Here at the San Diego Surf School, we have a lot of talented people working hard to make sure that we can share the stoke with others and teach them about our love of surfing and the ocean. While our team is made up of many instructors that we see on a day to day basis and are the ones working hard to teach people how to surf, we also have amazing people working behind the scenes that you may not notice initially, but are extremely important and talented. We are lucky enough to have surf photographers that combine their passions of photography and the ocean to produce beautiful pictures of people surfing.
In order to get to know our photographers better, I sat down to talk to them about what it’s like to take these kinds of pictures and their backgrounds in photography. We have three photographers at the San Diego Surf School, their names are Tanner, Nik, and Danny. Learn more about them and their work with the San Diego Surf School!
How did you get into photography? How did you start taking pictures in surf photography?
I got into photography by being part of a group. I was supposed to be the funny guy in the videos that were made and being on that team, I gradually became very curious with photography. So eventually, I bought my own camera and started taking pictures and just kept taking pictures and making videos. With surf photography I have always wanted to do action photography and that opportunity was laid out for me by working at San Diego Surf School. So after applying and getting hired, yeah, the rest is history.
I started in photography in high school when I was in journalism and yearbook, I would write my stories and eventually want to take my own pictures. When I started shooting I realized how difficult it was and it bothered me that I couldn’t do it and luckily my teacher and her husband were photographers and mentored me for a few years so I could master the basics. Once I left highschool and had worked sporadically I slowly picked up gigs in college and eventually started my own business and it has taken me all over the world to shoot anything and everything. Surf photography as a genre has eluded me because I am from Phoenix, Arizona. I have shot surfers on occasion if I happen to be shooting in Hawaii, but never on a consistent basis. I have spent most of my professional career shooting sports so far and action sports like surfing sounded like a new challenge that would hopefully take me out of my comfort zone.
I got into photography at a young age when I would play around with the family camera. My dad realized I loved taking pictures so he got me my first camera at around 10 years old and the rest is history. I got into surf photography after I had shot a few of my friends surfing and I realized I was able to turn my passion for photography and the beach into a job.
Why are you passionate about this work?
Okay, so one thing I love about surf photography is to be able to capture moments, especially when a client. You can capture that moment of when a client first gets on that wave for the first time or is able to stand up on the board for the first time, you can just see in their face, the excitement and the adrenaline rush as they’re standing up. It’s just it’s not like anything, just capturing moments in any situation, it’s just a beautiful thing to be honest.
Photography is the thing I love most in the world, I think I find it fascinating because of how unique the work is, there are few other things that require such a singular focus and presence to do it right. There is a comfort in knowing that you can be 100% present in the moment, enough to capture it completely because so often in other aspects in life it is hard to be present and engaged all the time.
I love doing all kinds of photography and love the beach so when I get to combine them it makes it a dream come true! I love surfing photos because it’s such a big tradition of Southern California and it combines my love of photography and the beach and mixes them together. When it comes to mixing a sport with photography, it lets you capture the effort people put into their hobbies and it gives the photographer the ability to express certain emotions using elements around them.
What kind of things do you look for when you’re taking pictures?
Things I look for several things. So one thing I look for are people’s emotions. So I like to capture those emotions in the pictures that I take. Whether it’s happiness, you know, being sad or confused, it’s almost like you’re documenting an experience. And I love that type of photography, just documenting.
Depending on the day, if I am shooting for someone else, like the surf school or a client I am looking for their sort of image wishlist, usually it is the same or similar; sharp focus, clean backgrounds, and some sort of motion in the light. Other times, shooting for myself I may look for little symmetries in nature or cites, odd light or just something interesting.
When taking pictures for the surf school there are a few key items I’m always keeping my eyes open. I’m looking to see someone going for a wave and really putting in the effort to try and get it and also if there is something funny I see happening, I will try to capture it so they will be able to relive the memories.
All of our photographers at the San Diego Surf School are excited to be able to do something they are so passionate about. Now, the next time you paddle out, you’ll know who’s behind the lens!