I take “back to school” portraits for this family each year, and this year their son wanted SURFING PHOTOGRAPHY for his annual photoshoot! Um, yes please!! I wanted to share some of the key aspects I learned when trying surfing photography for the first time:
Surfing Photography Tips
We had to think about which direction we anticipated the waves rolling in from so we could estimate where the subject would have to be. Then we could pick a time of day when the sun wouldn’t be directly behind him and blasting the camera with too much light. To compensate, I also shot “stopped down” with a much higher aperture than I typically do, both to let in less light and to ensure a wider focal range so my client would for SURE be in focus!
My client paid attention to the swell reports for the week leading up to the photoshoot so we could decide to go with our original date or a backup date.
Okay, admittedly we paid more attention to the first two items on the list, but having a slightly lower tide allowed me to get photos of my client closer to shore.
I was lucky enough to borrow an 80-400 mm telephoto lens to get far closer images! If I were to do this again it would be worth the investment to rent a lens with even more range! A drone would be in-freaking-credible for this!
My job was to keep an eye on my client and the instant I saw him start to paddle to catch a wave I had to be on it! I had an assistant with me to help be sure I spotted him, because it takes some time waiting for the right waves to roll in!
My client was pretty far out to sea, but luckily he was paying attention to me and my assistant and we were able to communicate via dramatic arm gestures when we needed him to move to a different angle, or come closer to shore so we could talk!
Surfing Portraits at Pleasure Point
Scoping out the surf at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, CA, and eager to get into the water! The dried flowers are Echium candicans “Pride of Madeira” and they grow wild all around the Monterey bay!
I love this shot – not to go all high school English book analysis on you, but there are so many different ways to interpret this image of the client looking out to sea. The anticipation and excitement to be in the water and catch some good waves, the turbulent surf that fades out to smoother waters ahead…this image makes me think, and wonder what he’s thinking.
Paddling on out, and you can see the hills of Monterey in the distance across the bay.
My client is a superstar swimmer, and is literally an award-winning butterfly swimmer. I LOVED that he casually did butterfly strokes to get out to the bigger waves, just a little quirk that was really him!
As we headed back to the car at the end of the day I took this photo because I loved the symmetry of his board, and the cool texture from the wax!
Here’s what my client (and his mom) had to say about their photos:
Just looked through the photos, I love them! They’re really well done, thanks!!
Surfing pictures are AAAAAMAZING
Kristen Hazelton is an Oak Park, IL (West Chicagoland) and Livermore, CA (San Francisco East Bay Area) senior, family, and engagement photographer. She occasionally photographs in San Diego, CA, Tucson, AZ, and Seattle, WA. You can inquire about your own photoshoot here!