10 (More) Things About Surf Photography


For the “10 Things You Didn’t Know” department in our current issue (The Photo Issue), we polled a number of our beloved senior photographers about what it’s like to be a surf shooter.

Surf photographers are an opinionated and vocal bunch, so we ended up with twice as much material as we could use in print. Luckily, there’s plenty of room on the web for the second batch. –Mike Fish

1. Cover Your Butt.
“One trip, I spent 10 days in the Mentawais borrowing size-36 boardshorts and safety pinning ‘em up,” says Dave Nelson. “They got ripped off every time, and I ended up with ‘em around my ankles every session.”

2. Sweat It.
“Taking your camera gear from a nicely chilled room to the hot and humid outdoors will fog up your equipment, making it unusable,” says Damea Dorsey. “This sometimes means getting a room without AC. In places like Mainland Mexico you’ll probably have to drink at least a few beers to help you get through the night. This usually means you’ll be waking up in a pool of your own sweat. Enjoy!”

3. Digital Downers.
“The digital age of photos has changed the way photos are distributed,” Photo Editor Aaron Checkwood says. “Having an image run both editorially and in an ad at the same time is horrific. And if it ends up in two competing magazines at the same time—career damaging.”

4. Take The Back Seat.
“Try to get a seat at the back of the airplane so you can board the plane first,” says Damea. “This way you’ll be able to find enough overhead space for your huge carry-on camera bag.”

5. Groupies!
“Farken hell, mate, chicks love surf photogs,” Tim Jones says. “If I wasn’t married I would be running amuck. You young single cats out there that shoot surfing: don’t get attached.”

6. Mistakes Have Perfect Timing.
“Whenever the waves are pumping, that’s when you’ll do something stupid like forgetting to put a fresh battery in your water housing camera or reformatting your memory card or failing to properly screw down a housing port,” Dorsey says. “I’ve learned to be patient and double-check everything before I swim out.”

7. Guard Your Gear.
“When traveling anywhere in the world you must carry your gear with you at all times,” says Checky. “It doesn’t matter where you are, your gear can and will get stolen. “Unless you’re at home, you have to sleep with it or have a damn good hiding place.”

8. Good photos = Good Light.
“Unfortunately, the odds of getting pro surfers out of bed early or into the water right before dark and have good waves with no haze and no fog, is about as easy as finding Osama Bin Laden!” says Nelly.

9. Goods And Garb.

“You get heaps of clothes and so much gear,” says Jones, “I work for Billabong and they buff me and my family out and that’s the shit.

10. Leave It To The Lensman.
“Most surfers don’t really understand what makes a good surf photo,” says Jack English. “Never trust what the surfer says about the waves. They don’t usually look at a wave from a ‘photo’ perspective. I always have to see them to make the call.”

–For 10 more things, pick up the Photo Issue of Transworld SURF on newsstands now.