Kristina Strobel is a prominent photographer with extensive experience in yachting and lifestyle photography. She has the privilege of photographing some of the most beautiful yachts located in the most amazing yachting and charter destinations around the world. In the below interview, Kristina talks about her amazing journey into the world of yachting photography and the fascinating aspects of being able to step aboard these magnificent masterpieces of ultimate luxury.
Let’s start at the beginning. When have you realised that you wanted to become a professional photographer?
I knew I wanted to become a professional photographer the moment I took a photography course at college. My parents were a bit apprehensive once I told them of my newfound career, but determined and driven as I was I enrolled and never looked back. It wasn’t until my second year that my parents witnessed and realised that I had a talent in the industry. I transferred to an art school in NYC graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Photography. The world was now my oyster!
What brought you to the world of yachting and what was your first assignment in this industry?
After graduating from SVA, I began my career shooting the catalogue for the well-known NY department store called Macy’s where I worked and established myself for about 7 years. I began in the still-life department shooting room sets and tabletop. After a couple of years a position became available in the fashion studio. My studio manager who was a mentor to me thought this was an ideal opportunity for me so I was put forward for the position and I got it! I thrived in this position and took every opportunity to expand my portfolio. After several years I was ready for a change but wasn’t quite sure what type of change I needed. One evening I was out in NYC and met a man who happened to be a yacht captain. I was immediately intrigued with this industry, which had up until then, been completely foreign to me. He happened to be the captain on a yacht called Cuor di Leone, which was in the Bahamas for the winter season. He invited me down to take some test shots to see if it was something I could potentially do and sure enough, I was hooked! It encompassed all of my photographic experience, which totally excited me. I was told the best place to be to pursue my new career was the South of France. I quit my corporate job and moved to Antibes at the beginning of the summer season in 2006 and never looked back!
What was the name of the first mega yacht that you have photographed and what experience did you ‘take home’ from this particular assignment?
I was quite lucky because my first assignment was for a Danish shipyard called Royal Denship. They had just completed the 209’ expedition yacht called MY Turmoil. They rang me when I was in Ft. Lauderdale for the winter season and I hopped down to St. Thomas to shoot her. MY Turmoil was invited to be a part of the grand opening celebration of the Yacht Haven Grand Marina where Donald Trump, Cindy Crawford and other famous faces had been invited. What a fantastic first experience! The shoot coincided with the opening so had quite a rare initiation into this magnificent world! Fortunately Turmoil had graced the covers of 15 plus magazines throughout the following months so with that my name got around. Right place right time and a bit of luck!
The biggest learning experience from this shoot was the need to be accommodating and flexible. Things may not go as planned but one has to be willing to adapt.
What are the challenges when it comes to photographing luxury yachts?
After nearly 10 years photographing these magnificent vessels, I’ve discovered they all come with their own unique personality and when it comes to photographing a yacht, their own unique set of challenges. A photographer has to be extremely organized and detail oriented as we’re primarily a production coordinator/director organizing crew, helicopters, positioning of the yacht and then we have to deal with the elements we can not control such as rain, winds and most importantly, the light. There are really too many challenges to list but the most significant requirement is to remain constantly changing and adapting… like the sea itself.
Your professional equipment must be pretty impressive. Those readers with passion in photography will surely find interesting to know what type of camera and lenses you use most of the time.
I’ve been a Canon lover since the word go and once you find a brand you like you never go back. I shot with Phase One digital backs at Macy’s but found them too cumbersome for the fast paced shooting required while shooting yachts. I felt the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark series was the best option, offering the highest resolution for a 35mm with a full frame sensor so I could shoot a 60mb image without fail. I’ve always found Canon at the forefront of technology and they are the most durable when it comes to being exposed to the harsh elements like water and salt, the two worst culprits for any piece equipment. I have several lens’ which I never leave home without and they include EF 28-70mm f/2.8, EF 16-24mm f/2.8, TS-E 24mm f/3.5 which is amazing for interiors and my favourite for lifestyle and aerial details the 70-200mm f/2.8. I’m on my third body in the 1D series and own a 5D, which is great for video.
Do you usually work alone or have an assistant(s)?
Fortunately I always work with an incredible crew who are always willing to lend a hand otherwise we have a production team on the shoot and there is always someone to help. If I have a lifestyle shoot or a shoot which will require a lot of logistics with locations, models etc. I will bring an assistant along to help.
How long would a typical mega yacht shoot last? Can you describe, in a few words, what does an average superyacht shoot entail?
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a typical yacht shoot as each one is completely unique unto itself! The time it takes to do a complete shoot depends upon the requirements of the client. For example the lifestyle element can add a day or two to a shoot as well as a request for shooting in multiple different locations, shooting at different times of day for unique looks. I’ve done an average 50 meter yacht from anywhere between 1.5 days up to 4 as there really are so many variables. For each shoot I always write up a shoot schedule which I then discuss with the Captain and crew what areas of the yacht I’ll be shooting and at what times just to give them a rough idea of what I’ll need for a successful shoot. The Captain and crew are instrumental in the entire process. We also discuss logistics for the aerial aspect of the shoot, how the tenders/toys will move alongside the yacht whilst cruising, what shapes they will make to create a dynamic shot. I usually do sketches of this or screen shots so we’re all on the same page.
What was your most memorable assignment and why?
There have been so many memorable assignments over the years but one of my favourites was when I was commissioned for an Australian publication to fly to Brazil to shoot portraits of the iconic Formula One owner Wilson Fittipaldi, his shipyard, as well as his original Formula One racecar. He is one the kindest men I have had the fortune of meeting and photographing. My favourite aspect of the entire shoot was when we drove about 5 hours from Angra dos Reis to Sao Paolo where we were to shoot his original Formula One car beside an Embraer jet, as they wanted to focus the story on Brazilian export. We arrived on the tarmac and the ground manager asked me ”Where do you want the car and where do you want the plane?” I’ll never forget that moment and it makes me smile every time I think about it.
What do you love about your job?
What I love and adore about my job is the people I have the fortune of meeting. It never ceases to amaze me how many like-minded people there are across the globe from Singapore to the Caribbean. Every single trip I take, I always meet such incredible, beautiful people and forge such amazing connections I always return home feeling thankful and extremely grateful I have the most amazing career in the world.
What would you recommend to photographers wanting to enter the world of superyacht photography?
For anyone wanting to enter the world of superyacht photography I suggest knowing everything there is to know about lighting, technology and practice daily. It’s extremely important to be communicative, open minded, accommodating and to strive for perfection in everything you do. A great personality and being thankful goes a very long way. Be a perfectionist, don’t expect everyone else to do the work for you, fluff that pillow if needed, shammy the railing, be humble. Being a part of this incredible industry is a privilege, it is not a right.
Contact Kristina Strobel at email@example.com or on 0044 (0)7572 866908