If you’ve ever even thought about surf photography, you’ll have considered the heavily-weighing pros and cons of being in the water. If your mouth is watering at just the thought, grab your car keys, drive to Video Ezy, and rent out Fiberglass and Megapixels. It all sounds a bit dampening to a photographer who’s never been a surfer, but there’s no point avoiding the truth: experience and knowledge counts in this profession.
Loaded BARREL’s photograph of Chad Jackson puts into perspective some of the heavy surf and tight positions an in-water photographer deals with.
Matt Cooper says that general fitness is important, but the best way to prepare yourself for in-water surf photography is to swim. As Russell Ord put it, “everyone has their limitations.” The smaller your start, the more comfortable you will be.
In order to improve your swimming technique, breath hold, and swimming fitness, there are drills and exercises you can do in a pool. Andre also collaborated with physiotherapist Nick Marshall to provide exercises for strengthening core muscles, which are crucial for duck-diving under waves, and lifting yourself out of the water with the camera to get the shot. DLSR surf housings begin at around $1400, with the price increasing depending on the camera model and the housing’s features, controls and simplicity. A key point to remember is that if something goes wrong with your housing, you’re going to have to send it to the manufacturer to repair. You can add a myriad of GoPro accessories, the most important of which (for surf photography) would be an extension pole to get your camera out of the water. Russell Ord’s two photographs of Chris Ross show the difference between shooting a location from in the water and from a jet ski (shots are at the same location on the same day). Depending on where you live, you will most likely be wearing a wetsuit to keep the chill at bay (out of summer).
Many surf photographers wear helmets to protect them from flying boards, the reef and their camera gear.
I have a question, say you already own an slr, which would you still prefer to try surf photography when starting, a dicapac or a go pro hero 3? Lucy Pallett-Jones (Ham Photography)Lucy Pallett-Jones runs Ham Photography and is based in Perth, Australia. Latest PostsPressgram: The Photo Sharing App for Bloggers Instagram now owns your photos, and can sell them. The freestyle stroke, also known as front crawl, is the fastest and most efficient of the competitive swimming strokes. Your legs do the flutter kick, which means they are extended and kick downwards and upwards in the water with pointed toes.
Once your forearm and palm are vertical and facing backward, your arm adducts at the shoulder as a unit and your hand sweeps in under the chest. Your hand leaves the water at the hip and your arm sweeps forward with the forearm relaxed and dangling. As soon as your recovering arm enters the water, your other arm starts its propulsive phase, and so on.
You start to exhale as soon as the head rolls downward and continue to do so until the next breathing recovery. Head and Body Positions: This article explains how to position your head and your body while swimming freestyle so as to create the least amount of drag.
The Flutter Kick: This article covers the flutter kick as it is used in freestyle swim stroke. However, learning freestyle is much easier if you use our step by step approach based on a sequence of progressive swimming drills. The first step is to learn static balance, which means you learn how to float effortlessly on your back, on your chest and on your sides. The next step is to learn dynamic balance, which means you learn to maintain balance while switching between different body positions.


The third step is to practice balance while having the arms extended overhead, so as to get into the habit of swimming while being as tall as possible in the water.
The final step integrates the arm stroke movements and also lets you practice efficient swimming rhythms. I am 27 year old and a beginner in swimming and and whenever I am trying to swim freestyle, after a few strokes my hips and legs start sinking.
I would follow the advice of your coach and continue to practice in shallow water until your technique becomes reliable.
As a surfer and a photographer, I understand the compulsion to jump in the water with the elements and capture the moment…and the absolute lunacy of big-wave surfers. The surf-photography film rolled into the lives of surfers and photographers in 2010, and it has left its mark.
So if you’re a photographer keen to get in the water and shoot the curl, how do you go about it? A surf photographer is often in the barrel of the wave with the board rider, or at the end of the barrel shooting the surfer as he rips through. Swimming in a calm pool with this weight can be worrying…and in the ocean, the waves, wind chop and currents work against you, so strength and stamina are crucial. A surfer can easily turn around and catch a wave to shore, but a photographer must swim with only one arm (and a pair of fins) past the surf and through currents to get to land. And your mindset is equally important as fitness in the surf: “You have to be able to relax.
Andre Slade, former lifeguard and editor of the Australian Lifeguard Magazine, has written a great set of instructions for improving ocean swimming in a pool, the first of which is here. If the manufacturer has no support and distribution arm in your country, you will have to send your equipment internationally. Most surf housings are classified as ‘splash’ housings, meaning that they cannot be taken more than around 30ft deep.
Powershots are great little cameras, providing pretty fantastic photos for non-DLSR models (check a review of the Canon Powershot GX1).
Russell Ord suggests that if you’re really serious about surf photography, and understand the ocean and the difficulties of the profession, to go the full kit. A major reason why in-water surf photography is successful is that it gives people a perspective and an insight they couldn’t even imagine. Your camera can easily fling back into your face from backwash, a wave, or going over the falls (pulled into the wave from behind it).
Fins are different to flippers – they are shorter and thicker, and made for quick swimming. Lucy is a 19-year-old photographer experimenting and working with editorial, portrait, event, surf, and scientific photography.
That’s why it is always used in the freestyle event of swimming competitions and is also often the preferred stroke of experienced swimmers and triathletes. One arm moves backwards in the water from an overhead position towards the hip and provides propulsion. It also explains how to roll your body on your sides to inhale more easily and to improve propulsion. The kicking technique is explained, kicking rhythms are discussed and some additional tips are given. It explains during which phases of the stroke you should inhale and exhale, which breathing patterns are most commonly used. Your face is submerged for the most part of the stroke cycle and you must roll on your side to breathe. This means that you push water forward during the underwater phase at the end of the arm recovery, hence the name. This article discusses why this is the case and provides means to correct this swimming mistake.


The film doesn’t just show you rolls of jaw-dropping footage and a few interviews…it delves into the history, culture, dangers and intricacies of in-water surf photography, with a focus on Hawaii’s North Shore. It is an extreme sport of its own, and even with fitness, knowledge of the ocean, and years of experience, it gets heavy. Speaking to Russell and Matt Cooper (photographer of Loaded BARREL), it seems that the best way to go about it is to not jump the gun. To maintain these prime positions, and to negotiate the waves, a surf photographer must keep extremely fit. Beyond this, however, each port will cost you (unless you have a universal dome port, which can fit some different lenses). If not, one will set you back around $400-$500, such as AquaTech’s universal pistol grip, which can be seen here. Surf housings are lighter and generally simpler than dive housings, and are constructed to be practical for surf photography. A Powershot plus housing setup will set you back around $1200 (depending where you buy, what housing you get, and what Powershot model you choose). Watch the waves and study the currents, and look out for quiet peaks where local surfers frequent.
However, most viewers can tell if an image is from a boat, and when it comes down to it, a shot from inside the barrel of the same moment will have more guts. It also offers a layer of protection from reefs and other sharp objects (such as surfboard fins slicing by you). They’re something to just think about now, especially with the current shark problem in Western Australia. At the same time, your elbow and upper arm stay high in the water and move a little bit outward so as to form the so-called high elbow position. Russell Ord, Western Australian big-wave surf photographer, says that knowledge of the ocean and the surf is absolutely crucial.
Even if you have experience in the ocean, swimming out in a big swell with a 5kg camera kit and only a pair of fins will probably shorten your life expectancy.
A key point to remember is that not all surfers will be used to negotiating a wave with a cameraman in the middle of it. There are times that boats are a necessity, because the waves are too big, the currents to strong, and the conditions pretty treacherous. Wetsuits are sold by thickness and design – Short-John wetsuits leave the neck and arms free, whereas a Steamer will fully encase your body and warmth. Matt Cooper says though he has tried to wear one several times, he finds it constricting and difficult when diving under waves. The smell of surf wax melting in your car; the silence as a set rolls in and you dive deep and cling to the reef? The best images can come from chances and surprises…and surfing is always a series of flukes. That’s why it takes practice to correctly and simultaneously execute all these different aspects of the stroke. A professional surfer will be able to easily surf around you, but someone not so used to a photographer may find it hard to avoid you.
Jet skis are also another option, because you can get closer to the action and stay out of dangerous waters. A 6mm wetsuit will keep you much warmer than a 3mm wetsuit; however it will also be less flexible.
You won’t be weighed down by a heavy camera, and will be able to test the water and see if you’re up to the challenge.



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