Master of the screaming sportboat
For Chris Rabil, time spent on the docks in Ocean City, Maryland, developed his interest in the sport-fishing industry. “I found myself snapping photos of my favorite boats for wall art and desktop backgrounds,” he recalls. That lifelong obsession is now a career for Rabil, who has been working as a professional photographer for the past three years.
Photographing boats from a helicopter or another running boat is no easy task, but it can be accomplished with the right eye and equipment. “Everyone wants to know what camera you use,” Rabil says, “but the real question is: What lens do you use?” Lenses with a
large aperture allow for more light, ensuring proper exposure. “Get something with a nice focal range and a lower maximum aperture to lessen the learning curve, and you’ll be much happier with the results. You wouldn’t pair a 50W to a bait rod, so don’t buy a nice camera body with a cheap lens,” he says.
His first published photograph—a headshot taken just after he invested in some good gear—acted as a foot in the door and encouraged him to keep at it. He’s used many different camera bodies over the years but now relies on a Sony a7R III and a suite of Sony G-master lenses, naming the 24-70mm as his workhorse. To make his work even more interesting, a GoPro Hero7 Black mounted it to his camera body records video of running boats while on assignment. His imagery captures the power and craftsmanship behind each build.
“It’s always hard to pin down a favorite photo,” Rabil says. “There are images that fit a specific need, or add color to a story, and then there are the shoots that are just plain fun.” When friend Capt. Mick Aixala called Rabil and told him to grab his camera for some shots of his 62-foot Spencer, Brisa, he did just that: photographed the perfect boat, in perfect weather, for a perfect shot. Rabil insists that it’s all worth it when it comes together.