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Photo book captures ‘magic moments’

Onne van der Wal’s “Wind and Water” offers 114 of his spectacular photographs


Onne van der Wal’s “Wind and Water” offers 114 of his spectacular photographs

International maritime photographer Onne van der Wal is a lucky fellow who has practically an open invitation to sail in any yacht of his choosing, as long as he brings along his camera gear — his ticket to nautical adventures.

In his new book, “Wind and Water: Boating Photographs from Around the World,” (2004, Little, Brown & Company), he takes readers on a spectacular journey in 114 vivid, full-color images through the maritime tradition, big- and small-boat racing, and to cruising destinations in the tropics, the high latitudes, and New England.

“Photographers are always welcomed aboard by proud owners who extend sailing invitations, and who chatter about her many years of racing and cruising,” he writes about sailing on classic yachts. They are willing to share their stories and their yacht in hopes of acquiring a magical shot of their classic pounding through the waves, soaking her crew in salt spray, and burying her rail.”

Whether he’s aloft in the rigging, balancing his camera on a leeward deck with the rail down, or out at the end of a bowsprit, van der Wal, 48, imparts a feeling of motion frozen in time, freezing spray into tiny specks of light, and depicting the strenuous physical effort that goes into sailing a large yacht properly.

There are no “freak” shots of crashing masts or wild, out-of-control broaches or capsizes. His boats are all under control and behaving properly, like well-mannered ladies. No one is shouting or screaming or losing their tempers, at least visibly, and all is well in his sailing world.

However, as a photographer and not a writer, he could have used some help with words. When some captions describe “everything flying,” for example, that is obviously not the case with a jib on deck. But readers should not be focusing on words in a photographic book.

Based in Newport, R.I., and living in Jamestown, van der Wal’s chase boat is a 28-ft. Mako with twin 225-hp Yamaha 4-strokes and a modest tuna tower. But the most important thing for him on a shoot is having an experienced driver who knows his way around, yet can keep out of the way.

When legendary photographer Morris Rosenfeld used to shoot boats under way, he did not have telephoto lenses and his son (driver) would get so close in their chase boat, Foto, that one boatowner said: “Why don’t you just step aboard, Rosie?”

At the end of the book, van de Wal notes that the majority of photos in the book were taken with Canon EOS 1N and 1V cameras with Canon EF L series F2.8 lenses; none of the images were shot digitally. In late 2002 he converted completely to a pair of identical digital Canons costing $8,000 each.

The 168-page coffee-table book sells for $50. For information, visit his Web site at