#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown

#humansofyachting

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

The superyacht photographer on living life through a lens.

By Dominique Afacan | 22 June 2018

“I see a superyacht as a piece of art. Back when I first started out, I used to look at magazine covers and think that there must be a better way to capture the angles on these boats. I was desperate to give yachting photography a different style. By 2007, after studying graphic design back in my native New Zealand, I had arrived in England, bought all my own kit and started shooting. I got my first cover the same year and things went from there.

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

Superyacht Ann G in Norway. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

Superyacht Ann G in Norway. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

A lot of my photos involve shooting from a helicopter. When I first started, I had zero experience of that – I just learned on the job. Believe it or not, I am scared of heights; if you put me on the edge of a tall building I have vertigo, but for some reason I’m ok on a helicopter. I’ll climb up to the third or fourth stage of a mast but I haven’t gone to the top yet – I’d rather be in the helicopter looking right down on it. I used to get seasick too. Thankfully I don’t anymore.

The biggest challenges for me are the weather, the helicopter pilot, and the location – all of that has a huge impact on the shot. But I thrive off the unknown; it’s not like a studio shoot, you have to adapt to your surroundings. Often, clients ask for quite specific shots, but the reality is that there are always so many photos in the end that people could never have thought of, because the opportunity only comes about when Mother Nature kicks in. I did a shoot once in Norway, for example, and it was rainy and cloudy, but they were some of the most exciting photos I’ve done. Heavy fog set in, but it was eerie and it looked incredible on camera. I could never have scripted that.

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

Game Changer. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

Game Changer. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

There have been some hairy moments over the years. Last year, I was shooting Game Changer and we were down low in the helicopter. I looked into the ocean on my side and I could see oil floating on top of the water. We realised it was coming from the helicopter – so we needed a solution, and fast. I radioed the boat, which luckily had a helipad, so we landed on the back of it while they were doing 14 knots. There was no time for it to slow down and stop. When we got out and had a look at the heli’, it turned out the dipstick had popped out and we’d lost a litre and a half of oil. Thank goodness for on board helipads. Anyway, we got the shot!

I get to photograph in the most incredible places – up in Norway is amazing, and I love Tahiti where I shot Salperton. The islands off the mainland there are insane. My favourite shoots tend to be when there is a combination of good crew and a good captain. Hemisphere, the world’s biggest catamaran is a case in point – we did a great shoot out in the British Virgin Islands – we spent four days on board with the captain and the crew and got some incredible footage. The same goes for Zefira, which I shot in Fiji. We spent time in some really secluded areas, which was really magical.

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

St Barths Bucket. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

St Barths Bucket. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

I always enjoy shooting back home in New Zealand too – I often get back to photograph the Millennium Cup which is awesome. I shoot a lot of the regattas actually – I just got back from the Loro Piana Regatta in Porto Cervo and I always do the St Barths Bucket. Those races are hard work – you can’t afford to have the helicopter up there the whole time so you’ve got to try and organise it all on the day, tracking the wind and working out where the most action will be and when the fleet will be closest together. The regattas all have a different atmosphere, and it’s interesting to see how different they are all. St Barths is the most relaxed I think – the owners mingle with everyone. And the setting for the Millennium Cup is just amazing. Where they sail, you get hundreds of dolphins every day – I almost want to ask them to get out the shot sometimes!

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

Dolphins race alongside a yacht in the Millennium Cup. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

#humansofyachting – Jeff Brown

Dolphins race alongside a yacht in the Millennium Cup. Photo: Jeff Brown | Breed Media

I’ve been on some of the biggest boats in the world and from the outside it’s easy to see it as just a rich guy’s toy. But what is easy to forget is that building a ship like that creates jobs for thousands of people for a number of years. What they give to local industry is incredible. The new technology they are responsible for too, is important. Owners can afford to put a lot of money into R&D – the results of their findings will obviously get used on their boat, but then they will be brought into the real world and everybody can use it. That’s the stuff that nobody really talks about.”