In Focus: Shining a Spotlight on Yacht Photographer Jim Raycroft
by Miranda Blazeby
In this new online series, BOAT is championing the work of the leading photographers of the superyacht industry. Here, we shine a spotlight on the work of Jim Raycroft.
How did you get into yacht photography?
After operating an advertising and architectural photography studio in Boston for 15 years I was ready for a change. I happened to meet a charter yacht captain / chef couple in a local bar. I listened to their Caribbean stories and asked many questions while we shared a fair number of beers. Two weeks later I joined them on a trip to St. Thomas to attend my first ever charter yacht show and got a crash course on the world of yachting in the Virgin Islands. I was hooked, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What do you love most about your job?
The travel, the variety and the people. I feel very fortunate to have travelled all over the world photographing and writing about amazing yachts in some of the most beautiful and interesting locations on earth. To capture the full story of a yacht requires illustrating the luxury, romance, ambiance and capability of the vessel. To do this requires a variety of photographic skills.
A typical yacht assignment includes; interiors, lifestyle, food, aerials and more. All of this must come together in a limited amount of time in what is often a changing environment. I enjoy the challenge and process. Additionally, the yacht owners, the captains and the professional crew members who operate these yachts are some the most interesting and dedicated people I’ve ever worked with. It’s a team effort.
What are the difficulties of yacht photography?
Being able to think on the fly and change gears at a moment’s notice. There are often challenging travel schedules, changing yacht schedules, weather contingencies, difficult customs officials, postponements and cancellations. Good pre-planning and communication are essential to keeping the project on track.
What is your favourite yacht?
Golden Compass, 45.9m Picchoitti launched in 1982.
I met the owners by chance during a re-fit shoot at the Derecktor yard in Fort Lauderdale in 2009. We spoke about their upcoming plans which included a two year around the world cruise with family and friends. I jokingly suggested they needed a photojournalist on board to document the adventure. That seed grew into an eight part editorial series published in ShowBoats International on the global travels of Golden Compass featuring some of their experiences.
Over the next two years I was invited by the yacht owners to join them in Cuba, The Amazon, Croatia, The Maldives, East Timor, Trinidad and the rugged coast of Maine, USA. The 30,000-mile trek visiting over 100 ports in 45 countries earned the owners the Voyagers Award at the 2012 World Superyacht Awards. The kindness and generosity afforded to me by the yacht owners translated into an enduring friendship and some of the best travel memories anyone could ask for.
What is your favourite yacht photograph you have taken?
Lady Britt in New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty. Pulling off this shot post 9/11 required coordination with the FAA NY air traffic control, the USCG, the NYC Harbor Police and a nod from Homeland Security. Add to that scheduling the shoot with regard for the tide condition and local weather. Fortunately, I was working with a most competent captain and a helicopter pilot who were both very much on board with doing what it took to make this shot happen.
How has photography technology changed since you started?
I’m an old school photographer meaning that my professional career pre-dates the dawn of digital technology. Back then I had to travel with a massive amount of gear to light up interiors. Nothing was automatic. I had to calculate exposures for analog cameras and then would burn through boxes of polaroid and film to insure I got the shots. The switch from film to digital was a steep learning curve for the entire industry. Now I am able to shoot faster and more accurately. If there is a downside it’s the amount of post-production work required on the back end of a shoot.
Any tips for budding yacht photographers?
Develop a professional work ethic and stick to it. Cutting corners is the quickest way to come up short, disappoint a client and lose them. When you received an assignment to photograph a yacht keep in mind that a hefty amount of trust is being placed upon you. With that trust comes responsibility. Everything you see, touch and stand on is very valuable. Respect the environment and treat it with the utmost care.
You are responsible for the actions of your team. Good professional photography and video takes time to produce and is worth good money. Yachts are usually on the move and you may be pressured to complete an assignment in less time than is realistic. Act professional, don’t over promise or undercut. The captain and crew are a critical part of the photo team, your success ultimately depends on their cooperation. Treat them with the respect they deserve. It’s a wonderful field to work in - enjoy.