Posts Tagged ‘surf photography’

Relevance

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

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Sean Tully dropped me a note the other day, which had me scrambling to find an image file we created awhile back. I could not locate the high res finals, only some low res jpegs. So I referred to the original shot file where the camera raws reside, and had a little look.

What I found was a slew of work we had not really put out into editorial at that time. I think maybe two or three from this series had become magazine covers, but the rest, had just not been relevant as far as I could tell. But today I sort of went “wow” as I found them and set to work processing the images on two new programs that did not exist when these images were collected.

In a world where we tend to chase our tales sometimes in the mindset that new equals relevant, I was pleasantly surprised that these images far surpassed every single image of a brand name surf publication which arrived at my door today in their genre.

Made me think about my own choices a bit. In short order the work will get turned over to Corbis and general editorial and used in a couple feature projects I have on the back burner. But it really gave me pause regarding my own assent to the value of my work.

Here is a rather classic piece of music. It is relevant to me in that it still means something. What does this say? I guess one would need to want it to know. Relevance. Bendictus by 2 Cellos

Anyway, below are some of those images. Click on any of them for a full, uncompressed view.

 

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The Value of Story: Mavericks

Friday, January 31st, 2014

I am just back from witnessing the spectacle which is the Mavericks Invitational big wave event at Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay, Ca.

There are a huge number of stories surrounding this event, and I must select a few, and share those in Editorial. I worked this event with Deniece Watkins Smith who is a budding Photographer, sage Silicon Valley Real Estate Agent and wife to Cary Smith of the Pillar Point Harbor Patrol. We shot the event together. It was a lot of fun, challenge, and rich with story!

Here is a great piece on the value of Story.

Here is Go Pro’s take from 2013.

Keep in mind that 2014 was almost double the size and Go Pro was ready for it.

Story is everything. Pictures help. Here are a few from Mavericks. The first two are Deniece’s. She was great to work with on this. The shot of Ian getting wrecked on his SUP in the intermission is priceless. The one of Twiggy emoting behind Jeff Clark on hearing of the win is Photojournalism golden.

Click on the images for a larger view.

 

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The image below is what I saw when I got home from Mavericks. Ventura, Ca. I was immediately away again. This is proving to be a rather Historic season for me in terms of quality and volume of work produced. I am still shooting on the Canon 5DM2 system and it continues to allow me to set a bar for imaging that is quite high.

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Risk Perception

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Risk Perception

The image above was shot during the 2010 Maverick’s Challenge where I worked as support and Photographer for K38 Rescue, who ran Event Ocean Safety and in process was in charge of training a cadre of local watermen to be a Rescue team. That local team was headed up by Vince Broglio. It was a big and perfect day. Possibly the biggest, best surf, ever paddled into for a competitive event.

The quote is something Shawn said in one of our project groups this week. And I immediately turned it into an Oceanlovers Blue Note. Blue Notes are wisdom gleaned from the Sea, basically. You can find them here on Oceanlovers’ site, and you should be able to right click grab them. They are meant to be shared.

I study risk. Have for a long time now. As someone with a background in high risk competitive sports as well as a depth of Ocean experience, if I were not risk aware, I would not be sitting here typing on a Saturday morning. But this week has prompted me to want to expound a little on Risk Perception. You see, Risk is always there. But it is our understanding and awareness of it which allows us to potentially manage some of that potential threat to our own and other’s life and limb, with our choices and actions, and hopefully, to come away unscathed.

This is a very complex and layered subject. I have written a little bit about Shawn and I’s affiliation and relationship here in this regard in Peaking in Seconds and Feet. The people I work with via K38 Rescue and in my other various affiliations, are world leaders in various aspects of emergency response. We all support each other, mentor, and yes hold ourselves accountable, as members of a large Community. Accountability is everything when managing risk.

Understanding is what we strive for, as responsibility for our own safety and that of our subjects as professional imagers, needs to underpin our life. Without that you would see a pattern develop in and around your work which would include injuries-damage  to yourself, equipment and subjects. So we study to learn the risk, safeguard ourselves, and push for a more pleasant experience and to set an appropriate example for others.

Let me underscore something, speaking of accountability. I have never been hurt filming or shooting. With the exception of smacking Sean Tully, one of my long term collaborators in the head, when a lip grabbed an overly large waterhousing, I have never hurt or lost anyone. (I repaired Sean’s scalp wound. Being able to do that is another story) So in almost 15 years of filming all over the world, that means no bad cuts, head injuries, sprained or broken anything. Zilch. Nada. Zip.

I believe it is possible for anyone to have that track record. But Risk Perception, it is multi-layered, and I want to share one of the layers here.

This week has been full of Kite board filming and stills shooting. I consider this subject and utilizing a water POV to be exceptionally high risk for a number of reasons. A photographer could suffer instantaneous death from a variety of means. I am not going to go into the details, but this week it went smoothly. Here is one of many images collected and a part of a film I am developing. And yes, another Blue Note.

Blue Note: Kite

I always watch the Ocean. My connection to it is so involved and intimate, I am not going to endeavor to explain the relationship in a technical manner. But I will share some precepts.

My wife has been surprised to see the large volume of very high bar water work I have generated this Summer along our coast. That is unusual, as it is rare for the large combination of variables I require to attain my image quality bar, to happen in Summer. She sees the commitment and struggle, some of it anyway, as we talk about managing the vast array of details which comprise a career. Nevertheless, she has been remarking on what has wandered in the pixel door lately.

Two days ago things lined up for a special evening. I had been watching a break for some time now. Studied it, learned the parameters of tide swell, current, conditions etc. I thought it had potential to provide for some great work. But I had not yet swum it.  Eventually understanding risk comes down to going. You must go and challenge your understanding at some point, in order to convert the experience into knowledge.

Driving down Coast on a hot, blue, placid day I was inexplicably unsettled inside. When I got to the break I had thought we would be filming at, perfect little shoulder to head high peaks threw out in hollow top lit blue cylinders, in an idyllic California-esque  beach day. Woo hoo! But inside was a voice.

Looking down coast at that spot I had been watching, I saw a few waves break and recognized that today was likely as good a day as ever to swim the place. Lars Rathje arrived, who is one of my close collaborators. His younger brother Hans was on the way. With increasing excitement we watched a few well overhead sets roll through and I carefully loaded my SPL waterhousing, placing the Canon 5DM2 with wide angle zoom into the case, setting everything and then buttoning up and prepping the port. It is a routine and process which I have done literally thousands of times.

I tugged my wetsuit on, grabbed my housing and fins and we picked our way down the cliff to a narrowing sandy beach strewn with the odd big rock. Neither of us was 100 percent on what the bottom looked like. We suspected it would be soft sand as we had seen the break shifting a bit over the course of a year, and that shift usually indicates sandbar movement related to littoral flow.

As we got to the water’s edge I turned to Lars and said this on the most perfect beautiful risk absent day one could ever imagine. “Pay close attention out here today. Really close attention. There is something not right about this.

And we swum out. Below are the first and last frames I shot that night. Easy, perfect, brilliant, fun. Right?

First Frame

Last Frame

Here is what happened.

The lineup features two peaks, one a left and one primarily a right. On high tide (tide was filling in) a side wave pushes across the lineup creating an explosive and dramatic backwash condition. Part of what we were there to experience was the water morph. The first wave Lars barely got into it via the back door and as the side wave hit it kicked open. That dry hair shot above was the first one of the evening .

We had to play everything very close due to the combination of conditions, so frequently we were in touching distance. That is not so unusual for water work. I actually call this type of shooting “contact work” as one is generally within touching distance when one shoots. You endeavor to have the ocean and your approach create a near miss scenario. We both laughed that in the first 5 minutes we had nailed it. That does not happen too often. Perfection is complex. It takes some effort.

An hour later a wave double concussed and as I came back to the surface I saw that my housing had leaked. The dreaded Death all Water Photographers seek to avoid was in process. Due to the design of SPL’s system, the camera sits on a plate which keeps it elevated. You can technically semi flood a housing and not lose the camera if you are careful. “Hey Lars, I am out. Housing leak. Going to the beach and see if I can fix it. Camera is still alive.” Hans had just paddled out to join us.

I swum in, managing to keep the housing out of the water and in the shore pound saw I would need to take a wave to the body. In spite of backing in to the beach, I was very aware of my position. I knew that one big rock was nearby and where it was. The wave slapped me ashore and housing held high, I was swept up the beach right past that rock. Hmm. An hour down and several high risk potential things had gone down.

I climbed up the cliff, went to the back of my car, and disassembled, dried, cleaned and re assembled my gear. A half hour later I was back at water’s edge. The boys had moved back up the beach. The lineup was empty. I normally love that. But inside the voice was an alarm bell still. I had a close look, nothing apparent, dipping my housing, it was holding the seal and all seemed fine, so into the blue I plunged, and in 50 yards I was in perfect position for a beautiful backwash blast. The loud crack as the two waves blasted into oblivion made for a great capture. We all sort of live our lives in the impact zone, those of us that do this, and we truly love being there. So we mind the blasts. That is part of our innate risk management

Popping up I saw a sea lion gliding by. He was acting skittish. Not unusual. They tend to be a lot like dogs and are sometimes very friendly and at others, stand offish or aggressive. He disappeared. I noticed that I was the only thing on the surface. Then came that voice and something new: a tap on the shoulder. Something was out there with me. That never alarms me believe it or not. I just watch the water, keep my housing down around my legs and pay attention. It is not uncommon for sharks to come up and take a look at me and the sun was getting low on the horizon. It was nearing dinner time for the Sea.

I saw nothing. It had been awhile and the long period Southern hemi swell seemed to be lulling out so I worked my way into the shorepound, wishing that the boys would come back so we could shoot a bit more surf stuff. Near shore my inner alarm went off. It is this imminent collision intuition one has that was saying “Do not be here”. So I swam back out. Yep. As a blue wave danced onto the sandbar I saw the shadow and profile of the shark. Looked like a 6-8 footer.¬† I could not tell what type but assumed it to be a Thresher. Sort of reminded me of a Tiger though, by it’s movement. But that would be odd. He was headed away. The “alarm” went off. My inner voice was still alert.

I set about capturing and creating the images I was after, and in a bit Hans swam out to join me sans board. Bodysurfing the warm, slabby wedges. We connected a few times and were both laughing. In a bit we saw Lars wander back down the beach with  a stunning looking woman with him. They chatted a few minutes and he joined us, and began to work some difficult angles.

An hour later as the sun began to drop behind a coastal mountain to our West, I had bait rise flash all around me, and fish flew out of the water, encircling me in a silvery rainbow. I laughed. But I knew something caused that. I had seen it before swimming a remote wave in Mexico right before a very large Tiger had appeared mid wave and shown me the door.

Swimming back out, a wave doubled up and I eased under it. Uh oh. Shallow spot in the sand bar. The lip bounced me off the bottom, rag dolled me and as I surfaced, I saw some scratches on my housing port. Shoots. Damage. Repairable and the marks were not in the lens’ line of sight. Whew. Next wave was perfect. Nailed it. Then Lars, who was sitting further outside said “Hey David, check it out, we have a bait ball just offshore. Wow, did you see that? Two dolphins, a baby and an older one!”

We worked the last half hour alone as Hans had gone in and was watching us as the light ebbed. Then Lars went in, and I was out alone in the stillness of evening, light waning and realized that all was quiet inside of me. I swam to the outside shot a couple more frames and began to work shoreward. A set missed the outside sandbar and doubled up just as a backwash wave hit and I shot a final last frame, that beautiful one above.

So I dragged you along on this tale to explain that though what I do looks easy, and I make it out as such, one of the primary reasons is that I know the risks, yes, but that my perception is highly trained and tuned. That part is not so special nor as arrogant as it may at first read. It is how we all should be, who have a grasp on what it means to be human, living in a body, designed to walk the land, but composed largely of salt water, and wedded to the Sea.

Below are a few more of the 24 A list images from the evening.

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Awards and Praise

Thursday, July 25th, 2013
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The above image was shot a short while ago. For me it is sort of the peak of  what is possible with modern DSLR imaging. The detail and various aspects which make an incredibly complex subject rendered to perfection are all there. This is why I am not posting the two images which are being discussed below, in  a pasted in conversation with one of my editors at Corbis.

My work evolves. It is far better than ever before. If that process was not building in such a way, I would stop. But many who die, who have reached bottom do not stop. And they are tenuously still in Publishing.

Here is that conversation.

“Wow, congratulations on the award”

It was funny Michele. I was at the Surfer Poll awards shooting for the magazine when someone came and found me and dragged me up on stage in front of about 3 k people, where my editor said ” A lot of people want to know how you did this, and how it was lit?”(It was one of the first images created using high speed sync flash, which Canon had innovated)

My answer as I looked out at the crowd: “I read the Canon manual. It is right there on page 18″ Everybody laughed and I grabbed the award and went back to work.

This image came on the heels of another magazine cover for The Surfers Journal which some in the industry called the greatest image descriptive of the sport in it’s History.

All that stuff is nice, but you cannot eat praise or awards.

Why Corbis matters. And it keeps me in the water somewhere in the world every day. Thank you !

Now back to the point of this post on Awards and Praise.

The way my work moved forward was via the connectedness and support of professional publishing which was run as a purely editorial concern firstly, to provide real time documentation of the sport as it occurred around the world. The second order of the day was advertising.

As the world morphed publishing reversed and editorial became advertorial and what we refer to in Marketing as the race to the bottom began. Then the publishing bankruptcies began. Out of this a restructure occurred when most professionals were jettisoned and literally told not to bother submitting work as it would not be looked at. Publishing then engaged a green new crop which could be more easily controlled and taken advantage of more or less. I won’t go into it, as the explanation is one of photobiz tediousness. But basically the publishing companies hit bottom and figured out a way to stay there.

Cue social media where a photographer can display his work and progress and connect directly to the market via Blog, Facebook, Twitter et al.

Cue Publishers who now say shunned senior staff cannot be published because they showed their work to a few people via their networks and that makes the image “dead”. What that says to me is not unlike the conversation of a jealous girlfriend who saw you talking to another woman and beat you up for it when you return home together each day. It just does not make much sense.

This is why.

Social media allows an Artist to connect his work and that of his publications to a far greater-different audience. The lack of understanding of how Permission based marketing and social media which is based upon it is exactly why publishing is hitting bottom perpetually. They do not understand the concepts of generosity and connection. Yet all great Art is based upon those things.

So what does that say about the greenies working for those struggling publications and the content itself?

Here is a cool vid I did for Blue Mind 2013 on Block Island¬† recently, which was part of a presentation I did on Beauty and it’s effect on Humanity. I bookended at the event with painter Ran Ortner, whose work I love.

Here is another I built using the latest iteration from Adobe of LR5 which allows motion to be included. It is created for a fantastic project which serves the restoration of US Military severely wounded (Purple Heart Veterans). The project is called the Never Quit Challenge which will be a historic return to NYC and Ground Zero of our people who sacrificed everything, in service to this Nation. The project details are in the video liner notes. Never Quit Challenge:Dancing Girl.

This image is from the Ocean Lovers Collective Blue Notes Project where we are building change that matters.

You can also support this incredibly ambitious project and my work, by purchasing Art via Ocean Lovers’ online store. Browse the site. See who is involved, and what we are about. If you like it, climb aboard. We are creating a new better world via intelligent approach to caring for people and the Oceans. There even is a new Realtime Gallery where work is uploaded as it is created around the world. Change that matters is collaborative. We need YOU for any of this to matter.

Blue Note of change

Blue Note of change

No plans to visit the bottom ever.

Onward! Aloha nui Loa.

Surf Photography and the Super Telephoto

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

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A few of us have been discussing the declining economic validity of Surf Photography and ensuing demise in editorial based content for awhile now. Recently, changes to baggage rates by air carriers have added yet another challenge to those Photographers and Cinematographers whose content topics require super telephotos in the attainment of the rather high bar required in action sports imaging.

The image above was shot with the Canon 5DM2 and the 600F4 IS lens with 1.4x v2 teleconverter on a monopod. Add up the original equipment cost of these items (all recently serviced by CPS BTW) and you come up with a dollar total of approximately 10 K. The entire dimensional weight of the system makes it theoretically possible to place in a carry on bag for airline travel and thereby avoid the risk of check in baggage damage of using a heavy Pelican 5150 case and paying an extra 150-300 dollars for that bag each leg of your trip.

Here is where I am going. At today’s current market rate, that same kit will cost out at approx 16.5 K and due to the inept nature of TSA and increasing silliness in Customs, can create a massive boondoggle as one passes through those security checkpoints. One sage colleague of mine who has possibly logged more air miles than any of us, related a horrific episode at LAX Customs recently, when they searched his gear and threatened to confiscate it (think terrorist, not action sports or nature enthusiast).

So one recent tack and possible solution has arisen. The telephoto zoom. Here are two. The Canon 200-400 f4 IS, and the Sigma 120-300 F 2.8. The problems with telephoto zooms are largely compositional. (most of us know we need the 880 MM of a teleconverted 600 F4 frequently) The benefits are various. But the economic issue remains the same.  Approx 13k for a lens to create imagery that in an editorial market may not ever pencil out, at the approx $100.00 per page current buyout rate.

I will keep my 600 F4 IS V 1 and no way EVER purchase the V 2 as it makes no economic or real imaging sense. I will use it when budget and access requirements make sense.

No way will I purchase the  F 4 200-400 IS. Do I want it? Absolutely. Does it make any economic sense? None whatsoever. Then there is the look of F4 versus the look of F2.8.

I absolutely will purchase the Sigma¬† 120-300 F2.8. Do I want it? Umm, not really, to be honest. It is a little heavy, likely not as technically on point as the Canon. But here is the deal for me. I like the look of F 2.8 especially for Fashion, and teleconverted on a crop factor body, like the new Panasonic GH3¬†¬† or with the soon to be released Metabones speed adapter, the system is economically feasible, would have an outstanding look, and be able to create a realistic kit carry on for air travel that would be far less glaring to the potential jack ass working what we all laughingly refer to as “security”. It is a great compromise that makes sense in every way.

Accomplishing the goal of producing compelling high bar imagery on demand, any where in the world, in an economically feasible manner, has never been so challenging and so rewarding, as it is today. Rather than be under a black cloud about the downside, I am going to choose to focus on my own goals and have some fun with the shifting diorama within the Photography industry, where disconnection from market realities by Canon and Nikon and radically improved market focus from relatively small players and lesser knowns, is creating some fantastic opportunity for all of us as we move forward in this increasingly interconnected digital world.

Thanks to all of my remarkable colleagues for pushing the envelope in Photography and Cinematography in their own work, and in the generosity they display by always being willing to contribute to the ongoing discussions that define who we are: an independent creative group of freelance professionals, which will hopefully forever be at the core of authentic and high bar content creation, around the world in this crazy and fantastic, challenging, shifting diorama.

Below are a few more 88o MM images from this week.

Aloha oe. A hui ho.

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© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

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