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Josh Sanders's picture

Surfing Photography First Attempt

Hi all, been following the group for a while, but I don't normally shoot action sports so I haven't posted here yet. The current Critique the Community inspired me to go back and refinish some surfing shots I took while in Hawaii. I'd never really shot surfing before, but I'm generally pretty happy with the way things turned out. These were shot handheld from shore with the Nikon 28-300mm on a D750--not a professional setup by any means, but good enough to play around with. That being said, these are all cropped pretty significantly, even shooting at 300. I also recognize that not everyone gets to shoot a 12-15 foot day at Pipeline their first time out, so that was definitely a lucky break.

I get out to Hawaii from time to time (though not always in big wave season), so would love to hear any feedback for my next opportunity. I've also been trying to decide which ones to submit to the CTC, but realized I don't have any frame of reference for this type of photography to compare it to.

For my 2 cents, I think #3 might be my favorite of the group. I like #1, but feel like the composition is a little more boring than the others. I find #2 interesting compositionally, and I like that it conveys a sense that the surfer is dropping out of the sky, but I'm not sure if I missed focus slightly or if the highlights on the surfer's rash guard and leg are just playing tricks on my eyes, but it feels a little off to me. I like the more minimalist feel of the last 2 and like the dynamic aspect of the crashing wave, but as surfing shots I'm not sure if they're quite as impressive as dropping into the wave or being in the barrel.

Let me know what you all think!

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While these photos are great images of the waves, I feel like the surfers are secondary to the waves, rather than the subject of the photos.

Not sure why I feel this way. Probably because the surfers are in shadow. I'm trying to think of camera setup ... what type of metering did you use? I use spot metering most of the time, unless I'm shooting a landscape.

Anyway, regardless of setup, if the surfers could be brightened up a bit, I think it would make a huge difference.

Josh Sanders's picture

Hey Thomas, thanks for the comment! I agree in most ways--I was using spot metering, but this was about as far as I could push the exposure in camera without blowing the highlights in the white caps. I tried a few different tools in post to isolate the surfers and bring up the exposure, but usually ended up with at least a little bit of a halo in the water around the surfer (you can still see it a bit in #4). I worked around it as best I could, but may need to go back and give it another try. I generally just shoot landscapes, so I'm not as familiar with the post processing techniques here.

Maybe it was my landscape brain taking over, but I was hoping that the sheer scale of the waves would draw people in, adding to the impressiveness of what the relatively small surfers were doing. I do think that ideally some of these would have a tighter crop as well in order to emphasize the surfer instead of the wave, but as I mentioned they are already cropped fairly heavily, and I think pushing them further risks degrading image quality significantly.

Thanks again for the input, I'll see if I can brighten the surfers a bit!

Cool. I do love the texture and depth you've captured. And IMO the colors in the water are awesome.