A Look Into Surf Photography - Pacific Surf School

Have you ever been interested in surf photography? Or even wondered how so many of the crazy shots of surfers you’ve seen are taken? I definitely have. I was aware that many photographers are in the water and that some are out on boats but I figured this interest could make for a good blog! So this blog will go through the different dynamics of surf photography, introduce you to some of the most famous surf photographers and will also include a few awesome photos.

 If you take a look back through history and the evolution of cameras you can imagine just how much better the quality of photos are now than they were 40-50 years ago. We have hit a technological plateau as there’s only so many megapixels we need! In the future, models will hit 50MP and 4K filming capability. Frame rate wise once SLR cameras hit 24fps are no longer stills cameras. Rather, they are video cameras. The point where you can grab a mag spread from a video frame grab is already here with RED cams. In the future photographers will be filmers that are good at picking key frames fro the footage. After 80 plus years and hundreds of surf photography devotees later there is still plenty of room for shots that make you stop and draw breath. Laurent Pujol pioneered the ‘behind in the tube’ shot. Building on early deep swimming work by Billy Morris and others getting smashed from getting behind surfers in the tube which evolved into surfers carrying housings themselves, and now GoPros, but the Pujol angle is a huge leap and young Aussie Leroy Bellet has taken it further adding flash to the mix. It’s the very definition of suffering for your art. Every shot end’s in an ass kicking.

Surf photographers truly put it all on the line to bring you the breathtaking images you see in surf magazines. Sadly, some great men have lost their lives in their pursuit of that perfect wave or shot, and others have picked up an array of injuries in the process.  Some photographers have been smashed into shallow reefs and others have been caught in the barrel and dislocated limbs trying to protect their equipment. All surf photographers know the risks of their job whether it be interaction with sea life or sea floor.

Let’s take a look at some well-known surf photographers…

LeRoy Grannis: Leroy is the father and icon of modern surf photography. He started his long career in the 60s and quickly became the sport’s most important historian. Leroy captured everything with the feeling of what surfing was and is today.

Clark Little: Clark is the son of a Californian surf photographer. He was born in Napa and rapidly started to photograph surfing through spectacular angles. His work is deeply appreciated and shown in several world galleries.

Don James: Don was one of the first surfers and surf photographers in California. He published a paramount book in the history of surfing: “Prewar Surfing”.

Jack McCoy: Jack is considered one of the most important surf filmmakers of all time, but his interest in surf photography has produced very impressive results. Jack has been exploring the most exotic and exciting waters of Planet Earth for more than three decades. He has developed his own technique and equipment to deliver unbelievable images.

Jeff Divine: Jeff has always been a critic of surfing’s ultra-commercial path. He is one of the first surf photographers in the world and has been a constant name in specialized magazines.

John Severson: John is the inventor of the modern surf magazine. He kicked off “The Surfer” and hired Ron Stoner as a surf photographer. Later, Stoner would enter the world of LSD until being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Aaron Chang: Aaron is a world-renowned photographer. His work has thousands of fans and followers. Chang has over 100 magazine covers to his credit and has an open gallery in Solana Beach, California.

Tim McKenna: Tim is from Australia and enjoys capturing waves from the water and from helicopters. He has been traveling the world for 20 years and his surf photos are all over the world.

Ron Church: Ron was born in Denver, in 1934. His vast knowledge in underwater photography and marine life is quite impressive. For three years, Ron Church was the only American photographer on Cousteau’s Calypso diving team. He lived 39 years and left a vital legacy for all surfers.

Ron Perrot: This Ron was a respected surf photographer of the early 1960s, in Sydney. Back in that time, he was already traveling a lot, for example, to the Seychelles Islands.

John Witzig: John is a surf writer and photographer. He paved the way for many important magazines in Australia. He is considered the voice of Australian surf culture of the mid-60s.

Ricardo Bravo: Ricardo sits in the youngest generation of surf photographers. The Portuguese photojournalist has been building a solid and quality career in the European market. Bravo has the touch and feel of the pioneers.

These are just a few of the many talented individuals that have challenged themselves in the world of surf photography. We as fellow surfers here at Pacific Surf School are so appreciative of every photographer’s work and passion!

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