Surf Photography

I recently had the privilege to sit down with Evan Conway, a Professional Photography student in his last semester at Brooks Institute who specializes in surf photography.   But his creativity and artistic vision have led him to begin carving out a niche photographing waves without anyone riding them.

“You need the right equipment,” Conway said of the challenges to surf photography.  “You need to know how to read the ocean and how to read the waves. If you are not comfortable in the water and being pounded by the surf, then it doesn’t matter how good of a photographer you are, you aren’t going to be able to get the shot,” he said.

Conway spends between 3-6 hours at a time in the water during a typical shoot.  In order to stay warm and comfortable in the water, he wears a 4/3mm wetsuit and booties. On his feet he has his trusty Churchill fins to help propel him through the surf.  In his hands are the tools of his trade: a Canon 5D Mark III in an AquaTech housing.

When the surf is low and there isn’t much action going on most surf photographers have nothing to do.  But that’s exactly when Conway thrives. “That is when I get to have fun and bring out my artistic side,” Conway said.  Normally relegated to shooting at a fast shutter speed such as 1/2000th of a second with action shots he likes to dial down his shutter speed and start to play with motion blur and smaller apertures to experiment. “Using these different photography techniques and blurring the wave a little gives it [the wave] a totally different personality and energy,” Conway said.

“Every surfer is chasing that empty wave,” Conway replied when asked why he likes to shoot empty waves.  “If you can give them that wave with nobody in it, my photograph can let their minds wander into that wave and everyone can have a unique experience with the same photograph.”