The range of views and things that can be seen from deck are practically limitless, so we asked crew to share a bit of their lives on board for the 2023 Burgess Crew Photographer and Videographer of the Year in association with Dockwalk competition. More than 50 talented crewmembers around the world sent over 180 photos and 9 videos this year, and judges from Burgess, BlueiProd, and Dockwalk had a tough decision to make in choosing the winners.
The winning photo is Frozen Leapers by Chief Mate Sean Dods, which will be featured on the December 2023 cover, and the winning video is Summertime in SE Alaska by Deckhand Romar Topacio of M/Y All Inn. The winners will receive a DJI Mini 3 (DJI RC) drone, along with coverage on Burgess, Dockwalk,and BOAT International channels.
Crew were asked to share their “View from the Deck.” We wanted to see a glimpse into the sights and experiences crew encounter while sailing the high seas, along with highlighting the significance of responsible and sustainable practices within the yachting industry.
Dods captured the winning photo while working on a 26-meter converted expedition/tourism vessel during the Antarctic summer season. The two-week charter expeditions would each follow a similar route as they had to book their landings in advance. But on their fourth trip and after some research, Dods and his captain decided to explore beyond the official landing sites, in hopes of finding a large chinstrap penguin colony on Trinity Island that they read about in an old guidebook.
“This photo was taken whilst I was operating and underway on the Zodiac, in a moderate swell, in light snow; the conditions were not ideal,” he says. “Out of all the photos I managed to take, this was one of the few that wasn’t blurry. Take note of the penguins’ cautious nature, as to what the conditions were like, as they survey the frigid waters for the right moment to jump in.”
For the competition, Dods entered a handful of photos from that Antarctica season, narrowing them down from over a 1,000 that required editing and organizing. Although he has always taken pictures while traveling, being surrounded by breathtaking sceneries in Antarctica has pushed him to take his photography to the next level.
“What I love about Frozen Leapers is that every time I come back to view it, it brings me great joy as I can relive the moment of capture,” he says. “It epitomizes my feeling of adventure in travelling to one of the most beautiful and remote areas on this planet.”
While his captain had a passion for photography, his greatest influence was the three photography travel tour trips that provided workshops/classes for guests and crew who wanted to sit in. These gave Dods a foundation to continue learning and improve his skills.
Currently, he is the chief mate aboard a vessel based on the U.S. east coast, but joined the industry eight years ago after hearing about yachting through a work colleague. With a maritime background as a dockworker for cargo ships and not overly convinced he wanted to pursue work related to his university degree, he didn’t hesitate to sell his possessions, pack his bags, and book a flight overseas.
“I am obviously deeply happy about winning this competition, and of course proud,” Dods shares. “It has reinforced my belief that I should take photography more seriously, as it is a hobby that I have really started to embrace and enjoy.”
The winning video by Topacio showcases the beauty of Alaska taken across eight trips in the 2022 summer season, chosen from over 500 GB of raw footage. Through shots of marine life, the intense cracking sound of glaciers, and the adrenaline of nosing up to a remote waterfall, Topacio wanted people to experience the views from the deck as if they were there. With his music choice, he gave the video an upbeat, groovy vibe to add to the excitement.
“As we cruised around Admiralty Island, we witnessed the incredible Alaskan wildlife, narrow fjords, breathtaking glaciers, and so much more,” he says. “To say that I’m fortunate to be able to fly my drone — or ‘buzzy’ as our missus called it — and capture the raw beauty of Alaska is an understatement.”
Even though Topacio was always intrigued by the cinematic travel videos on social media, he didn’t start until the pandemic when he purchased his first professional camera and drone in early 2020. He has since watched countless YouTube tutorials to understand the art of videography and has continued to learn new ways to edit, grown his drone collection, and adapted new flying techniques.
Before joining yachting, Topacio worked in banking as a fraud analyst for eight years in Wisconsin, leaving in January 2022 to explore the world of yachting with his fiancé. He began dayworking in South Florida until joining All Inn with his partner, taking them to southeast Alaska.
“Quite frankly, winning is a cherry on top — I genuinely enjoy what I do and this recognition gives me the extra push to progress my passion for photo/videography,” Topacio says.