The Festival Of Sails is one of my favourite events to photograph. There is so much going on: on the water, beach and designated event zones.
Here are my top recommendations to get great shots.
Find a good spot for the water ski show
The Stars Down Under Water Ski and Stunt Show is held multiple times a day during each day of the event. Most people crowd along the shorefront in front of Steampacket Gardens. This can be a great spot for photography if you get there early enough and get a location close to the harbour.
I prefer to sit on this tiny pier in front of the carousel. You can get some nice crowd shots from here but mostly the stunt team is too far away. If you look the opposite way, towards Cunningham Pier, you can get some awesome shots. The boat and performers need to turn in order to get set up for their next stunt. This means that often get quite close to the pier and there is no-one in the way. Cunningham Pier makes for a perfect background.
Sometimes, The Hygeia boat will dock off this pier and completely block off your view of the main show. I don’t mind, as I find the shots are better overall from this angle. I recommend seeing at least 2 of the shows to try out different types of shots.
The Regetta Village – located next to the Yacht club – is a fun place to get event shots. During the day it can be a bit dull, as the crowds are spread out over the waterfront. At night it really fires up. You will need to pay to access this area in the evening as the event usually attracts brilliant guest performers.
Explore The Harbour
The harbour and yacht club are open to the public during this weekend. This allows visitors to see Geelong from a different angle. It’s also great for photographers to get different types of shots. There are a lot of people walking along this section, which can make for some nice street photographs. There is also opportunities to get photos of people on the boat. Worth returning to multiple times throughout the weekend.
Go on Australia Day
The event is often held during the Australia day weekend. This means you can combine the event festivities with people coming down to the beach to enjoy Australia day. It’s a great opportunity to get photos of a busy beach and people enjoying themselves.
Get an aerial view
The waterfront precinct can be so busy during the festival that guests can easily forget that they are at a festival about sailing. Unfortunately, it can be hard to get photos of the sailboats from the sure.
This can be solved by taking to the air, however this can be costly. The main problem is that drones aren’t allowed during the day, due to the presence of other aircraft in the area. The only option, which I used, was the helicopter. I was able to get some nice shots, however some were ruined due to the glare reflecting in the window.
They get a lot of bookings during this weekend, so you may not be able to get over the water during the best time.
The ferris wheel is a great location to get views of two main areas: the main stretch of beach and the harbour precinct. You can get views from multiple heights and even look out onto the ocean.
You will be limited in your photography options as you can’t move around too much cages. The cages also have very small gaps that you can’t really put anything through. You could put a lens through it but not move it around.
It can still lead to some compelling shots, especially if you are willing to go on it multiple times during different parts of the event.