Ask a wildlife photographer for their top tip to shoot from a boat and their answer is likely to be to ‘choose your boat wisely.’ When wildlife and underwater photographers Wayne and Pam Osborn made the switch from their 49-foot sailboat to a Riviera 445 SUV two years ago, it was a big step.
“Although there’s a lot of work that goes into managing a 49-foot sailboat, it was still with some consideration that we moved to a motor yacht, and actually we’re both very pleased with Baleia,” says Wayne. “Now that we’ve got a warm and dry boat, it’s much more convenient and easier for us to go boating. It’s also been great for socialising, so we’re getting much more use out of the motor yacht overall.”
For Pam it’s been a game changer: “I get seasick, so I used to helm the yacht at the stern,” she says. “When we were coming into rough weather, I’d be getting wet and my hands would be freezing, whereas now on Baleia, Wayne is the helmsman, it’s a much shorter trip and I sit out the back and take in the fresh air and the view.”
The Perth-based couple have an eye for a good view. Wayne was the Australian Geographic Australasian Nature Photographer of the Year in 2012 and Pam’s whale, underwater and wildlife work has been featured in Broad magazine.
“Pam’s got much more patience than I have and a quicker eye for whales breaching and birds flying,” says Wayne. Together they have published 22 photography books, including their most recent, Rottnest Island: Feathers, Fins and Megafauna, which can be downloaded for free from Apple Books.
The adventurers are repeat travellers to the Azores to photograph sperm whales and they travel frequently to photograph the Coral Triangle region of Indonesia. However, unable to venture overseas for the past year, they have taken the opportunity to turn their focus to their own backyard. Their most recent humpback shots have been taken from the 445 SUV as the whales migrated past Rottnest Island from September to November.
“It’s a fabulous little spot Rottnest; only 18km from Perth, but it feels like you’re overseas in a different part of the world,” says Wayne. Baleia’s open cockpit provides an ideal vantage to photograph whales. Her large boarding platform features an inbuilt swim ladder and stainless-steel rails that assist a diver in and out of the water.
“Our camera gear is quite large, and we use a table in the cockpit to assemble the housing and the strobes; it’s quite a complex assembly. The cockpit also has two storage lockers that are perfect for storing scuba tanks,” says Wayne. “The stern platform carries the three-metre tender and, once that’s in the water, the platform is ideal for diving. We just fall off the back of the boat and into the water. Some of Pam’s shots of octopuses are taken right underneath our mooring.”
With a watermaker on board, the couple can rinse their sophisticated camera gear with no limitations. “It’s really handy. The watermaker is a good load for the genset, which we run once or twice a day, and we get a bit more water than we actually need.”
Once the dive gear has been stowed away, the couple enjoy the social life that Riviera owners know so well. The rear glass bulkhead transforms the cockpit and saloon into one expansive social area.
“It’s fantastic,” says Pam. “The saloon is wide, open and accessible to the cockpit. The fact that you have the galley and the cockpit area together on the same level is much more social and much more pleasant; before I’d be downstairs in the galley handing food up the stairs!”
“We’ve got five grandchildren now, so that’s a big posse with their parents. They love coming out on the boat. It’s a great family experience and there’s plenty of room for everyone,” says Wayne.
“But it’s mainly for us,” adds Pam. “It’s our indulgence. We look for good weather windows to overnight or stay out for three, four or five days if the conditions are looking good. There’s often wind heading out, but Rottnest has well-protected bays, and we have a mooring for our own use. It’s really a very enjoyable way of getting away from it all.”
Learning to handle a motor yacht has been another pleasant surprise for Wayne. “We’ve got the Volvo Penta Inboard Performance System drives and, apart from having good fuel consumption, it’s also very quiet and smooth,” he says. “It was quite an adjustment coming from the yacht but it’s a really neat boat to handle. I must admit that the joystick controller takes a lot of stress out of manoeuvring in and out of the pen and moorings.”
“What’s also been fascinating for us is how Riviera brings you in and treats you like part of the family. We’ve been really pleased with the overall interaction with folks here in Perth. They put a lot of effort into managing the brand and deservedly so; it’s a premium boat. It’s been quite a pleasant experience in that way.”
Pam and Wayne say they look forward to taking more photos on their warm, safe and luxuriously appointed Baleia.
“Photography is still a vital interest for us, and we get a lot of pleasure from it. We love the celebration of nature and being able to share that with others,” says Wayne.
Rottnest Island: Feathers, Fins and Megafauna, as well as all of Pam and Wayne Osborn’s digital books, can be downloaded for free from Apple Books.