Tall Ship Festival Sunset Cannon Battles

Every year the Ocean Institute in Dana Point hosts a Tall Ship Festival presented by Toshiba. While there are several aspects to the festival to photograph I’ve mainly focused on photographing the Sunset Cannon battles. This is where the participating Tall Ships leave Dana Point Harbor, raise their sails and simulate cannon battles by firing off gunpowder from their canons.

In past years, I’ve photographed from the jetty/beach area behind the Ocean Institute and from an escort ship. Each approach has yielded different results.

This year I decided to buy a ticket to sail on one of the Tall Ships. I chose to sail with the Californian normally based in San Diego.

It was really impressive to see how hard the crew of both men and women work to manage the sails during the trip. It also makes it challenging to photograph the cannon shots because we constantly have to move out of the way of the crew and we have to be on the opposite side of the ship from the firing cannon. The lines from the sails and fellow passengers also get in the way.

In order to lend the illusion of reality to on old world cannon battle, I tried to avoid images with Dana Point in the background. Even more challenging was to avoid the hundreds of small boats, yachts and sailboats that like to follow along. The Coast Guard was very busy trying to keep them out of the way as some of them were getting to close to be safe.

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