto the leeward side of a boat. The challenge here is violent slamming in rough water. We often beat upwind and wait for boats to come to us. The cost of shooting from the downwind side of a boat is a lens full of salt spray so most shots are from head on or from the upwind side.
The third platform for race shooting is the drone which I normally deploy from the chase boat. They are great for getting establishing shots, for showing a whole fleet or to show manoeuvres from above. You can also track a boat or a group of boats but you have to get close so that the action fills the wide angle lens. However close = dangerous with drones and I’m pretty conservative with them as I never want to damage or injure anyone or anything.
What about capturing some of the human interest of the races?
Onboard shooting and interviews with the characters involved are the backbone of many of the longer edits I do. The goal of these edits is not just to deliver the results but to find some of the stories that make sailing so compelling. It’s a real treat to talk with people who have made sailing their life, some are the finest thinkers in the sport and some simply want to enjoy sailing to the max. Being able to ask the world’s best sailors questions that you’ve been cooking up for years is an absolute pleasure.
What happens when shooting stops?
After shooting, the day is only half over. We’re all used to instant information nowadays and the pressure is on to deliver edits rapidly so often I’ll shoot and edit on the same day. The challenge is delivery. It used to be on DVD’s for private clients or a website for public consumption but now we’re all feeding and consuming from the social media beast. This means shorter edits that are promoted on FB, instagram, youtube and other channels in addition to the client’s website. It is a whole job in itself and more clients are realizing that they need an expert to manage this. More than ever I’m collaborating with such people though its still a black art to many as the algorithms and trends seem to change daily. In the end however, compelling content is still the driver of social media success and this is where I like to think that Acquafilms delivers.
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