Picture perfect: Beaufort Water Festival photographer prepares for her last year

Five Minutes With: Sue Jarrett, official photographer of Water Fest

July 14, 2011 

  • The Beaufort Water Festival runs from July 15-24 at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Details: www.bftwaterfestival.com

Sue Jarrett has captured scenes of the Beaufort Water Festival since 1995. This year will be her last.

The Beaufort photographer volunteers her time documenting the raft races, the toad fishing tournament, the concerts -- just about everything Water Fest entails. Jarrett explains why she'll bow out after this year.

Question. What are your duties as the Water Fest photographer?

Answer. Originally the idea was to photograph the volunteers, commodore, coordinators, members of their families. Over the years it evolved into fewer pictures of them and more pictures of the public being involved in things. When I first started it was just the festival week. And then one or two other weekends. And now they've added things like the kayak tournament, so I've started to find someone to back me every once in a while in case it conflicts with something else I'm doing.

Q. What's your favorite part of Water Fest?

A. They started a few years ago to bring in upcoming country music stars to play. I really enjoy that. We've had some great people. Blake Shelton and Josh Turner came a few years ago. Josh Turner already had a gold record, but since he was from South Carolina, he said he wasn't going to cancel. He came and played on a Saturday night. He had to be some place in Maryland, I think, the next day. Blake Shelton was there on a Saturday, and I think it was the week before he made it to a gold record.

My other favorite is the kids toad fishing. I just have fun watching them fish and getting exciting and all that.

Q. What's that week like for you?

A. That first Saturday is tough. There's several things happening, but they're all in one location. I'm circling around for several hours. I go from the raft races to the bocce tournament to the badminton tournament, the toad fishing tournament, the craft booths. After that, the week isn't that bad.

Q. This is your last year for sure?

A. I've just got other things coming up now. I've run into too many appointments at the same time, which is why I've had to find someone to back me up.

Q. Will you miss it?

A. Certain things, yeah. The heat, I won't. But being around the people was the best. I'd run into people I wouldn't see otherwise. Being behind the scenes is fun, too. You pick up on things the public doesn't. They might say, "Oh the band's late." What everyone doesn't realize is that the band's going to be way late, the car's broken down, we've had to send six cars out to pick them up.

Q. How long have you been a photographer?

A. The first thing I photographed for money happened when I was 16 years old. I was on the yearbook staff, and our yearbook teacher married our head football coach. I photographed their wedding.

Q. What do you do now aside from the Water Fest, of course?

A. Wedding photography. Weddings and wildlife. If I'm not photographing a wedding, I'm out somewhere. I've been to Africa, Alaska to shoot. I'll be in Yellowstone next spring, trying to set up something for people to come shoot photos. I joke that brides and bears have a lot in common.

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