Snapshots from a Surfboard

Maine photographer Gabe Bornstein captures calm, colorful portraits of fishing boats in Saco Bay.

Black Jack, Pine Point, 2021.

A few winters ago, photographer Gabe Bornstein decided on a whim to explore the mouth of the Nonesuch River in Scarborough’s Pine Point. He donned his hooded winter wetsuit, took his camera encased in a waterproof housing and paddled out on his eight-foot surfboard. “As a surfer and photographer particularly interested in immersing myself in the ocean and surrounding environments, the river opened up a new personal frontier and forced me to reorient the way I had been thinking about and perceiving the ocean for my entire life,” says Bornstein, who lives in Old Orchard Beach. He began capturing fishing boats moored in Saco Bay in the wintertime and discovered that being on the board gave him a different perspective on a scene he had often seen from shore. “The dings, grit, and scuffs on each boat are vivid, and the reflection of the boats and sky on the surface of the water results in a dreamy, mirror-like plane,” he says. Once he identifies a vessel he wants to photograph, he’ll paddle past it, then slide off the board into the water and let the tide draw him back to the position from which he wants to shoot. “It usually takes quite a few snaps of the shutter to nail focus and composition, which often means paddling back into position and having another go at it,” Bornstein says. “I’ll carry on like this until I start losing feeling in my fingers, at which point it’s time to head home.” With so many variables to contend with, it often takes around two hours to get a single, perfect shot. “My life and my photography revolve in great part around the coast of Maine and the oceans at large,” Bornstein says. “Exploring estuaries like this, where the Nonesuch River meets the Atlantic Ocean, scratches the constant itch I have to be in the water, while hopefully giving both Mainers and those from away a glimpse into one tiny sliver of the state.”

Susan Marie, Old Orchard Beach, 2021.
Alyse Marie, Pine Point, 2021.
Tradition, Pine Point, 2021.

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