A love of sailing and a passion for creating stunning images of the sport have taken professional photographer and videographer Amory Ross across the Atlantic with the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team and around the world with PUMA Ocean Racing, and he’s currently working with the America’s Cup defender, Oracle Team USA.

Amory RossAmory, known to his many friends as “Amo,” grew up in Morristown, NJ and did some sailing on the Jersey Shore each summer. “My mom grew up in Newport and my dad was a sailor as well,” he says. “We had yachting artwork on the walls and sailing magazines, and I enjoyed watching Wind on TV, but I didn’t start sailing with any commitment until I joined the team at Hobart College.”

“I lived in Newport for two summers when I was in college,” says Amo. “I worked for North Sails one summer and Sailing World the other. I was a double major in Economics and Public Policy, but I knew photography was what I wanted to do. I said, ‘If it’s not going anywhere after five years I can always go back and work in finance. If it does work out, I’ll be doing something I love.’ I moved to Newport because I knew it was where I needed to be, got my first digital camera and chartered a boat for Key West Race Week. It was really windy and I learned on the fly. I sold quite a bit, including a double spread in Yachting World.”

“I spent the following season on the Med Cup Circuit with Tom Stark’s TP52 Rush, and was on chase boats with guys whose photos I had ripped out of magazines and taped to the wall as a kid – Thierry Martinez, Carlo Borlenghi and Gilles Martin- Raget. Thierry took me under his wing, teaching me about good business practices and treating people the right way. In the U.S., Onne van der Wal has been great. We have a lot in common – Onne got his start doing the Whitbread way back when. One of the fun parts of this job is the interaction with people around the world that have become my friends.”

Amo sailed on Mark Watson’s Dubois 90 Genuine Risk when she won the 2010 Newport Bermuda Race, and subsequently published a book of his onboard images. The following year, he joined the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team for the Transatlantic Race on the team’s Reichel/Pugh 65 Vanquish. “I was able to practice things I’d always wanted to try offshore, and I was lucky to go with a bunch of friends,” he says. “Charlie Enright, Jesse Fielding and Mark Towill and the rest of the team are like-minded individuals who understand the importance of having strong imagery and a story to tell and they’re excited about sharing the sport, particularly here in the U.S. It was an incredible opportunity to do something special.”

“I wasn’t hired as PUMA’s Media Crew Member until shortly before the Volvo Ocean Race 2011- 2012,” Amo recalls. “I arrived in Alicante, Spain a month before the start. It was a crash course in getting to know the guys and figuring out what equipment was going to work. Equipment was always a concern, but I had a vision of how I wanted things to go. I was always focused on getting something done so I didn’t have any seasickness issues, but I didn’t get a lot of sleep!”

“I was so focused on doing the job that I didn’t have time to be scared, and the only time I was nervous was on the dock in Auckland, New Zealand before leaving for the Southern Ocean. Rum and cigars were passed when we rounded Cape Horn, and we were the only boat to finish that leg without stopping. There are many reasons to do the Volvo, and for me one of them was proving to myself that I could do it. We had an awesome group of guys and it was a great experience, although I wish I’d taken a moment to look around and appreciate what I was doing.”

“Kenny Read, Rome Kirby, Nick Dana and I were the only Americans in the last Volvo. In the America’s Cup, Rome and John Kostecki are the only Americans on the Oracle team. That’s a big problem in competitive sailing, and Charlie, Jesse, Mark, [Vanquish navigator] Chris Branning and the core group at Oakcliff are instrumental in achieving a change.”

“My responsibilities as Oracle’s videographer are with our marketing team, press operations, and sponsors. I was supposed to be on USA 17 the day it pitchpoled. The AC72s are very weight-sensitive, especially when they’re foiling. That was the boat’s eighth sail, and it was full of designers and engineers. In order for me to get on they would have had to get off, and we weren’t yet at that stage.”

“I take a lot of pride in transitioning my photographic and artistic background into video. You need a start, a storyline and a finish in a video, and it’s fun to mix still photo techniques – tight shots, wide shots, soft focus, shallow depth of field and long exposures – with moving images. Nowadays, I find myself looking at things very differently from a visual standpoint. Photography and video are always evolving. I spend a lot of time trying to stay current, and it’s an enjoyable process.”

Amo, who also works as a ski instructor at Jackson Hole in Wyoming, advises aspiring sailing shooters to concentrate on the human element. “A lot of photographers focus on the boats and the speed,” he says, “but no matter how fast or slow you’re going, or how big or small the boat is, it’s always about the people. You can cover every angle on a 70-footer pretty quickly, but the real value is in the people on board and the stories their faces have to tell – whether it’s a bunch of pro sailors or your family.”

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