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Fluid shots

MICHAEL EUDENBACH, 38
Photographer


The qualities of water are both myriad and mutable. It can surge and babble, it can swell to frightening heights or lay flat and stretched out impossibly to the horizon. Captured in photographs it can act as protagonist or a place of solace and reflection. Michael Eudenbach is decidedly at home on the water and many of his pic­tures reflect a reverence for the sea. As a Newport-based commer­cial photographer, he is known for his dynamic sport and sailing photography. His work has been published in national magazines including Yachting World, Sailing World, Wooden Boat Journal, Men’s Journal, Windsurfing Magazine and National Geographic Traveler. His fine art photography tends more toward serene images of underwater tranquility or cloud patterns ethereal and suspended. Eudenbach has recently taken to the skies as he continues to explore — and capture — the world from different perspectives.


 BY LISA UTMAN RANDALL
When did you first get inter­ested in taking photographs?

My father was a hobbyist photographer, so we always had cameras in the house… some really cool old ones too.  Most kids weren’t allowed to touch cameras back then, but he always let me. We had a darkroom too. So I entered a few photo contests when I was a kid. I’d take pictures of a dog or squirrels ( laughs). I kept at it and started getting pub­lished. National Geographic was definitely where I wanted to go.

 

You take a lot of really stun­ning sailing photos. When did you get into sailing?


I started sailing at the New York Yacht Club when I was a kid. Then I got involved in the first ever Rogers High School sailing team in about 1986. I also sailed while I was at Prov­idence College. After college I did that whole sailing/crew­ing thing for a while. I sailed with the Endeavor for a couple of years and then I was cap­tain of my own boat for a while. Eventually, I just out­grew it though. The whole time I was sailing, I always had a camera with me — it traveled inside my jacket. I started getting published in Cruising World and Sailing World and when the time was right, I just segued into pho­tography.


 Did you ever lose a camera over the side of a boat?


  No, I never lost anything over the side, but I dropped one down the hatch once and it took me three days to put it back together. I used super glue.


 How about you? Have you ever gone over the side of a boat?


  No, but I’ve been on a sail­boat that was sinking a couple of times. You know it’s bad when you start estimating whether you can swim to shore when you’re 60 miles out. I’ve broken a lot of equip­ment, but never had any injuries.


 You describe your images as having graphic composition, what do you mean by that?


  For me the picture has to be visually appealing in a graph­ic sense. You have to be drawn in by the angles. I look first for the graphics, then the mood and the composition. A lot of it is instinct, because you can’t think too much. I decide up front if there’s something cool going on, and then I typi­cally just observe for a while.
  Being an observer is what being a photographer is about for me. Then it happens very quickly. I’ll be on a boat and a wave will be flying by and I have to think quickly about where I need to be. Most of the time it just happens.


 There’s a lot going on in your photographs, it’s very adven­turous. How do you get that sense of action to come across in your work?


  A lot of it is technique and really thinking about your subject. For example, when I took photographs of Gunboat, which is a very fast boat, I knew I didn’t want a shot of it sitting on anchorage. That’s just not what this boat is about. So, I had to consider how I was going to capture that; what will illustrate its speed. I shot it going really fast, surfing some Caribbean swells. If I were taking a pic­ture of a rowboat, I’d go for something calm like in a pond. I tend to work in extremes; it’s either the full adrenalin rush or the calm thing.


 A lot of your fine art photog­raphy makes use of patterned imagery. Is that something you consciously seek out?


  Yeah, I definitely look for patterns to shoot. Sometimes it’s clouds, some are underwa­ter.
  I like to pair up three or four together. I’m working on a new series of patterns in nature. I know it’s something that a lot of photographers do, but the cool thing about it is it’s so accessible — it can be the shingles on your neigh­bors’ house.


 I read that you’ve started tak­ing pictures while flying a powered paraglider. Forgive me, but that sounds a little, um, crazy….


  Yeah, I learned how to paraglide years ago in Califor­nia, but when I moved back here there just aren’t any places to fly because there aren’t any mountains to take off from. They developed this powered paraglider. I got one and trained to fly it. It’s the ultimate shooting platform.
  It’s very safe though, it goes at a constant speed of about 30 mph. You can fly low and slow at a couple of hundred feet. I can take off right from the beach — it’s great. It’s really beautiful, especially in the early morning and it’s just a great vantage point.


 There’s a photograph on your Web site of you descending towards iced-over water, strapped into your paraglider, that’s taken from above. How did you get that shot?


  That was in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. I was gliding 200 feet above the St. Lawrence River and I was there shooting a winter kite-sailing competi­tion when I saw this amazing lighthouse sort of frozen in the river. I had my camera sus­pended above me – strapped to the gliders wing and I used a remote trigger. It was incredi­ble, but really cold.


 So, sailing, paragliding, what’s next?


  I’m just waiting for NASA to call me. No, just kidding. I just signed with a commercial rep in New York called Auro­ra Select. So, hopefully that will work out. I’d like to get some bigger jobs and go from there.

   

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 Moving pictures. Michael Eudenbach, shown in his Newport home with his 24” x 36” photograph ‘Endeavour Storm,’ taken in the mid-Atlantic in 1999, shoots images with graphic composition and a bold use of color and flowing motion.    

PHOTO BY JACQUELINE MARQUE

 

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