… or not. There is a lot of action in surfing, but unlike birding, movement is a bit more predictable. Surfers are not as fast as an osprey diving for a fish or as erratic as a kingfisher hovering over water. The most dramatic surfing photographs are the ones taken up close. Photographers with water tight rigs wade into the surf and catch shots with a fishes perspective, often dodging surfers.
For this project, I was shooting terra ferma, from both the beach and elevated positions working with a long zoom, a 150-600MM lens. After a day or two I found my rhythm, I pretty much knew where the surf and surfers were going to break, so unlike with bird shooting, I had a much better ratio of keepers.
For me color, contrast and motion make compelling surf photos. One has to consider the usual challenges; weather, blue sky preferred of course, and time of day. The action is coming straight in from the west, so morning and afternoon sessions have distinct quality of light. The wild card is the surf itself, and in my case it was underwhelming. I was hoping to catch surfers on a high wave’s crest or in the pike, but the surf gods at Oceanside California just did not seem to be in the mood.
High shutter speeds as above freeze the splash or spray that envelopes the surfer. I love that element. Conversely, using a slow drag shutter and following movement lends a dramatic facet to the photograph.
You may have noticed that the photos above are all of men … that is because I was saving the best for last, the women of the Nissan Super Girl Surf Pro. Top ranked women surfers, over 100 of them, from around the globe compete in the world’s largest surf event.
17 year old Samantha Sibley of San Clemente, came from near the bottom of the rankings to win the 2019 Super Girl Surf Pro. She was the youngest competitor to date to win the top ranking.
She was in the water when the results were announced over the PA system.
As you would expect, the Super Girl Pro event brings out a lot of spectators and photographers.