UPDATED: Interview with Wood Sabold, Bandon Dunes' official photographer



(Wood Sabold's first Bandon Dunes photo taken in Nov. 1998 - Bandon Dunes No. 12)

BANDON, Ore. – The Bandon Dunes coffee table book is the next best thing to being here. It displays photos of every hole on the resort in stunning detail – 85 of golf's most alluring, mysterious, almost mythic holes. Every photo in the book was taken by Wood Sabold, Bandon Dunes' renowned official photographer with nearly 15 years’ experience taking photos at the resort.

Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with Sabold about his experience, his history with the resort, and a little about the new book.

Tell us a little about your history with the resort. How did you become the Official Photographer?

I was in the right place at the right time with the right credentials. Before groundbreaking I had an interview with the late Howard McKee, the resort architect, planner and good friend of [Bandon Dunes owner and founder] Mike Keiser. They were looking for someone to document the construction progress of the first course. I photographed the progress of the course as well as helped oversee the landscaping of the Lodge and Lily Pond units (I also had experience as a landscape architect). When it came time take the beauty shots of Bandon Dunes another photographer was chosen much to my dismay. As time went on I gradually proved myself capable of taking course beauty shots and was given the opportunity to take the promotion shots of Pacific Dunes. That was the beginning as ‘official photographer’ and I have been at it ever since.

Describe the first photo you remember taking for the resort. Is it in the book?

The first hole completed was Bandon No. 12. It was some time around Thanksgiving when I received a call from Mike Keiser asking me to get a photo of the hole ASAP for a printed resort announcement card. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure that the weather would cooperate. I was lucky and got a great shot of the hole with the surf behind. The image is not in the book because the hole was still a little rough without green definition and a cup (Pictured above).

Do you have a favorite hole to photograph at Bandon Dunes? Is it also your favorite hole to play?

This may come as no surprise but the 11th hole of Pacific Dunes is both my favorite hole to photograph and play. I love short holes both to play and photograph. There are views of this hole from the front, side and rear in the book.

I know fall is particularly beautiful on the Oregon Coast. Do you have a favorite time of year to shoot the resort?

I prefer the spring and fall because the angle of the sun is lower and the light is more flattering for landscape photography. The weather is also more dramatic during these seasons with more interesting skies and clouds. Late winter and early spring are also best for the gorse bloom.

Any funny/crazy stories from your photoshoots on the resort?

One of the most pleasant stories took place when I had the right clouds and light angle for a great shot of No. 16 at the Bandon Dunes course. I was waiting for the right moment when the clouds would open and the sun would hit the hole when I saw someone walking toward me and I thought someone was coming to ask what I was doing. This happens often and I always feel bad that I can’t concentrate on the shot and chat at the same time. It turned out to be Bill Coore taking a sunset stroll on David Kidd’s course. He is one of the very few people with which I would give up a shot to talk. As it turned out, we had a pleasant conversation and I got the shot. See the shot on page 60 in the book.

Top 5 favorite images from the book?

I am going to pick one photo from each course.

  • Bandon Dunes No. 15 (page 59), for its simple graphic quality.
  • Pacific Dunes No. 11 (page 85), for the golden light and softness of the surf.
  • Bandon Trails No. 2 (pages 106-107), because of the transition from dunes to meadow/forest. Also, No. 14 for the pleasing combination of meadow and forest.
  • Old Macdonald No. 14 (pages 168-169), for a feel of the lay of the land including six flags (Nos. 7, 8, 9, 13, 14 and No. 14 on Pacific).
  • Bandon Preserve No. 11 (pages 200-201), for the subtle, pastel look of the course, ocean and sky before sunrise. It feels like you are truly alone with the course.

When you plan a photoshoot for Bandon Dunes what's your process?

I am fortunate to live close to the resort so a lot of my shooting is spontaneous but based loosely on which holes will show best with the angle of the sun, the weather, and the direction and speed of the wind. The wind may not seem important but taking photos with the flag blowing directly toward or away from you don't show well. The toughest part of planning is running my mind through the 85 holes and the above factors and predicting which holes will be most productive. When I finally get to the course it is not uncommon for me to change plans. In traveling to my planned destination, something else might catch my eye and I throw my original plans away. This is part of the spontaneity which I never ignore.

What was the genesis of the book? Why now?

From the time Pacific Dunes was completed there were many requests for a coffee table-type book. Mike Keiser kept saying, ‘No’ but was probably thinking that the time was not right. Mike – and I don’t know how many others – knew there was much more to come. After the completion of Bandon Preserve, I think he finally thought the time had come.

Any other insight you’d like to share about the book or your photography experience?

I am most proud to have been trusted and supported by Mike Keiser and the resort management of Bandon Dunes for the fourteen years this project has taken. I am also proud that I feel I have produced a volume of work that positively reflects the melding of the natural beauty of the land with the great game of golf. This would not have been possible without Mike Keiser, the architects, and the construction and maintenance crews.

Check out the newly updated Bandon Dunes Coffee Table Book in which Wood's photography is highlighted along with other amazing golf photography. Click here or on the image below to view the book. 

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Click to visit Wood Sabold's Website

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