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Into the Soup - Part 1
I've tinkered around with surface water photography, but nothing too serious and only a couple of times. I have also been in touch with a handful of surf/windsurf photographers who said they would be willing to teach me, but I can never seem to get anything lined up with them, or they are very hard to reach. I am starting to feel like perhaps they say they want to teach me to be nice, but in reality...maybe they don't. (Also keep in mind I was offering to pay them handsomely to learn). It was the same way when I started to get into wedding photography, the majority of other wedding photographers didn't want to help me, but eventually I found a couple who did and they made all the difference, I am very grateful to them and have never competed or taken any business away from them. I still get calls for Weddings in Alabama...guess to whom I send these referrals? Thats right, the ones who helped me. Some of them are now among my closer friends I still stay in touch with. I have absolutely no interest in doing surf photography for a living, rather I am interested in the technique and want to know how to do it. I am fascinated with all things photography, so if there is a cool technique, or someone whose work I admire, I really do want to learn from them. If they don't want to teach me, thats fine too, but I will probably figure it out without them.
Surface water photography is very different than scuba photography for several reasons; the main being that you are dealing both in and out of the water and there is the constant threat of waves hitting you, about once every 10-15 seconds. There can be some real problems if you aren't a good swimmer, and I learned quickly today that if there is any panic at all, you probably shouldn't even try. The ocean can be really unforgiving, but I will say this, when I just took everything in stride (getting pounded) it wasn't that big a deal. I also had my snorkel, so I could just put my head down and catch my breath if I needed to.
Long story short, I just got tired of waiting for someone to teach me and I decided to just go for it today. I hesitated on this, because I wasn't so sure what I was getting into as far as the current and surf conditions go. (Ie...you could get killed) I went out to Hookpia where there are bigger waves and spoke with the lifeguards about the dangers of the beach and any potential rip currents, but it wasn't too bad today, and after speaking with them I was pretty confident I could safely handle myself in the water. Luckily, my Dad also showed up right as I was getting ready to go in and grabbed a few shots from the shore.
I wore my wetsuit for extra buoyancy, and used my dive mask, fins, snorkel and a Canon 7D
& Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye
in a SPL Surface Water Splash Housing
which you can see me carrying here:
(Note: I shot on Av mode at f5, simply because I didn't want to fumble around with the camera settings in the water).
Literally as I was getting in the lifeguard I had been speaking with jumps in and helps save a dog that apparently got pulled out a ways.
This is the main problem with surface water photography...water on your port (the part that covers the lens). In Scuba photography, water is constantly on your port, which means you don't have to worry about anything changing or focus issues. When you pull your housing out of the water however, there is a short period water is adhering to the port in different patches or thicknesses and if you try to take a picture, it is going to look something like this:
You have to wait about 2-3 seconds for the water to completely drain off.... then you can get shots like this next one. Once I got the hang of this necessary "lag time" required, it started getting easier to predict when the camera was ready to go. I had it on the burst mode too 8 FPS, so if I felt something good was about to happen I just let it fly! (I will say at least half of the photos are terrible and you can't really check them too well when you are out there). I was really impressed with some of these younger surfers out there (if anyone out there recognizes any of these surfers let me know so I can get them some pictures!)
The biggest issue was ducking the waves. I think the last time I felt like this was when I was playing college football when I had to cover kick offs. You absolutely have to stay focused on what is happening around you or you are going to get hurt. On those kick offs, someone was assigned to try to knock your head off, so you always had to have you head "on a swivel" constantly looking for who this person was and when they would strike. Same way with waves, you have to constantly keep an eye out for them and when they will hit. I just dove until them and it wasn't a big deal.
Im not so sure the fisheye is the way to go, in order to get a shot like this, I had to be within 2 feet of the surfer.
Or even closer. I can see how it is possible to get hit. This guy was a photographer too and was really nice.
One thing I really liked was how anxious everyone was to have me take their picture. Once they saw me and knew what I was doing, several of them were very co-operative. This couple was awesome, they would always surf nearly right next to me. I wanted to give them their images, and we agreed to meet up after to trade info, but I couldn't find them when I got out.
This is what it looks like from the shore.....
Super nice couple. I was bummed not to get their contact info. It gave me an idea though if I do this again: Branded wrist bands! I can just give them to surfers in the water. (they will say www.michaelthemaven.com) and they can contact me through the blog.
I think there are a myriad of opportunities for shooting portraits under the waves as well...
There were turtles everywhere, I would literally swim a few feet and see another one!
Me getting out after about 40 minutes. I feel much more confident about doing the surf shots, which I really enjoyed. I learned several little things too; need to find something I can use to constantly clean my port off, or add RainX or Defog or something to keep it clean. I also think it will be much better to shoot in the early a.m. than in the afternoon. Not fantastic shots, but solid, good and I am improving. Need more reps now. Its a fun thing to do on the weekends to get out of the editing room.
Come back tomorrow and I will share with you some pictures from the second part of today's shoot. Windsurfing in ROUGH waves! (Thats me in the yellow helmet).