Meet Poole's Olympic Yachting Photographer

As the world's best dinghy sailors and windsurfers go head-to-head on Dorset's Olympic waters, Karenza Morton meets the world-class photographer Richard Langdon who will be capturing them on camera

Meet Poole's Olympic Yachting Photographer: Richard LangdonAs the world’s best dinghy sailors and windsurfers go head-to-head on Dorset’s Olympic waters, Karenza Morton meets the world-class photographer who will be capturing them on camera

He travels the globe photographing some of the world’s most decorated sailors and spectacular yachts in stunning locations. And yet Poole’s world-renowned marine photographer, Richard Langdon, admits when it comes to capturing breathtaking images there is often no place like home.“You don’t need the Mediterranean to get some amazing images. Dorset’s an incredible place to photograph. I’ll spend hours looking at forecasts, and when the sky is blue and there are big white fluffy clouds it can be absolutely stunning.”Bournemouth-raised Richard’s lifelong love affair with the sea became his career after he, almost by default, studied photography at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design. Three Olympic Games and countless World Championships, and high-profile ocean races later, the former Winton Boys’ School pupil is firmly established as one of the world’s top sailing and yachting photographers.

It is a career that has brought him so many ‘pinch yourself’ moments, yet he will never stop chasing the buzz he first felt when he saw one of his images used in a national newspaper.“I grew up on the water and there was a camera on my parents 28ft yacht that I used to tinker with and takes pictures,” he explains. “Photography always interested me but I actually applied to study design at college, it was only after the college suggested I did photography I took it more seriously.”After he finished college he decided to try to go it alone. “It gave me the freedom and flexibility to take the pictures I wanted to take. It was quite a slow-burn thing but it was the direction I knew I wanted to be heading in.  “I covered the 1988 J/24 European Championships in Cowes and as always I developed the shots and then sent them off to various picture desks by post! When I picked up The Daily Telegraph and saw one of my pictures over three-quarters of a page it was an unbelievable feeling and you never lose that.” Quickly gaining a reputation for style and innovation, Richard was commissioned by Champagne Mumm to cover the Admiral’s Cup from 1991 and then later the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race by both Swedish Match and Brunel Sunergy. In 2000 he attended his first Olympics, working for the Dutch sailing team.

The following year saw him experience his hairiest assignment to date, when he took part in the Atlantic leg of the 2001-2002 Volvo Ocean Race onboard Team News Corp. It is an experience he would not hesitate to repeat.“There’s a huge amount of water coming down the deck and it’s so powerful it takes you off your feet. I’d prepared by building a lightweight fibreglass casing for my camera so I could try to get shots no one else could.“There was one moment when a squall came through and if someone hadn’t screamed at me to grab a strap I wouldn’t be here now. I had a tight grip on the strap with my left hand and my camera in my right as this wall of water came through, and I ended up bodysurfing. I did manage to take a picture just before the water hit but it was just a mass of water!”In August, Richard will enjoy a home event as the 2010 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta takes place at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. Two years out from London 2012 the world’s best dinghy sailors and windsurfers go head-to-head on Dorset’s Olympic waters from 9-14 August to familiarise themselves with the Olympic racetrack and lay down an early gauntlet to their closest 2012 rivals.A host of Britain’s Beijing 2008 medallists and Dorset residents are set to compete at Skandia Sail for Gold including reigning Olympic Laser champion Paul Goodison and double Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton, who both live in Weymouth, as well as Sherborne’s Andrew Simpson, who won Beijing Star gold with Iain Percy. Ayton’s World Champion windsurfer husband, Nick Dempsey, is also set to be in action.

Richard has been an integral part of Skandia Team GBR, the British Sailing Team in the Olympic and Paralympic Classes, for the past few years and admits it is a privilege to photograph the world’s top sailors at their highest and lowest moments.“At Beijing I stayed in the team house with the sailors, ate when they ate and was included as a member of the team. We developed a relationship, where the sailors were very trusting and allowed me to fit in around them. “It’s amazing sharing those incredible moments when the sailors win an Olympic medal but I’m also very grateful they trust me to be around on those occasions when they might have suffered a bitter disappointment.” Always keen to stay ahead of the game, Richard thrives on pushing the boundaries to create ground-breaking images. As well as the lightweight waterproof housing he used aboard Team News Corp, he has pioneered a number of other innovative techniques, including being one of the first photographers to swim at the turning mark, camera in hand.Much of his technique trialling takes place around Parkstone Yacht Club, while he has recently started exploring the video potential of the new HD SLRs. Having seen the rapid transition from film to digital photography, a shift he describes as “a bit of a nightmare to start with,” he is now an all-digital man.However, for Richard, his photography will never be about the technology, simply the outcome. “The end product is everything to me and the technology is a means to that end. I find the final image captivating but I’m never 100% happy. Even when you get something that looks incredible you’re always looking at what could have made it even better. That’s why photography is so amazing because until you see that final image, you don’t always know just what you’re going to get.”

To see more examples of Richard’s work click here

Fact Box What: 2010 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta Where: Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, Osprey Quay, Portland, DT5 1SAWhen: 9-14 August. The last day features all ten final races for the Olympic classes, while the Paralympic class medals are decided the day beforeWhat can you see: The world’s best Olympic and Paralympic sailors racing on the 2012 Olympic waters over six days. Saturday 14 August is Spectator Day, with all showdown races beamed live on a giant screen, with commentary from past sailing champions and media experts, while the medal-winning sailors will be interviewed live on the water seconds after their race heroics. Can’t make it? Follow the action live at skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk which features race tracking as well as vodcasts and interviews, whilst Sail for Gold Radio broadcasts to the wider Weymouth area for the duration of regatta. Racing will also be streamed live though the event website on Saturday 14 August. Cost: Entry is free. People wishing to attend the Spectator Day are advised to complete a registration form at skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk

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2010 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta

9-14 August

Weymouth and Portland National Sailing AcademyOsprey Quay Portland DT5 1SA

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