We chat to the chippie-turned-photographer about how he discovered his passion for surf photography and the lengths he goes to, to get the perfect photo - including being chased by seals!
How did you start photographing waves?
Years ago I broke my wrist snowboarding, and it meant I couldn’t surf. I still wanted to be down the water, with my mates, so I ended up picking up a camera and shooting all the boys while they were surfing.
And it went from there?
Yeah, it went from ‘on the beach taking photos’ to doing water-housing (which is where you put your camera in a waterproof holder). And now I actually go out taking photos in the water way more than I actually surf...
How do you make sure your gear stays safe?
I’ve got my camera and my lenses in this thing called Salty Surf Water Housing (a local company from Wollongong in NSW). At the moment, I’m using a 1DX Mark II camera, which is worth about $6500, just for the body. Then I’ve got my lenses on top of that, and some of them are around $2500. So you’ve got close to $9000 - just for camera gear. So yeah, it’s important that it stays safe.
Does being a surfer make it easier for you to get those awesome shots?
I think from growing up in the ocean, and surfing, you start to be able to read the ocean, and the waves; where they’re going to break, and how they’re going to break. You can pick all that up - it’s just about spending lots of time in the water. So I think it does help.
How long does it take to get those shots?
Sometimes I’ll be in the water for six or seven hours a day...
Grandpa fingers, much?!
Oh, massively! In winter you can’t do it for that long though, because it’s too cold. For me, the best stuff I get is either in the first hour of light, or in the last hour of light. That’s where you get a really good dynamic range, and a range of colours.
So the colours in the shots are all real?
I do a little bit of editing with them. But I don’t like to blow the colours out too much, or change anything too much. A lot of people these days will over enhance the photos, but they look too fake, so I try to keep them as natural as I can.
One of our favourites from the shop is called ‘Peak’ - it’s amazing!
Thanks! That’s the one where it looks almost like a pyramid. I was actually stalked by a seal out there that day - I ended up having to go in. I hate seals - those tusks!
OK, so just back to that last bit - you say you go early, and late at night. Um, isn’t that when sharks are out?
Yeah! Normally you want to be getting in the water when it’s pretty much dark. All I’ll have with me are my flippers, my water-housing and a wetsuit - that’s it!
Please tell me you go out with friends?
Well, I do shoot surfers, but those wave photographs, the majority of the time it’s on my own.
Does your wife ever stress about that?
Not really - she’s pretty good. But I’m not shooting as much these days, because of the boys (Sticks’ wife TP had a baby just ten weeks ago, during shooting, and he also has a one year-old.). But yeah, she’s really supportive - and it’s something I’d like to do long-term in the future.