Most water photographers were
surfers and/or bodyboarders before they picked up the camera
(most still are). For water photographers, surfing carries
into photography. Put a camera in a person’s hands with
a lifelong knowledge about and experience of the ocean, and
the result is amazing water photography.
Anthony Ghiglia, a staff photographer for Surfer Magazine, said, “I
wanted to capture the images I saw when I was surfing.” He
voices a theme of water photographers: the desire to expose angles
and views that can only be seen from within the water.
Another Surfer Magazine staff photographer, Ben DeCamp, agrees, “From
surfing, I knew that there were amazing angles and things I had
seen before that I felt obligated to share with others.” DeCamp
added, “I shoot photos because I have an intense relationship
with nature, specifically the ocean.”
Water photographers all share a love for nature and a love for
the ocean. Ghiglia said, “It keeps me close to the world
that surrounds me and allows me to share my experiences with
Gareth Sheehan, a photographer from New Zealand, said he enjoys, “Trying
to capture the amazing moments that planet earth provides us,
and I love doing it.”
Water photographers also shoot for selfish reasons: they like
to get that one good shot. Chad Stickney, a California water
photographer, videographer, and manufacturer of camera water
housings said, “A gem photo makes my month.” Stickney
has produced two bodyboard videos, Segregation 1 & 2, filmed
in locations such as California, Hawai‘i, Tahiti, and Mexico.
While wanting to capture that special moment is important for
most photographers, it is more important to share that image
The one thing that keeps me going is when someone’s eyes
light up,” said DeCamp.
Sheehan added by saying, “I think the best photos are the
ones which evoke an emotive response from the viewer.”
Another common theme amongst water photographers is their desire
to produce art that is different from everybody else’s.
Photographers’ different approaches show how different
mindsets and perceptions allow them to capture an image that
has never been seen before. Clark Little, an O‘ahu photographer,
likes clean waves that break onto dry sand. Stickney likes to
experiment with helmet cameras. DeCamp uses 3-D photography.
I think my niche is experimental photography,” said DeCamp. “I
can shoot with a wide-angled fish- eye lens, but where I differ
is my approach. Often I’m working on creating a different
visual experience; I’m always trying to push my creativity,
and the limits placed on photography,” he continued.
Sometimes water photographers shoot photos just because it’s
too crowded in the water. If the water is full of people, Ghiglia
said, “Photography is the next best thing to surfing; at
least I can be in the barrel instead of sitting on the beach
watching surfers get barreled all day.”
Instead of fighting for one wave every few minutes, with a little
bit of positioning, a water photographer can be in nearly every
barrel that comes through on a given day.
Another element that remains consistent among water photographers
is the longevity they see for their work. Ghiglia wants to see
his work, “in a series of galleries around the world.” DeCamp
wants in 10 to 20 years from now, “to be working with a
stock agency,” to sell his images. Sheehan brought it back
to love of nature, saying, “I would like to be giving back
to the environment through conservation photography.”
We will see,” he added.
With all of these common elements, it seems water photographers
are constantly on an edge of viewing life that has never been
seen before. With the advance of technology and knowledge of
the ocean, the photos that water photographers create are breaking
new ground with every approaching ocean swell. They will, as
DeCamp said about the future of water photography, “explore
other areas of surfing that need to be documented and expressed.”
To see the work of these photographers, visit their Web sites