10 Questions: Bruce McDonald, MD and Sailing Photographer

Dr. Bruce McDonald grew up in Seattle, Washington. He studied chemistry at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where he first got involved with photography. He pursued his interest for photography by teaching himself and learning with others - and combined it with his passion for sports such as sailing and the great outdoors.

He closed his surgical practice in Austin, Texas, in September 2003. Since then, he has done a lot of photography in the United States. All proceeds of Dr. McDonald’s photography are donated to medical charities. He features as the first sailing photographer in our new series "10 Questions".

To what degree are you specialized on doing sailing photography, and what sparked your interest in this area of photography in first place?

I belong to a sailing club which relies heavily on volunteers to run the club. I was asked about seven years ago if I would like to be the club photographer. I said yes and have been doing it ever since. About a third of what I do is sailing photography.

If you had to go on an assignment with only one piece of equipment - one body, one lens - what would that be?

That one is easy...Nikon D200 with a Nikon 80-400 mm zoom with image stabilization.

What gear are you typically using for your sailing assignments?

I primarily use the above camera and lens, but carry a second camera with a wider angle lens for when I get into the heat of the action. Also, I have found through bitter experience that digital cameras do not tolerate immersion, so it is always good to have an extra body.

What was the most unusual angle/viewpoint from which you took a photo?

I was shooting a J80 circuit stop and had my own ski boat, but no driver. I wanted a low angle shot of the boats planing, so set the throttle at a speed that would keep me just ahead of the pack (about 15 knots) and drove with one foot while hanging over the rail and shooting from just above the water.

If somebody is completely new to sailing photography, what would you consider to be the most important piece of advice you could give?

Carefully analyze the race course or the area in which you are shooting and figure out where you will need to be to get the optimum photos, then don't be afraid to try new things even if you don't think they will turn out. Take large memory cards and as one of my hunting friends used to say, "shoot everything you see and sort it out once you get home." After a few shoots, you will figure out what works and what doesn't.

What was for you the most memorable picture you took on a sailing assignment?

I was shooting a laser regatta. I was at the windward mark lining up for the incoming boats. A pretty young woman with perfect form tacked over and was heading straight for me she saw the camera and almost as if on cue, she put on the perfect game face with Mona Lisa smile and great eye contact.

How much time a year do you spend on sailing assignments?

About ten weekends per year. I am planning on increasing this once I retire from my day job in a year or so.

Being well-travelled, which areas in the World do you like best for photography?

Currently, all of my sailing photography is local.

What was the worst/most challenging/difficult situation, in which you took pictures at an assignment?

It was at a J80 circuit regatta. I was in my ski boat shooting the event in 40+ knot winds. The boat started taking on water and realizing that it was not going to make it safely to shore, I loaded my photography gear into the waterproof case and got as close to shore as I could before it went under. The waterproof case provided good flotation and I was able to be rescued by one of the race committee boats and was able to shoot the rest of the regatta from that vessel.

Bruce McDonald's Sailing Photos

Dr. McDonalds website is at:
His sailing photo galleries can be found at:

Further Reading

Back to "pictures"

10 Steps to Amazing Sailing Pictures

Pictures from a Mediterranean Cruise

Practical Advice for Sailing Photography