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Photo & Text by Mark Johnson


Don’t sleep in! The time of day to capture a photo is always important to me. I usually shoot photos early and late in the day, as they are ideal for photography, as the long shadows add drama and depth. However, when photographing water, it’s better when the sun is a bit higher in the sky to make the water really blue. So it’s important to pick your time; often early and late in the day, the water may appear grey. In this shot, I photographed at 8:16am, so I’d still have some dramatic shadows, but also deep blue water.

I like the depth of this photograph – many boats anchored in the foreground, the waves breaking on the ocean side, the calm Broadwater on the inside, and the Surfers Paradise skyline rising in the background.

I love The Spit, as it feels like I am very far away from the main hubbub of the Gold Coast. I knew from being at this location numerous times, that I could fly my drone over the Seaway, and shoot back towards the Broadwater and Surfers Paradise skyline while capturing the boats in the foreground.

I first contemplated what angle to shoot from, either straight on from the ocean beach side or from the Broadwater side. Then, I needed to consider the altitude for my drone. As the battery life is limited, I don’t always have a lot of time to try different angles and altitudes, so I do try to figure out these things before launching. But, of course, once airborne, all land-based decisions may have to be thrown out! The drone I used to take this photo was a DJI Mavic 2 Pro with a Hasselblad lens built in.

Plan, plan, plan! But keep an open mind too. My advice to a novice photographer is try to pre-visualise your photographs, whether land, sea or air-based. Even though things may be different to what you visualised when you are on location, by pre-visualising, you can more quickly make any changes to suit the reality of the location.

There are heaps of challenges when working with boating scenes – from the movement of the boat, which makes it difficult to frame the shot, to salt spray and waves, which can kill your gear. Often, I’ll put my camera into a waterproof housing to protect against the salt water.

The Gold Coast and Southeast Queensland are special boating destinations as there are so many choices on where to boat: open seas, Moreton Bay, and around the many islands – unlike my experiences in other places like Hawaii, where it’s open ocean or nothing, and the seas can get really rough, which is something we can avoid here by boating within the Broadwater and Moreton Bay.

I hope Boat Gold Coast readers appreciate just how lucky we all are, to have such a beautiful spot like this scene in the photo, right in our own backyard.

About the photographer:

Mark started out photographing surfers, at 14 and by his 20s he was making money being published in surfing magazines in the United States and Australia. He decided on a photographic education by attending Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California, before moving to Australia. Over the years, his work has been used by magazines and companies around the world, in an array of subjects. In his free time, he is in the ocean, surfing, kitesurfing, and recently trying to learn foil surfing.


Published in print October-December 2021

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