I've been fortunate to have worked with some of legendary water photographers that used to paddle back to the beach after 36 photos, reload the film then paddle back out in some heavy shit. Chang, Van Lennop, Flindt and Hank to name a few. But it was the infamous Aaron Lloyd that pretty much taught me that shooting water is work. It takes two people to understand what is really going on to capture that split moment in time which encapsulates those raw emotions of elation. Jeff Flindt and I traveled plenty together. I saw how he was very precise and was essentially a perfectionist. If you want to embrace those raw human feelings and mother nature's raw energy, you kinda have to be.
Once you read through this 10 point checklist, you should be a wave rider that understands the techniques on how to shoot with a water photographer that has a fish eye set up. These are MY tips. These may or may not work for other surf photographers as I don't know their experience in the water. My 30 years plus of ocean knowledge may differ from other photographers.
Now, what I'm about to say is for you the wave rider that is going out with me to get photos. If you're going out for a free surf, that's different. If we get a shot, sweet. If not, no worries. But if we go out with the intentions of getting a sick shot, well... read on. You ready? Here we go...
1. Work Together. Understand that the photographer wants to get 'the shot' as much as you do. So work with him/her. Most fish eye lens' perfect focus and composition distance is at about three feet. So whether you're pulling in to a barrel or going to do a maneuver, aim for that three foot mark. That's three feet from the front of the water housing to you the rider. But there are times when I want a different look or angle. 80% of the time we will shoot for that three foot mark.
2. Communicate. I tell wave riders to give me a heads up when a set is coming. A deep loud, HO! is good enough. If you're at a beach break, yelling 'LEFTY!' or 'RIGHTY' will give me enough time to paddle out and get in position for either or. I will do the same. If you are paddling out of the prime zone and I'm not tracking you (meaning paddling with you) I will tell you to get closer. I sometimes will see things differently. And probably one of the most important things to communicate is telling you whether to go or not. If I say GO! You go! I can't begin to tell you how many empty barrels have gone by when the rider didn't listen.
3. Paddling Out. If there are others out shooting with you, please ALWAYS paddle BEHIND the photographer. If you have to paddle in front of the photographer you best duck dive early and deep. You do not want to ruin someone else's shot because you were simply paddling out.
4. Wipe The Face. Great friend and pro bodyboarder of the 90's, Cameron 'PAB' Steele, was on my first photo trip to Cabo San Lucas back in '89. I can still hear him saying, 'wipe the snot off your face.' This guy was a pro. Before every wave, he'd wipe his face to get rid of any seaweed, kelp, snot or whatever. He didn't want a bright green burger to be the culprit of a great shot to put on his wall and one that he would be cursing at. Sure, there's photoshop now. But why make me work more when a quick face wipe would save me 15 minutes behind the computer.
5. Spraying Yourself. Don't do this. How many times have you seen a water shot of a pro in the magazines with spray all over the place? Almost never! So work on doing your bottom turns, barrel riding and moves without out spraying yourself while doing it. Keep it clean.
6. Understanding The Fish Eye. I've got a spread in SUP Journal of Sean Poynter bottom turning. Yes, bottom turning. The fish eye lens works wonders. I love it for two reasons. 1. I'm able to get right in the action with the wave and riders. And 2. the lens can make a two foot wave seem like a four foot wave! It's amazing. Remember, if I yell GO! I may see something that you do not.
7. Keep Your Line. I lost count on how many times I've said, 'don't worry about hitting me.' Again, these tips are coming from me. I don't want to put other photographers in harm's way. But for me (wearing a bright yellow helmet with a blue SD sticker on the front), GET AS CLOSE AS YOU CAN and do your thing. Once you get nervous and change your line on the wave because you think you're going to hit me, that's when there could be trouble. I've seen every type of wave rider ride. So if you just do your thing, I can predict what you're going to do and when you're going to do it. So please Keep You Line. I'm a master of getting out of the way. I've only been hit once from a wave rider. It was on a three foot day and it was a pro rider. He changed his line.
8. Tracking. I think this may relate to tip #2 Communication. But tracking is referring to keep that right amount of distance between me, the photographer and you the rider. The worst thing you can do is paddle away from me. If I can't track you and stay at a good distance from you as you paddle away, we're going to miss getting the shot. I will tell you if you're too far. You can NEVER be too close. If you take off right in front of me, it opens up other shooting angles. You can be too far from me but never too close. Just keep an eye on me. Each break will determine the 'right' distance between photographer and rider. Communicate.
9. Sponsors. I don't chase the pros anymore. As soon as I got my waterhousing set up, I was on the hunt to get a shot of a pro rider to make it in the mags. The reason I'm out in the water shooting isn't just for the pros. I like being out there for the sheer reason of being out in the surf. And I love making all wave riders stoked on getting a cool water photo.Of course if the pros come into town and we link up, epic. I love that they understand the fish eye and know the techniques on how to get a sick shot. If by chance, I do link up with sponsored pro riders and an up-and-comers, please put your sponsor stickers where it's going to count. I don't get those pros that don't put their sponsor logos on their boards. Dumb. They're hooking you up. The one thing you should do is hook them up by putting on a piece of plastic with sticky stuff on your board.
10. Have Fun. I love the challenge of being in the right spot when I press the trigger. That's fun for me. If you're a wave rider out to simply get a photo and forget about having fun, it'll show in the photos. Have fun people. If you're not having fun riding waves, which is impossible for me to understand, maybe you should try taking up MMA and release your life's frustrations that way. Otherwise, see you in the water.
|Big backflip in the Canary Islands. Rider didn't about hitting me.|
|John Ashley sweeps by me.|
|Sean Fowler on a cool fall morning.|
|Sean Poynter cranks it just as he passes me.|
|Thomas Rigby pitted in Mexico.|