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One wave up. Two surfers sliding down. Mavericks, Half Moon Bay, CA. Nikon 300mm 2.8 w/ TC-17E 1.7x teleconverter.
This makes me smile. Nikon interviewed me and featured 12 of my photos for an article on surfing photography. You can see the entire interview here: Nikon Reflex Action: A Surf Photographer’s Top Tips. The Nikon editors choose lifestyle and action photos I’ve shot of various surfers and California spots. I was really excited about the opportunity, but not sure what tips I could provide. I don’t have any secrets so I kept general sports photography in mind, and a few things I’ve learned shooting surfing.
Surf Photography Tips (some not included in the Nikon post)
1) Study all the focus options and don’t skip the manual. The modern DSLR has infinite focusing options. It’s overwhelming enough to make a person not even try action photography, but practice is the key. Learn all of the focus features inside and out. Memorize them. Have them mastered so you can react quickly to the action without fumbling with your camera. I like to shoot with continuous focus (focus tracking) and make use of the focus lock buttons when needed. This minimizes the risk of loosing focus from body movement or if shooting from a moving boat.
2) You don’t have to shoot at world class breaks to get great photos. Don’t be afraid to make a road trip, but make the most of your local spots first. Surfing is primarily on the coasts and not accessible to everyone. However if you are landlocked practice shooting action sports in your area to prepare for a future surfing trip.
3) FPS (frames per second). Shoot with your camera’s highest frames per second. Nearly every modern DSLR shoots with enough speed to grab action shots in short bursts. You don’t necessarily need 11fps.
4) Lens choices. Put your money in the glass. Fast zooms and fast fixed lenses have faster focus and better optics. The 70-200 F2.8 is a sports standard, but you’ll need something longer for your distance shots. A good back up solution is a teleconverter. The Nikon TC-14E (1.4x) and TC-17E (1.7x) both work very well on the 70-200 F2.8 and the 3oomm F2.8.
5) Don’t drop your camera in the drink and be safe. A camera can be replaced but you can’t. People get swept up in rough business every year throughout the California coast. The stories are horrible. Take your photo blinders off and live to tell the story.
6) Pro level waterproof camera housing for a DSLR is +$$$$, but there are some inexpensive options. If you are already a surfer with an interest in photography, you can get wet, shoot photos, and spend less than $10 a day. See: GoPro camera rentals available at Borrowlenses. Staff photographer for Surfer Magazine Zac Noyle has been posting some great looking work on Instagram shot with the Watershot Inc iphone water housing. It doesn’t get much budget friendly than that. An entry level water housing for a DSLR isn’t much more expensive than your favorite prime lens on the used market. Check the base model by Liquid Eye.
7) Check out the not-so-cheesy surf mags. Follow photographer and editor of Carve Magazine Roger Sharp. Sharpy always shares great info on surfing photography along with his work. Here’s his in-depth buyer’s guide for water housing for cameras and surf photography.
8) The biggest and most important…don’t get in the way of other surfers.
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Greg Long at Mavericks. Half Moon Bay, CA.
Full post here: http://www.nikonusa.com A Surf Photographer’s Tips
Featured surfers in the link: Carlos Burle, Kenny Collins, Greg Long, Peter Mel, and Zach Wormhoudt.
Thanks to Nikon, and to all the surfers for their support.