Preparing to do a surf shoot? Be sure you are prepared.
I get a lot of emails and comments asking me what gear I use, what settings is my camera on, etc.. I decided I’m going to blog more about my experiences and what works for me as a wave photographer. I also teach workshops at the University of Hawaii and do private lessons for people as well.
The night before I shoot, I always get my entire gear ready for the next morning (I usually wake up 4:30am and get to the beach before sunrise). There are a lot of steps to take to be sure all of your gear is in order, if you miss one thing you potentially can ruin your camera. I’ve already lost 4 cameras in the past few years from water damage, one just a couple weeks ago in Capri, Italy. Some of the steps require small tasks like tightening the screws to your waterhousing in a certain pattern (similar to a tire and tightening the lug nuts) or formatting your memory card before you go out in the water. It’s the little things that always seem to get me, so now I just go through a checklist the night before.
Also, before going into the water, I watch the tide to see if it’s going up or down, I look where the current is pulling the water to since it’s always changing. I also look at the weather, the winds, the sunrise time, etc…
The Night Before:
o Battery Fully Charged? o Memory Card Formatted?
o Be sure lens is on Manual Focus o Set camera to RAW (always should be RAW)
o Picture Style Mode – Standard o Tape lens – Do not set to infinity! Instead, set it just before infinity (sweet spot)
o Clean lens with microfiber or clean cloth o Set White Balance to Cloudy for sunrise/sunset shots – Sunny for mid-day shots
o ISO – Auto for sunrise/sunset. Manual for mid-day o 2 sec. image review is on
o Exposure is set to center (no + or -) o Be sure frame rate is at high speed
o TV Mode? Manual Mode? o Plug in camera for pistol grip release
o Check if trigger is working o Check image is showing up after a sample shot
o Set port on slowly o Check O-Rings to be sure it’s completely sealed evenly with no folds in O-Ring.
o Tighten individual wing nuts, in diagonal way o Tighten wing nuts slowly until it feels tight, then half turn each nut.
o Check O-Ring again to see if pressed tightly against housing. o Buff Port with clean cloth the night before, do it again for 1 minute before going in water
o Lick camera lens when enter water o Continue to lick until saliva film develops over port
o Before going in the water, chew gum / drink OJ / eat juicy fruit / grenade gum to create saliva
o Got goggles? Red goggles with a drop of anti-fog works best! No more water/sand in your eyes.
o Shoot / Lick as needed
After Exiting Water:
o Freshwater Rinse
o Dry w/ towel
o Loosen wing nuts and nuts on top of housing
o Loosen pistol grip
o Get an old pill bottle to place your screws in.
o Use a shami to dry off faster
o Lightly grease O-Rings
One Student said to me that a well-known photographer uses a certain settings in the camera’s picture style setting. This photographer would set their contrast and saturation to be a certain point for each setting. I told this student that’s fine and it would certainly work, however in my opinion I think it’s better to shoot flat and pull out the information in postproduction. Then again, if you feel comfortable with profiles and would rather use them in camera than pulling them from post production, Canon has some pretty cool picture styles you can download from their website here. Again, it’s personal preference and whatever works for you.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to comment or email me.
- Published in Uncategorized
Underwater Photography Workshop – May 31 + June 1
I’ve always been interested in coaching and teaching others. When I first started out many years ago (when SPL had white water housings) I approached two surf photographers in a parking lot. I was excited to learn from them, you know a few tips here and there about getting a good shot. I remember it so clearly, I even know who the two photographers are but I don’t want to say anything about anyone. However, I will say that these two photographers completely shunned me. One of them said, “Sorry man, you are just going to have to figure it out yourself.” I was pretty bummed and also offended. Why would anyone who’s established and confident in their ability be afraid to teach others? I vowed to never be like that and in fact I promised I would teach myself and become better than they were. It probably made me a better photographer, having that drive to prove them wrong. So I did exactly that, I learned on my own with no help. Trial and error, learning the hard way. There were not too many surf photographers back then I could talk to and people are nice, they won’t tell you that your photos suck so basically I would always get the response “Oh your photos are nice.” but I know now that they were not.
Not too long after that, I moved to South East Asia to focus on photography for a year. I mean it’s good to know the fundamentals of photography before trying to learn something as challenging as surf photography right? While I was in South East Asia traveling, I settled in Chiang Mai and applied to teach English. I quickly went from tutoring a couple one on one sessions to having my own classroom full of students. By the end of the year I was teaching full time plus teaching privately on the weekends and even an online student via skype. I found another passion, teaching.
Now I can combine the two things I really love to do, photography and teaching into one. I will assist students in the classroom and field with the unique, technical needs of underwater photography and the variety of approaches available: over/under water, marine life, waves, surfing, etc.
A field trip is arranged for the second day, meeting at a beach prior to sunrise for several hours of photographing. Following the field trip, the class meets in the lab for hands-on, post-processing instruction in Lightroom.
- Knowledge of basic photography
- Knowledge of your camera settings
- Access to a DSLR camera with a water housing (rental option is available through Hawaii Photo Rental)
- If no DSLR camera, then a GoPro or waterproof iPhone case
- Published in Uncategorized
For years now I’ve been shooting at night using all different types of lighting techniques. Slow shutter speed, 2nd curtain flash, 1 curtain flash, external flashes, high powered flash lights. By accident I discovered using a slow shutter speed with flash created some really cool effects, one shot in particular I did a few years back was called “fire and ice”. The fire was caused by the camera movement from using a slow shutter speed, this in effect made the tungsten lights really look like fire. The ice part of the shot was from the wave passing by and flash capturing the blue in the wave with a lot of intensity. This was all done by accident as I mentioned so when I got back home to review my shots, I was pretty surprised to see this photo.
Since then I’ve been experimenting with similar techniques with an external flash to create a lava like wave. I’ve always wanted to shoot the surf on the Big Island where the lava is going into the ocean, I actually know of another surf photographer who has captured this shot and I’ve been so eager to do the same.However, sometimes we can’t always get what we want or travel where we want, so experimenting and being creative is always something I recommend to my students and to people who are into photography. Be creative, try different things. Sometimes you’ll figure something out by accident and just build from that.
Just to be clear, these photos have not be altered or photoshopped in any way. Anyone can take a photo in my opinion and photoshop these colors or these effects in the image and that’s ok, it’s just not what I did to capture these photos.
- Published in Uncategorized
Large Metal Wave Photos
Three’s Bar and Grill located in Kihei, Maui has several of my wave prints in their bar. Some of these prints are as large as 40 x 90″ with a floating frame option.
- Published in Uncategorized
A few months back, I nearly died (again)…
A few months ago when the waves were pumping up country (North Shore) I was out shooting in the water. The waves were so big it wasn’t very good to photograph and too dangerous to be in the water. I’ve learned over the years it’s not how big the waves are to get a nice photo, it’s how clean and glassy the wave is.
So after I get out of the water I start shooting some shore breaks, no one is foolish enough to be in the water at this size but I’m just one of those guys that just don’t care how big it is as long as I feel I can get a good shot. I remove my fins because they are starting to fill up with sand and rocks and it’s getting very uncomfortable to wear. These fins were not mine, I borrowed them since I left my pair in Maui. I noticed these pairs of fins had shoestrings attached to them for keeping the fins on your feet. I removed the shoestring and tied it to my water housing and double knotted it to my wrist, I did this because the waves were just too big and it would rip out of my hands and since I typically don’t wear a lease on my wrist since I tend to switch hands back and forth. I decided to use the shoe string to keep the water housing from ripping out of my hands and getting lost. I figured I was safe with no fins since I’m only going right on the sand and I wouldn’t be going out into the water too deep. Keep in mind the waves are about 15 feet right on shore and I’m the dumb guy with no fins on and a heavy waterhousing double knotted to my wrist.
After about 4 minutes of shooting, a massive wave came and just knocked me of my feet. The current is so strong that if you don’t have fins it’s impossible to fight it, you’re getting sucked out into the ocean no matter what. I got sucked out and was getting slammed by set after set of 10ft+ foot waves. What’s worse was that my housing was pulling me down and I was swallowing water. I’ve been in bad situations many times but at this point I felt helpless, the only thing you can do is not panic and try to stay calm, very hard to do when these waves are just holding you down and you are being pulled down at the same time by a heavy housing. I came to a point where I started to black out because of lack of oxygen. Finally, a wave pushed me in close enough to make it out. I was lucky (again)….
- This is the wave that nearly killed me but sucking me out into the ocean.
It was a dangerous but good lesson for me, sometimes I feel I’m so experienced that I can handle almost any situations but obviously this is not the case, I got lucky. I’m a very experienced swimmer, I swam competitively in high school and college. I also have bodysurfed heavy waves for more than half my life, I was a lifeguard for 4 years while in high school and college but all that goes out the window, anyone can get caught off guard and sucked out into the ocean but how you handle the situation is when the experience comes in. Most people drown because they panic and they don’t think clearly, it’s easier said than done, I can sit here typing “be calm when you get into a tough situation out in the water,” but it’s a completely different story when you’re actually experiencing it. I admit I nearly panicked, I started to black out and I was thinking ‘damn, I can’t believe how stupid I was and now I’m going to die.’. Again, I got very lucky. If I was a cat, I definitely used up more than my 9 lives out in the ocean, too many close calls but as I’ve said to everyone in my life, no matter the danger, this is my passion and I will continue to do it until I die. I just have to learn from my stupidity and make better decisions to minimize the risk.
- Published in Lifestyle
I swear I was one of the first people to mount a GoPro on my waterhousing when GoPro first came out. I never saw anyone who had that before I did, but a few months later everyone had it on their housing. Of course I can say I started the trend, but it’s probably not so.. Anyways, with that being said, I’ve been into videos longer than photography. I use FCP and have all the latest software. GoPro even did a shoutout of my video on their FB page a few months ago..
Basically, when a nice wave is about to roll in, I hit the record button on my GoPro which is mounted on top of my housing. I record videos then later convert this into a super slow motion video. In order to get the full effect of this, you really need to have a camera that has a high FPS recording feature. Luckily, the GoPro 3 is pretty badass and it can record 240 FPS, which makes it easier to convert into a very slow motion video as you will see here.
This is slowed down to around 1,000 FPS. It’s not as good as those $100,000 phantom cameras they have, but hell, it does a pretty damn good job for a few hundred dollars. I can’t wait to start making more videos of some sick shore breaks when it’s double overhead…. In the meantime, enjoy this video I took in Ixtapa Mexico last month. The heartbeat sounds you hear is my camera shooting still shots. I’ve included the photos for this footage below the video. It’s a great combination, video and photos…
- Published in Entertainment