A Day In The Life Of A MedSailors Photographer
How does using your passion for photography while working and living on sailboats for the summer around the Mediterranean sound? Ryan, a MedSailors photographer of 2 seasons, describes in-depth what it’s like being a summer photographer for MedSailors. Want to shake things up in your life this summer? Read on and find out why this role might be perfect for you!
The obsidian water heaves before you like great dark lungs speckled with thousands of stars, breathing in the last moments of the night. The line between sea and sky nearly indiscernible in the twilight.
Silence, except for the white noise of the bow slicing through a shimmering blanket of blackness and the low hum of the boat engine. Just as the sky begins to bruise the horizon purple and blue from the approaching morning, the skipper emerges with a hot cup of coffee steaming the brisk morning air.
Your body may be tired and mind foggy from the early rise, but your soul is alive as you drift toward the breaking dawn. Silhouettes finally rise from below wrapped in blankets and shuffle to the bow, clutching mugs of coffee just as light begins to pierce the dark sky.
Finally, the sun cracks over the jagged landscape ahead like a shattered egg, spilling golden light over the glittering waves before painting the sky crimson and orange. Everyone leaps up with a sudden gasp, pointing out to the dark shapes of dolphins threading up and down through the fiery water.
“This is one of the best mornings of my life” a guest sighs, and we all agree. And you immortalized it.
Camera always at the ready, you capture these moments for the guests and yourself, showing them the snaps later as they delightfully say “I can’t wait to see these!“
So they don’t just have selfies of their unforgettable summer.
THIS IS THE ROLE OF THE MEDSAILORS PHOTOGRAPHER, BUT WHAT IS IT TRULY LIKE?
This isn’t what every morning is like on a sailboat, but it is how some mornings are. And it is honestly one of the best memories of my two seasons working for MedSailors. We had a couple sunrise sails throughout the season that were pretty magical, but that day is the one I tell others about when they ask what my favourite memory working for MedSailors is.
And it was special to be able to capture that for the guests as well, so they can relive that morning over and over.
Since the summer of 2016 I have worked as a photographer and crew for MedSailors, and as my third season with the company approaches, I wanted to show just what life as a MedSailors photographer is like and what gets me so excited for the coming season.
WHAT IS LIFE LIKE AS A MEDSAILORS PHOTOGRAPHER?
Well, of course not all mornings are fiery sunrises filled with pods of dolphins, though I will say most weeks will have plenty of unicorns (inflatables that is). Plus, you won’t want to wake at 5am every day lest you burn yourself out because most days will be jam-packed with excursions that you won’t want to miss.
In a general sense, being a photographer while living on sailboats is something completely unique than most other photographer gigs. Especially anything I had done in the past. Unless, of course, you’ve been a Nat Geo photographer in a mountain hideout waiting for snow leopards that is. In that case, I’m jealous.
EVERY DAY IS DIFFERENT
The environment itself is always active and fast moving, exciting and challenging, but never boring. After all, each week is made different with the coming of new guests, and life on a sailboat is never the same as you travel each day to a new port. That’s what I enjoy most about the role, having the ability to keep each day at work different and interesting.
IT’S CHALLENGING, AND THAT’S A GOOD THING
Each week you’ll have the chance to get creative and test your shooting styles while learning new ones. Given that life at sea and sailboats aren’t standard work environments or shooting environments, even if you work a full season it’ll be hard to get the same shot twice.
YOU’RE ALWAYS ACTIVE
One day you could be having that golden morning sunrise sail described above, another day you’ll be discovering a new favourite bay, and the next maybe a hike up an active volcano with a group of guests — all the while getting to use your passion for a job. And yes, sometimes there’ll be the rainy days where you can’t capture many shots and your job evolves from photographer to guide — that’s when you can flex your local insight knowledge and show guests around the best spots in destinations you’ve come to know.
WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE DAY LOOK LIKE?
Morning swims, lunches in turquoise bays, wicked fun afternoons exploring, and delicious Mediterranean dinners — not your typical day in the office eh?
Most mornings, if in a port town, you’ll head out with the Guest Manager to the bakery to get fresh bread for the boats. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread and pastries every morning. Whichever boat you choose to be on that day, you’ll hop aboard and spend the day sailing with them to the next destination.
Along the way, the skipper typically stops off in one of the hundreds of beautiful bays en route to have a swim stop or lunch. This is when you’ll be snapping photos of guests backflipping off boats (or attempting to), getting involved in sailing if the wind is good, or trying their luck on paddleboards. If the skipper needs it, you help prep lunch, set it up, and get to eat and chat with the guests.
Depending on what the destination is, after arriving in port you can head out on a tour or excursion with the group and capture the fun — whether it be on quads or scooters or even scuba diving. Usually in the afternoon before dinner, I’ll take some time to relax and catch up on a book or organize photos from the day.
If it is a group dinner, you head out with the guests you were with that day and dine with all the crews in a restaurant, and if it’s a free night, you can spend the evening doing what you’d like. Sprinkle in some nights out with guests and crew in clubs or cocktail bars and days can be quite long but equally quite fun.
THE ROLE DOES CALL FOR YOU TO ADAPT
Though you’re a photographer, the role requires quite a lot of flexibility. I’m not saying you have to become a contortionist, but you will have to help with things outside of just photography. Sometimes you’re photographing, sometimes helping with cooking, sometimes doing provisions. Most of the week as you hang out with guests, you’ll be sharing your knowledge about the islands and exploring with them almost as a guide. Since I know most of the highlights of countries MedSailors goes to, it’s fun for me to recommend places and tag along knowing I’ll be getting some awesome photos for them in a place I really like.
There are other times you’ll have to over social media for the week doing Insta stories for the brand, or holding photo competitions with guests. And heck, on occasion you’ll be called upon to sing “House of the Rising Sun” at the weekly toga party with a Greek band. At least that was me every week…
WHAT HAS MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE?
I think it says something that I’ve come back for 3 seasons in a row. My experience as a photographer for MedSailors has been a lot of things, but it’s never been boring that’s for sure. Adjusting to life at sea sleeping and eating and living in a “house” that is always moving took adjusting to, but after a couple of weeks, it becomes normal. You get used to the sounds of the boat and the sway of the sea. Living on land becomes strange.
One of the aspects I enjoy most about the job is, really, the people you meet and hang out with throughout the summer. From the skippers and staff, to the locals who become friends, and the guests that sail with you from all over the world — you meet some awesome people who might even become lifelong buddies.
It becomes a special and exciting thing to be a part of their experience (which may be their only week off all year) and gift them these incredible memories you captured after their trip. It’s even more fun when you go out on excursions and cruise around an island or head out on a wine tour with everyone. You then become a part of their memory as well.
YES, YOU DO GET TO DO A LOT OF AWESOME THINGS
Part of the photography job is to capture guest’s best moments on and off the boats, and personally, I think exploring with everyone is the most fun part. I’ve had the opportunity to swim in blue sea caves, parasail in Greece and Croatia, explore ancient ruins, see the world’s oldest amphitheatre, cruise around stunning coastlines on scooters, mountain bike national parks, and of course sail into Dubrovnik to the tune of the Game of Thrones theme. The amount of things you get to do is just wild.
IT’S NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES, BUT YOU’RE STILL USING YOUR PASSION
Of course, I don’t want to describe everything through rose-coloured lenses and make it look like being a photographer for MedSailors is one big vacation at sea. The job does come with a lot of work, and there have been times when I was short of sleep or sick as a sea dog and had to push through.
There is still a big workload that comes along with it. Days where you’re exhausted beyond belief. And yes, there are bad days. But mostly, it is outweighed by the rest of the experience, and bottom line is that you get to do something you love and get paid for it with the Mediterranean islands as your office. I mean, how does this look for a Monday morning? Pretty rad amiright?
WHAT I UNEXPECTEDLY ENJOYED MOST
Before joining MedSailors, I had never been on a sailboat in my life, and it had never occurred to me that I’d like it. Throughout the past two years as a MedSailors photographer, I’ve discovered that I had a hidden passion for sailing. Sailing for the most part isn’t a requirement of your role, but I found that by getting involved as much as possible with the sailing aspect. Helping the skippers out whenever possible and trying to learn as much as I could about sailing turned out to be one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable parts of the job.
And the other crew always appreciate the help. Plus, it helps you become much more a part of the team as everyone helps everyone. Learning as much as you can about sailing while doing the photography part is one of the most beneficial outcomes.
And now I’ll be taking my own courses to become a licensed skipper later this year!
IT HELPED ME GROW
When I first joined in summer of 2016, becoming a paid photographer was a big validation for myself and my passion for photography. Up until that point, I had small freelance gigs and mainly travelled the world shooting landscapes while working with brands through my travel blog. But I had never been hired specifically as a photographer. It was something I always wanted to pursue, but didn’t think it was practical at that point. Getting the call from MedSailors asking me to join was invigorating to hear, and to have it mixed in with my other passion for travel made it even better.
In an environment like MedSailors, I came in as somewhat of an introvert — which is hard to be while meeting over 100 people a week in a job where you have to hang out with a different group daily. Within just a couple of weeks, that environment helped me break out of my shell. It just happens naturally, because it has to. Over the course of a season, you end up interacting with nearly 2,000 people and most just want to have the time of their life. So it’s hard not to open up and get involved as much as possible because it makes your job simply that much more fun.
On the photography aspect, it is a learning experience daily. From people cliff jumping to wild bailouts on watersports, gusty days of fast sailing to sudden sunset proposals — everything happens so fast. It teaches you to always be aware and looking out for a moment or shot. To always be ready to catch the dolphins that’ll disappear in seconds. To react in an instant to something exciting happening. And in my case, also to overcome my fears to get an awesome shot.
It becomes an exciting challenge to figure out how to take photos of the same subject differently. Sometimes I’m up a mast of a boat to get the group shot I want (even though I’m afraid of heights) or hanging off the side rail to get an interesting angle. Every country, destination, and environment have something unique you can explore to try out new ways of shooting. Obviously while staying safe.
I’ve laid on rocks (haven’t we all), climbed a tree, learned how to snap from the back of a speedboat, photographed from the back of a quad bike, shot in low light and harsh light, dealt with blinding reflections or forever moving subjects, and so many more scenarios in one summer just to get an interesting photo. It’s given me the ability to shoot in any kind of environment or scenario and has been more of a learning experience than any other photography gig I’ve had.
ALL TIME QUICK FAVOURITES
FAVOURITE DESTINATION: Epidavros, Greece.
FAVOURITE MEMORY: Sunrise sail from Vis, Croatia.
FAVOURITE FOOD: Oh, this is a hard one! Truffle risotto in Poros is first to mind. The pizza in Mljet is pretty tasty.
FAVOURITE DRINK: Wine from UNESCO Hora Farm in Stari Grad. AND espresso martinis in Hvar Croatia.
FAVOURITE ACTIVITY: Quad bikes in Spetses and Poros, awesome sights around each.
IS THIS A ROLE FOR YOU?
If you are looking to do a job that is fun, challenging, exciting, and something that allows you to use your passion on a daily basis — absolutely. It’s a position set for someone who is outgoing, energetic, looking for a new and unique experience and wanting to grow in photography.
After two seasons, I can say that working as a photographer for MedSailors has been one of the most rewarding experiences where I’ve been able to grow my skills while meeting mates for life.
The job doesn’t boil down to simply taking photos of people on holiday — you are engrained in the experiences and memories people will have for the rest of their lives and give people something to look back on for years to come. All the while having the added job benefit of making your own unforgettable summer at sea.