It’s Tuesday the 12th of May – 8AM. I’m meeting up with Josh, an ambitious, 13 year old photographer from Yeppoon QLD who has flown in to do a 2 day workshop with me. The forecast is looking great for the week – with a building south swell and moderate off-shore winds, the perfect conditions to learn everything about the essentials and get prepared for some perfect barrelling waves later on.
We sit down together in a local cafe for a first meet and greet. I try to meet my students in a comfortable environment so we have a little time to get to know each other. After a few minutes it becomes clear that Josh is more than ready to go – in fact, he is wearing his wetsuit already underneath his jeans! So I quickly adapt my plans and after showing him all the things I carry in my camera bag and explain what gear I use and why I use it we walk down to the beach.
Time to shoot surf!
Olympus Australia provided me with the Zuiko 300mm f/2.8 ED lens (which becomes a 600mm on the E-M1) allowing us to sit back and shoot the surf from further away. We walk down Manly Beach and find the ideal spot to shoot longboarders cruising down some perfectly peeling waves. The best spot to go through all the important things: Shooting modes, Shutter, Aperture, ISO and Auto Focus etc. and even here it becomes clear that Josh has done his homework. He knows his basics. Again, time to spice up the program a little.
With the perfect conditions on hand, a light off-shore breeze and a nice 2-3ft swell, it’s an ideal day to jump into the water.
As I’m preparing the housing and camera for our first swim, I explain the important things – we are after all taking about $5000 worth of electronics into the ocean and there is no second chance if things go wrong. If you do things wrong now you might flood your housing and destroy your camera and lens.
I show him every step and to be sure to have his attention, I tell him that the next time he will be preparing the housing himself. Learning by doing!
(photos below captured by Josh)
Josh uses the same camera as I do: the Olympus E-M1 – this means he is very interested in my underwater housing and ports as he will be looking at getting the same model in the near future.
Finding ideal conditions for the first swim is important, so we head away from Manly Beach and up to Curl Curl. There is a little more swell but less surfers here and the ones who are around seem to know what they are doing which puts us in a lot safer position when swimming into the breaking waves.
The first session is all about discovering. Getting a feel for it. I let Josh shoot and try not to disrupt him. I just make sure that he’s safe in the waves and becoming accustomed to the camera and the environment. We’ve equipped the housing with the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lens – a great all round lens that gives him the freedom to shoot empty waves, surfers or lifestyle shots in the water. It’s also the lens that Josh will be using when he gets his own housing.
After an hour of shooting the waves have lost a little size but we make the best of the high tide for some fun shore break shots. Perfect timing for some ‘portraits’ of Josh. Finally, we decide to head in to take a look at Josh’s first photos and discuss some points he can focus on for the next session:
– Anticipating the wave or the surfer’s move
– Focussing Technique
In the afternoon we meet up again and head out into the ocean for another session. I can tell that he’s really trying and I don’t have to say much once we are out there. Josh is a fast learner and very easy to work with – he’s trying to apply everything I say and seems to succeed on the spot. Judge for yourself:
It’s obvious: Josh is talented! My confidence in him grows and I’m hoping to guide him into bigger waves as the swell builds during the coming days.
But, these days successful photography is not only about being outside in nature. Cameras of all levels have become amazing at capturing the world around us and a good photographer needs to know how to edit his photos.
This is also why I add the ‘post processing workflow’ and editing tips to the workshop. Obviously this aspect of photography deserves it’s own workshop, but what would a newly born surf photographer do without a basic knowledge of effectively sorting through thousands of photos?
So as of the second day, after each shooting session we focus on filtering and editing the photos. Before I know it, Josh is working through hundreds of photos, sorting out the keepers, editing and finalising them for publishing.
With an amazing swell forecasted and Josh being such a fast learner, we decide to extend the workshop from 2 to 4 days. After all, that is the reason why he travelled down to Sydney – so let’s make the most of our time!
Over the next few days we work our way through all the equipment: shooting longer and wider lenses in the water and in different conditions, different times of day and in different locations.
It all builds up to the last morning where we choose to go to a point break as the swell has hit a solid 6ft and the local surfers are charging.
(Josh’s photos of the last session)
In just 4 days Josh has learnt an amazing amount of new things and I’m very surprised by his ability to learn and apply. I could not have wished for a better student!
Some of the key skills Josh learnt during the surf photography workshop:
– choosing the right equipment
– preparing and maintaining equipment
– shooting from land and from water
– sorting, editing and publishing photos
Of course there is a lot more to learn but a lot of photography skills are developed over time and by gaining experience. Josh has taken a great first step in the right direction and I’m sure his work will continue to improve a lot over the coming years. You can follow him on Instagram: Josh
I hope you enjoyed the read and the shots.
If you feel like more, you can follow my work updated daily on Instagram and Facebook and of course pop by the Print Store for the opportunity to buy some unique Ocean Art for your home.