Monday, December 5 , 2016, 5:25 pm | Fair 58º


Captain’s Log: Offshore Dream Assignment for Photographers

WaveWalker puts a group in position to capture the best visuals of oil seeps

The WaveWalker, my charter boat, was recently hired by professional photographers for an offshore dream assignment. They chartered us to take them to oil seeps up the coast from Santa Barbara. I know these spots well and thrilled the photographers, who shot in excess of 1,000 images apiece.

The first task was to find the seeps. That was easy for me because I know this Channel. We visited two seeps and could have visited two more, but we hit pay dirt at the two sites and didn’t need more. Conditions were good because we had a bright day with little wind and medium swells.

To facilitate getting the best visuals, I positioned the boat just right for reflectivity from the oil sheen. In areas with natural gas seeps, the oil sheen from bubbles is at its photographic best for only the first few seconds after a bubble bursts onto the surface of the sea.

Our photographers had a blast rapid-aiming and shooting as the most colorful bubbles burst. Other challenging factors included fractal patterns, swirling and angles of reflectivity.

Swells became an important part of the photography process because they lifted the sheens and coagulations at constantly varying angles, allowing the professionals to fire long bursts knowing that each image would be different and some would feature magnificent reflections, color spectrums, swirls and miniature sun-sparkles. In most cases, images were of tiny areas (perhaps just inches across), but when shown on a computer screen or wall monitor they appear to be a spaceless dimensions as though they could span the universe.

I’m thinking that this could be a required assignment for Brooks Institute students and a fun challenge for photography enthusiasts and professional outdoorsphotographers because it is challenging and requires understanding a micro environment (images of areas just inches or less across) with a focus on how the image will display on a large medium such as a big screen.

Anyone ready for a challenging photographic adventure?

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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