As a young girl Janet Germano was captivated by the photos she saw in her father's hobby room and asked him to teach her the craft. Years later her interest reignited when she dropped out of a master's program in counseling, enrolled in photography school, and opened a studio. For 30 years she photographed weddings and models and, like her father, taught photography to others.
In 1987 Germano's interest turned in a new direction. "A friend had invited me to Australia for the America's Cup. I was a guest on a 156-foot, brand new motoryacht, and while I was there I saw Southern Cross and Bengal One." She found the sunset view of the two yachts magical, and couldn't resist capturing it on film.
After Germano left Australia she boarded a boat in Monaco on its way to Genoa for a hull survey. Having had little previous experience with yachts, she was fascinated with the dry-docking process and photographed the sequence. Sometime later a friend took her for a fortuitous joyride on a helicopter, during which she photographed Platinum. "I had picked up a copy of PMY's ‘World's 100 Largest Yachts' and thought since it was on the list, there might be a chance they would publish my photo," says Germano, who called the magazine and, after mailing in a slide, sold her first yacht photo to PMY and made the segue into yacht photography.
She points out that finding yachts to photograph isn't always easy. "In the beginning I rented a car along the Mediterranean coast to find marinas," says Germano, who collects business cards from marinas, boatyards, and crew to help maintain contacts. In addition to her network, luck oftentimes plays a strong role. "In 1997 I heard that Limitless was going to be in Majorca. I got the name of a helicopter company because I didn't know exactly where [she] was." Upon arrival in Majorca, Germano's taxi driver misunderstood her directions and instead of taking her to the "old airport," drove her to the old port. "He parked the cab right under the bow of the very yacht I was trying to find. There was Limitless, gleaming, and I was able to take pictures right from the dock."
But finding the yachts is just the first step. Germano has rented cars, boats, PWCs, and helicopters to get the right vantage point for running shots and attain the best natural light. "Because they are so big, it's a bit of a challenge to have the whole length of it lit up," she says, adding that shadows from the water under the bow can make a yacht look deceptively smaller. If she's lucky enough to find a yacht that is positioned north-south, Germano knows the best light, in early morning and late afternoon, will illuminate the entire length.
Her advice to those interested in yacht photography is simple. Be quick when you have only a little light. Be open to taking a different path when you get a nudge. Be in the right place so there's nothing obstructing your view. But most of all, don't ever run out of film.
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This article originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.