There are few things more thrilling than the excitement of an amazing day surfboarding at your favorite beach – one of them is surf photography. As epic as it may be to shred some waves yourself, it can be an equally astonishingly experience if you’ve a solid camera handy, and the knowhow to use it. Still, surf photography is incredibly challenging, even for photo-maestros, and can be an expensive habit if you’re not careful about your purchasing decisions.
Here’s how you can improve your surf photography over time, and how you can avoid wasting your money by making prudent investments from the get-go when it comes to equipment.
It starts with baby steps
As difficult a thing as it may be to confront, every aspiring surf photographer should realize that they can’t become a professional overnight. You need to start with baby steps, getting better equipment as you go, rather than investing huge sums of money in flashy cameras right off the bat. Similarly, your skills and savviness when it comes to lining up difficult aquatic shots will develop over time, so don’t expect to be nailing ever picture on your first day. Learning how to avoid being upset when you mess up a potentially epic shot and remembering to have fun are the first steps to success in the world of surf photography.
The next step is rounding up your equipment without being forced to break open the piggy bank. Luckily for you, there’s a wide array of surf photography equipment that’s available to the public in this day and age, and you can usually order it right to your doorstep. Check out a comprehensive review of the kind of equipment beginners should be breaking out when they hit the waves as a photographer instead of a surfer for the first time, and you’ll be setting down the road towards victory. Finding the right camera and lens housings for you is an important first step in particular, so don’t be afraid to shop around and try out a myriad of options before making a final decision.
Solid handles for any of your equipment are an absolute must, too, especially if you intend to be taking some underwater shots. The torrential force of the ocean can easily rip your gear right out of your paws, so don’t be afraid to pick up aqua-friendly camera grips and even leashes that will ensure your equipment doesn’t go sprawling from your hands if you face a colossal wipeout.
Like all professional photography, a major part of succeeding as a surf photographer is finding the right location to take your shots. Beaches are lovely just about anywhere you go, but they simply weren’t all created equally. Some locations will offer you better scenic vantage points than others, and have locals and other surfers who are more amenable to the idea of having their picture taken. Always, always be sure that you have permission before snapping shots of other people if you want to avoid a messy encounter.
Mastering the art
Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can begin mastering the art of surf photography. First things first, you should take some advice from Sarah Lee of National Geographic, who has already stunned the world with her amazing surf photos. Her advice for the best surf-shots? You need to hold your breath and be prepared to go underwater. This can be an intimidating and challenging experience, but that’s part of what makes the end results all the better. Never put yourself in a situation where you’re uncomfortable with your ability to keep swimming and diving for long periods of time, however.
You don’t always have to hit the waves yourself to nab an epic surf photo, however. By relying on at least a 200mm telephoto lens, for instance, you can get some amazing shots without having to get your feet wet. Finding the right long lens for you is an essential step towards becoming a master of surf photography, as only these lenses give you the ability to capture the awesome might of the ocean and the daring of surfers everywhere with any clarity from afar. Never allow yourself to think that equipment can serve as a substitute for skill, though – more than anything else, you’ll need practice, practice, practice.
Travel frequently, and travel far. Enlist the help of other surfers, and freely share your work with the world. If you get really good, consider taking on a protégé. Take surf photography seriously, but never allow yourself to feel stressed out from what should be a thrilling and fun experience. After all, the only reason we surf (and take epic shots of surfers) in the first place is to enjoy ourselves! Keep this advice in mind, and you may soon be making the cover of your favorite surf magazine with an awesome photo.