They take part in dragon boat races in tournaments around the state of Florida, and certainly live up to their name...
Last Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of their training sessions on beautiful Lake Dora in Mount Dora. I mean this quite literally as they let me ride along with them, offering me some fun vantage points as I snapped away.
Dragon boat racing, as the name suggests, has historical roots that go back 2000 years to China. If you're interested, there's probably more information than you'd ever need to know on the subject on the Dragon Boat Wikipedia Page.
What's important is that it has become a hugely popular modern-day sport on the lakes here in Central Florida.
And that's where I come in...
My own personal history with dragon boats goes all the way back to 1996, and a 3-week trip through the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, and South Korea. The tour included a 3-day stay in the city of Beijing, and that included an afternoon at the Imperial Summer Palace. And as long as I'm including things, I should also include that while at the Summer Palace, one of the cool things I photographed were dragon boats out on the lake.
Now, the ones I saw there were much larger and more ornate than the those used in racing. No similarities really, except for the dragon's head at the front, and tail at the back. I seem to remember being told they were replicas of a traditional Imperial Dragon Boat, used by, well...Imperial types, I guess. You know, like the Emperor, and his posse?
Once back stateside, my life changed dramatically. Not only did I move from South Florida to Central Florida within a year, but I finally acquired a decent computer as well as the software tools to begin creating serious digital art.
One of the first gallery projects I worked on that was completely digital (at least in post-production) was the photo silkcreen influenced, photo illustration-style pop art of Destination:China, using - obviously - a small selection of originals choosen from the thousands of negatives I had shot in Asia.
It was an incredibly exciting time for me, experimenting and learning how to edit and create art on a computer. I was making up the rules as I went along. And even though the visual style of my art has evolved since then, I still love all the work from that first group of images, including the piece Dragon Boat.
In 2006, I began - and I'll admit now it was primarily out boredom - a gallery series titled Seaplanes and Citrus: Vintage Art From An Imaginary Past. It was a group of photo illustration pieces that paid a whimsical homage to the product labeling and travel and event posters of the early to mid 20th century.It allowed me to combine my creativity with my rather odd sense of humor, and the various pieces had an assortment of inside jokes, as well as the names of friends and family members hidden in the text.
One of the first pieces I created was the Dragon Boat Dried Lichees poster, a mock produce label combining the shot from the Summer Palace in China with one of Elite Atlanta model Lindsay Palmer from an Asian-themed fashion shoot we had done.
By the way, if you notice, the name of the produce company is Ahn Tueng -> On Tongue? You can groan, I'll wait...
but I digress...
So ok, what has any of this art crap have to do with dragon boat racing in Central Florida? Why, absolutely nothing, thank you for asking. Except that there's a theme connecting the two, and I like themes that connect seemingly unrelated things in my life.
Back to the business at hand...
The whole dragon boat shoot came together because of one of my neighbors. She had bragged about being part of the Lake County Dragon Boat Club. She also had a custom paddle in its little custom case that reminded me of a musician's guitar, so it seemed pretty serious.
Later, when I was trying to come up with ideas of very visual activities that showcased our local scenic natural resources, dragon boat racing seemed perfect!
It didn't take a whole lot of effort to set things up. My neighbor connected me with Grace Genetia, organizer and a coach for the team. I explained what I needed from her, she got the ok from the organization, and she invited me to come out to one of their practice/training sessions, which they hold three times a week on Lake Dora.
As I mentioned at the very start of this post, the shoot was a blast. I was able to get a variety of vantage points using a variety of lenses, both in and out of the boat! The Wun Fun Cru was nice enough to wear their Game Day uniforms for the photo shoot, even though that's not normal for a training session.
If you'd like to support this great group of paddlers, but sure to like the Wun Fun Cru Facebook Page, and go out and root them on at their races!
Of course, if you're interested in actually participating, be sure to contact them about joining!
If you'd like to learn more about my ongoing assignment shooting ecotourism images for Akers Media Group - you can read my earlier blog post on the subject here.
As I've mentioned in earlier posts about this client, the actual final photos from these shoots will have to remain privy to me and them - for the time being. What I've posted here are either outtakes or behind-the-scenes shots.
Do you have any experience with ecotourism, either creating photos or video to promote it, or simply with the industry itself? I'd love to hear any stories in the comment section below...
I am also continually looking for models and talent that might be interested in being featured in some of these shoots. I'd be happy to give you more information about what's involved and the use of the photos. Message me for details...
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As always, your comments and suggestions are more than welcome!
All photos and original content ©Steven Paul Hlavac. All rights reserved.