I am a keen photographer and an engineer by profession; I am trying to achieve the Fellowship distinction of the Royal Photographic Society perhaps in readiness for becoming a professional photographer some day. It is fair to describe me as an adrenaline junkie and I love to be out windsurfing on the ocean, providing the wind is stronger than F6 (stronger the better) and the waves are large. I live and work close to the ocean and take every opportunity to get out there and enjoy it. I have no disability to speak of.
One of my work colleagues (who happens to be a JST watch leader) suggested that I might want to approach the JST in order to get access to the ships to see if they might be suitable subjects for my current FRPS project. I visited the ships in Southampton docks in the summer of 2010 and was offered an opportunity to get on board with my camera equipment for the Southampton to Jersey voyage via St. Malo for 5 days in 2011 (TNS311). Since then I have recently been to the Caribbean to shoot more images on Tenacious (TNS334).
My first experience was filled with much anticipation I turned up to join the voyage crew of Tenacious – I had no pre-conceptions about what to expect; I just decided I was going to enjoy the experience as much as possible. I usually suffer sea sickness very badly and armed with the usual medications, pills, patches, ginger extract, ginger biscuits etc. I was surprised that I did not suffer much at all!
On our voyage we had quite a few disabled people with various challenges but I was astonished by their resolve and determination to play the fullest part possible in the business of sailing the ship; a true showcase for the human spirit. This was also equally true for the TNS334 voyage in February 2012 too!!
For me, both voyages were life changing experiences – I joined the ship not knowing anyone aboard, I disembarked from the ship with a different outlook on life and many new friendships. To live, work, eat and sleep in close proximity 24/7 with your watch/crew colleagues you get to know them all very well; it's very humbling to live with people who have issues far greater than you have ever faced or will ever face, yet these individuals are fully contributing to the sailing experience and living life to the full and having fun. Towards the end of the voyages, the disabilities I initially noticed somehow faded into the background; you get to know the person behind the disability and that’s very rewarding. I had hardly ever before come into contact with disability in my life; to be honest I never really thought too much about it, but now I have a completely different view – these people are just normal, (necessarily) strong individuals who happen to have daily challenges that are different from my own!
Man cannot live by bread alone and I’ve got to say that the chef Graham and his assistants produced some absolutely amazing food on both voyages.
Photography is surprisingly difficult on Tenacious because of restricted space, the ships motion and there are many obstructions hanging around – mainly ropes! My latest voyage produced close to 2000 image files both stills and HD video; I am hoping to edit them to just 20 images that tell the story of disabled and able bodied crew sailing the ship together . My favourite shots are of people who do not realise I’m taking their photo and also using my wide angle lens to add drama to shots of crew climbing the rigging.
Mike’s top tips... enjoy the crew's company, enjoy the ship and be safe – that’s the recipe for a fabulous voyage. Oh! ....and get yourself up the mast if you are able - the view is awesome!
Already looking forward to another voyage in the Azores at Easter!
Mike Owens ARPS