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Surf photography tips need
Nadine Redd, Photographer
Kansas City | KS | USA | Posted: 5:23 PM on 06.20.12
->> Going to try first hand in Crescent City, CA. First time ever. Can you suggest anything? I have purchased a water housing and will rent the fish eye lens from Samy and have it shipped to me there. Looking to buy a helmet for protection. I have been reading and watching all I can. The waves wont be big but I still respect for the power they have.
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Logan Mock-Bunting, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 1:35 PM on 06.21.12
->> If this is the first time you are shooting surfing, you won't need a fisheye - shooting in the water with one takes lots and LOTS of experience (both for you and the surfer) because you'll have to be REALLY close.

If this really is your first time shooting surfing, rent a long lens. Shoot from shore to get lots of time watching and learning how things work.

If you don't know much about surfing and aren't a GREAT swimmer, you really shouldn't be out there. Dangerous for you and subjects.

Stick to land with shooting, learn to read the water and waves before loading up with a heavy, expensive object while trying to avoid people on sharp, fast-moving objects.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 2:01 PM on 06.21.12
->> "If you don't know much about surfing and aren't a GREAT swimmer, you really shouldn't be out there. Dangerous for you and subjects. "

Yep. That.

Also, you can get great shots from the shore if you got long lenses.

Look at people who shoot surfing and how they frame stuff and try to picture the images prior to shooting.
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Frank Mattia, Photographer, Assistant
Chattanooga | TN | USA | Posted: 4:54 PM on 06.21.12
->> Listen to Nic and Logan, I grew up in Fla and have been surfing and photographing them since the early 70's. It's a little harder than you may think, the most important thing is to know your subject. ANTICIPATION is key, and that takes time. I would try and spot the best surfer in the water and watch him for awhile. Sometimes it gets hard if there's alot of them in the water and how far away you are (rent a 400 w/ 1.4 converter).
And if you have a choice between shooting from the beach or a pier, shoot from the beach, you get more perspective.

OH yeah, a hat and lots and lots of SPF-50.
Have fun and STAY OUT OF THE WATER. please...

And for those of you who say FLORIDA, I say Ke11y Slater, and CJ. BOO YA !!
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 11:48 PM on 06.21.12
->> Nadine, as much as you might WANT to get those surfing photos you see in magazines and video you WON'T. Not your first time, not your second time.....I grew up in brother and his buddies were accomplished matter how hard I tried was NOT. Although technology has made things better photographicly (SP) ....surfing photography is NOT something you can go out and just do in the water. Ain't gonna happen. Plain and simple. And of course since this IS SS I'll receive "Inappropriates" for telling you the truth. Trust guys like Nic and Logan. Rent a LONG'll make fun great photos. Don't get in the water until you've had YEARS of experience.
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Logan Mock-Bunting, Photographer
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 12:57 AM on 06.22.12
->> Ok, so now I'm reading over this thread and imagining if I asked for advice, and all these a$$holes were just telling me NOT to do even try, I'd be pissed. So let's deconstruct this another way...

I'm not trying to say "Don't do this," but I am trying to express there is A LOT that goes into it and situations can get dangerous really quickly if you don't know what you are doing. So approach the whole adventure in a very regimented and structured way.

You said you have a housing, so I bet you are just foaming at the mouth wanting to try it out. Go for it - go somewhere where there aren't any surfers out and play in the waves. Channel your inner Clark Little or Trent Parke (
and shoot the hell out of wave and water forms. See how water beads on whichever port you use; get a feel for how the housing handles in the water; play with the buoyancy; notice when and why condensation builds up; see what "hail mary's" reveal: see if you can frame stuff up with the viewfinder (easier with some housings than others). Depending what housing you have, the simplest things like focusing and adjusting settings might WAY harder than you thought.

Do all these experiments in a VERY safe place, with someone else in the water with you.

Once you get some play and water time under your belt, search out some folks doing flat water-sports. Find some Stand Up Paddlers, Kayakers, etc. Again, under VERY safe and calm conditions, try shooting these folks in a sound or waterway where you don't have to worry about waves or currents. Play with over/under split level shots, swim around them, swim under them, etc.

Then study surfing on the beach with someone who is very knowledgeable. Watch surfers, watch waves. Learn to read the water.

Then try using a long lens to learn the timing and flow of shooting surfing.

Then, after you are REALLY feeling like you know what is going on, you might try shooting from the water. Again, I think it would be best if you had a buddy swimming with you (or spotting you from land) and you SPECIFICALLY go with one surfer. DO NOT just swim into a crowd and expect them to work with and avoid you - at best you'll get cussed at, worst you'll end up a speedbump.

There are PLENTY of surfers who would love a "solo session" with a photographer and would volunteer for the honor. With you and the surfer in an isolated spot, you can communicate on what they think they are going to do, where you can be to safely get images, etc.

One last time, I want to urge you to be VERY careful at each step of the way, and take a slow, pragmatic approach. A housing to the face hurts. A surfboard to the face hurts. A fin to the leg hurts. Losing a camera+housing and watching it get swept away by waves is terrifying. Seeing your camera drowned as your housing fills with water is such a helpless feeling. (Yes, all of these have happened to me and will happen to you if you shoot in the water long enough)

And those are the BEST-case scenarios you can hope for when stuff goes wrong shooting surfing from the water...
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 10:41 AM on 06.22.12
->> I hope my post didn't come off as saying don't try it...I was saying that it would take years of practice to become logan stated above.
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David Scott, Photographer
Portland | OR | US | Posted: 12:42 PM on 06.22.12
->> Where you're going you will find friendly surfers and it won't be crowded like southern California. I know you will find surfers to work with you. You'll need rent a wetsuit because of the water temp but I tend to wear one unless in very warm water because I like the added buoyancy. Rent a pair of fins also.

Think worst case scenario for wave quality as we move into summer. That's one reason you don't want to shoot from shore. You can have days that remain overcast and hazy almost all day. That's another reason you don't want to shoot from shore. Those overcast days will still burn you to a crisp so sunscreen up. Those overcast and hazy days make the water look grey and void of color. As soon as the haze breaks you'll have nice skies to include in your frame but the water is not like a warm water climate. It is darker.

!!As others have mentioned it is dangerous.!!

The nose and the fins of the boards will cut you like a hot knife through butter.

Hypothermia, the wetsuit will slow your body from dropping in temperature but will not prevent it. Don't think worst case scenario here. It's not like the movies. You slowly become clumsy which alters your ability to swim. Additionally, your body expends energy trying to stay warm which fatigues you.

Fatigue, in addition to what I mentioned above you'll be moving to maintain position. Fatigue sneaks up on you. Unlike the gym or the pool, you may need to swim another 200 meters against an outgoing tide and an offshore wind... and with your camera.

I don't know what the water temp is there but some people cannot handle the cold water when they submerge their heads. Take a dive to see how you handle it. My friend cannot handle the water temp on Cape Cod in summer.

When I was in my 20s I got myself into a jam on White Crest Beach on Cape Cod while surfing. I got extremely fatigued from not eating enough breakfast and staying out too long because the waves were wonderful 8 footers. With the outgoing tide and the offshore wind every time I rested, I ended up further out. I barely made it back. Lesson learned.

As others have said, Please be careful and test your abilities slowly!! Consider having a local on a longboard just outside the lineup keeping an eye on you.
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Jeff Gammons, Student/Intern, Photographer
Destin | Fl | USA | Posted: 12:51 PM on 06.22.12
->> I saw this video a while back, it is a really awesome watch. If you watch the second video, the guy trains weekly in the water. It may look cool, but if you aren't extremely comfortable in the water I wouldn't try it. Like everyone said, work your way up, and go swim daily.

I think I'll stick to shooting from land though.

part 1:
part 2:
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Nadine Redd, Photographer
Kansas City | KS | USA | Posted: 2:36 PM on 06.23.12
->> Thank you everyone, all the advice was read and will be read a couple more times before I head to CA. Logan I was going to do exactly like you mentioned getting in the water with a friend close by and no surfers to just play with the housing etc. my first day there I do have a 400 and and 2X and 1.5X converter that I will shoot from the shore too. My friend is going to take her first surf lesson there so we will have a local surfer as well as her in the water. For this I will stay on the shore for sure.

My plan is to shoot at South Beach in Crescent City and also go to Moonstone Beach in Trinidad, CA. I have been to both and am comfortable with getting in the water at South Beach and will consider if I will at Moonstoon.

I will be renting a wetsuit the entire week I am there because when the need arises I want to be able to put it in and get to shooting. I will stay out of the surfers way and when I do feel comfortable enough I have bought a helment (I know geeky) to wear when I am in the water.

Logan you are so correct that the water and the sky most of time are grey. When I was looking at my images from the last time I was there in Nov. I was amazed at how grey everything was but then you are right the sky breaks open and wow what beautiful blue skys.

I do understand the danger and appreciate the concern I will be very careful and never will I venture out alone in the water, always will be a buddy at least sitting on the beach watching me.

I love the honesty of the members on SS as well as the members (i.e. Logan) who will look and the deconstruct it out for the readers. I have sat on the beaches in Northern CA and while not like Southern CA I know the power it has and will respect every bit of it. I want to live to photograph not die photographing. Oh and I will probably never be a true "surf" photograher I can't get out in those big waves but I am acheiving a long life dream at 54 by doing what I am going to do in a week. It is never too late, we just have to know our boundaries and stay within them for the saftey of others as well as ourselves. Stay tuned, images to come.

Thank you SS.
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Ben Liu, Photographer
Lubbock | TX | | Posted: 3:16 PM on 06.23.12
->> Aric Crabb, a former SS member does quite a bit of surfing photography. He has some of his surfing photos on his website,
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Nicholas Von Staden, Photographer
Pompano Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 10:38 PM on 06.30.12
->> watch this winner on a surf photographer.....Dark Side of the Lens.....
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Baron Sekiya, Photographer, Photo Editor
Hilo | HI | USA | Posted: 7:54 AM on 07.01.12
->> I haven't done surf photography from the water, done a bunch from shore with a long lens but I used to bodysurf a lot (as in everyday when school wasn't in session) as a kid. The ocean is powerful and sometimes she will pull and toss you where she wants with no concern to where you want to go.

Also, like others have said, become a student of surfing by watching how things unfold when surfers work the waves. On many waves more than one surfer will try to catch it so you often won't be dodging just one surfboard/surfer. Also surfers can be very territorial and if they don't like you, yeah they can do nasty stuff to you in the water and out if they feel like you're ruining their trip.

Learn about rip currents, watch where the surfers go out where it's safe, don't get caught in the impact zone to get constantly pummeled.

Probably a bit late for this other tip but if you want to do this regular you might want to hit the weights and build up your strength and endurance for this kind of thing.

You can probably do a lot of practice at a beach where they don't allow surfing. It will give you a chance to be someplace safe, practice working the gear, getting into position, etc. If your friend gets a bodyboard you can practice getting photos of them at this non-surfing spot too.

Good luck, stay safe, show us what you got when you get the shots.
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Luke Johnson, Photographer, Student/Intern
Los Angeles | California | USA | Posted: 11:31 AM on 07.01.12
->> "The nose and the fins of the boards will cut you like a hot knife through butter."

Pretty much the truth. I just had a few staples put in my head from getting hit by a fin.
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Rick Rickman, Photographer
Capistrano Beach | CA | USA | Posted: 5:04 PM on 07.01.12
->> Logan:

I so appreciate your approach to advice. The lack of negativity is so refreshing. Making suggestions that make sense and don't stifle someone's hopes of accomplishment is the kind of thing we need more of here.

Nadine. One thing that no-one seemed to suggest is to take a couple lessons yourself. It will definitely give you a sense of the difficulties of the sport as well and help you with a sense of anticipation of what is needed to make the board work properly.

Anyway, we all learn massive amounts through personal experience and insight and it sounds like you have a terrific plan. Some of the suggestions here are very sound and very helpful. Use the positive advice to your advantage.

Rick Rickman
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Andy Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Newark | NJ | USA | Posted: 8:27 PM on 07.01.12
->> take this however you'd like: get yourself a good pair of fins and swim near a lifeguard
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Bill Reilly, Photographer
Encinitas | CA | USA | Posted: 9:41 AM on 07.03.12
->> Hi Nadine,

Feel free to call me and I can walk you through some tips on getting the best shots. I'm an avid waterman and have been shooting action sports for years.

I would suggest you look at the following websites; Surfer Magazine, Surfing Magazine or All of the shots in these mags are done by professionals with professionals. It will give you a sense of what a good surf shot looks like.

I would also take the advice posted here very seriously. The ocean can be very dangerous. If you do get in the water, its cold (even in the summer), and if the surf is big, there are riptides that can sneak up on you as well as the large creatures lurking below.

All in all, have fun but don't become a statistic.
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Jonathan Nimerfroh, Photographer
Philadelphia | PA | USA | Posted: 12:15 PM on 07.19.12
->> Hey Nadine. how did you make out?

I just had my surf photography featured on a surf forecasting site. Check it out here -
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Thread Title: Surf photography tips need
Thread Started By: Nadine Redd
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