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By James Dawson, staff writer

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 other people.”
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 with others.
“ 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 at:


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