Contributing photographer Joe Schmelzer shares his inside view of the Bahamian island.
There’s something special about the way the light hits the water off Half Moon Cay — it’s what everyone hopes quintessential tropical water will look like. When I was there shooting for the day, I was dumbstruck by how flat, calm, and blue it was. The sightline — especially with ms Nieuw Amsterdam just seeming to float on such a distinct horizon — is extraordinary. And the water is crystal clear: We shot coconuts and our hands in the water, and it was transparent. You can see straight down to your feet.
Of course, when I was horseback riding in the water, I could see straight down to my horse’s hooves. We’d mounted the horses on land, at what seemed like the highest point on Half Moon Cay. And when we got down to the beach, and everyone was exchanging their hard saddles for their soft saddles, that’s when I hopped off. I got those great frames of the riders who were ahead of me, and then I remounted the horse. I’d never been on a horse in the water before.
It’s challenging to shoot while on the horse — you have to hold onto the reins and the camera at the same time. Shooting in or on the water is a challenge in general, but there are actually a range of water-resistant digital cameras available now. Luckily, there weren’t many waves when I was on Half Moon Cay. But when you’re riding atop a horse, it’s a lot more variable! If you’re there with a group or a family, it’s best to plan for someone to be taking pictures from the beach or the shallows for a bit, like I did.
After the ride, it was very special to have the private cabana experience. It was very private, very premium. We had our own butler, designated beach chairs, grilled shrimp for lunch, and beautifully presented fresh tropical fruits. And I loved the cabana’s outdoor shower. I purposely shot from the exterior through a window so people would see that the cabana was all open-air — true indoor-outdoor living. These are the kinds of perfect days that make me happy that I don’t have a desk job. I’m grateful for what I get to do and the places I get to go. I love showing people the world through my images.
Once we ended the day floating on rafts and inner tubes, it felt like we had enjoyed such a range, from soft adventure to serene chilling out. And it was all so easy — you don’t have to worry about taxis or transfers on Half Moon Cay. It’s all right there, and all you have to bring is your swim trunks — my preferred way to shoot!