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Image of the Week: Too Close For Comfort—Or Not?

To bring distant action closer, photographers use long focal length “telephoto” or “zoom” lenses. Long lenses make sense in situations where getting closer to the action isn’t feasible or would put the photographer—and maybe even his subject—in harm’s way. While they have their drawbacks, they’re great tools in the right situation.

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Ultimate Ride isn’t really headed for the galley of this cruiser/turn boat—but it sure looks like it. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images. (Click image to enlarge.)

Long lenses also create some fun and even deceptive effects, as the above Tim Sharkey image from yesterday’s Offshore Powerboat Association season-opener on New Jersey’s wind-whipped Barnegat Bay demonstrates.

At first glance, it appears that Ultimate Ride, a 24-foot Pantera (formerly owned by Miss GEICO throttleman Scott Begovich) driven by Bob Sieb and throttled by Josh Wall, is headed for the hullside of the moored turn boat in front of it. But Sharkey’s 100mm-400mm Canon IS L-Series lens didn’t just bring the Class-5 raceboat “closer,” it brought the turn boat closer. And that made both boats appear closer to one another than they actually were.

“They were at least 100 feet off the turn boat,” said Sharkey, who captured the action from a pontoon boat driven by its owner Rich Grinzo, who volunteered for photo boat duty during a day of 25-knot winds, two- to three-foot chop and lots of spray. “Rich was so thrilled to be close to the action. It was his first time as a volunteer boat.”

Like the turn boat, Grinzo’s triple-tube, single outboard-engine pontoon boat maintained a safe distance from the offshore racing action. But that didn’t mean the day was free of drama for the driver and veteran photographer.

“One of the rollers broke over the bow and blew the (forward) door open, flooding the boat,” said Sharkey. “Literally, I was watching all my gear boxes floating on three to four inches of water to the back of the boat.”