This one single picture was taken on a rainy day in spring 1991. “It was probably the most decisive picture in my career.”
Why do I talk about this picture now? Because twenty years ago, Belgium’s state-owned ferry line “RMT” ceased to exist.
February 28, 1997 was a drama for the city of Oostende. Many inhabitants lost their job, and since a few years there is no service at all between Oostende and England.
Still Ostenders do miss the sight of the so-called “mail boats”, which gave an international flair to the seaside resort.
For me it meant the loss of my first maritime customer. Indeed, when I was a debuting freelance photographer I absolutely wanted to work for the Oostende-Dover ferry company.
My marketing skills were limited and the only thing I could do was showing them my skills. Let me explain how I became their photographer.
Regularly, when the light conditions were good and when the tide was high, I jumped on my bike to the westerly jetty to try to make the best possible pictures of the incoming ferries and Jetfoils.
This aerial gives a good view on the two jetties, both accessible for photography. In front is the Oostende lighthouse.
Although most pictures were good, none of them had the “wow” effect I was hoping for. I needed to have something to blow away the marketing people in Brussels.
I had observed that in the early afternoon there was a good opportunity to photograph the ferry REINE ASTRID and one of the two Jetfoils together, when the ferry was leaving Oostende stern first, together with the Jetfoil coming in from Dover.
One day in spring 1991 it was raining cats and dogs. It was typical April weather. My yachting experience told me that the sun would reappear within an hour, making a dramatic contrast with the dark clouds. I took the chance and waited on the pier with an umbrella.
People asked me, “what are you waiting for?”
I said, “the sunshine”. They stared at me as if I was crazy.
I was very lucky. The first sunrays came back precisely when the ferry came out, and the Jetfoil in, and I only took this one single shot, because my camera did not have a motordrive. (It was taken on 45x60mm Ektachrome film, with an old Mamiya 645 with a 210mm lens)
Later on I printed the slide on Cibachrome paper, and with this picture I went to Brussels, to meet the marketing people of the ferry company. I said, “this is my style of pictures”, and from that moment on I was their photographer, until the very end in 1997.
Because of that one picture I got my first ferry customer. Soon I worked for most ferry companies in the Channel, and later on I set my first steps in the world of cruising. Amazing how that one photograph had such an impact on my professional life as a photographer.
Text and photos: Mike
Mike’s website here
An evening view of the western pier, the place where the story picture was taken.