28 May 2011

Riding Waves While Indulging My Inner Shutterbug

As a surfer, I love to ogle the eye-candy produced by professional surf photographers as much as anyone. I also like to take pictures and video myself, of course at an amateur, just-for-fun level. When I'm on the water, I major in surfing and minor in photography/videography. Usually I like to ride at least three waves before my camera comes out, and sometimes it stays sheathed until the end of the session, because I'm there to surf, first and foremost.

I visually record my sessions, as well as blogging them in my wave journal, to remember the day and to share with desk-bound surf buddies and land-lubber family. If I didn't have a camera with me on the water, I wouldn't be able to capture a sunset like this:
or unusual sights like this:
After experimenting over several years with various cameras and different means for carrying them, my current setup is a waterproof Pentax Optio W90 in Golden Hour's Wrist Pod case. The camera requires vigilance in post-surf rinsing and sand removal from the seals, lest I lose some functionality to corrosion (the computer connector port failed soon after purchase) or the entire camera to flooding (like its predecessor, an Optio W80). The Wrist Pod (formerly called Wrist Shot) keeps the camera securely fastened to my arm and protected even in overhead waves, but frees it fast for a shot and then re-wraps quickly if I need to stop playing photographer and turn to catch a wave. It's not a perfect system, but it lets me surf and still take pix when the whim hits.

For all those sweet moments captured on an SD card, there are many more that I miss due to "technical difficulties" or worse, "operator error." I surf in the chilly waters of NorCal, and except on rare summer days, I wear gloves. My 3-mm winter gloves make it especially tricky to push the proper tiny buttons on the camera, and I sometimes embarrassingly tell a buddy I got a video of their ride, only to find I had not in fact hit "record" at the right time. D'oh! And then there is the nature of the on-the-water video itself; water droplets on the lens can obscure the footage, and it's hard to wipe them off with a wet hand.

While occasionally I have captured wildlife images, the seals, sea lions, dolphins, otters and birds that make appearances near the lineup are notoriously hard to record. The marine mammals are typically shy, keeping their distance and diving beneath the sea if I get too close. (And if ever I see a shark, I'm quite sure I won't be thinking about using my camera, unlike that guy last year.) Occasionally I luck into a photo like this:
Like most photographers, I take many, many more shots than I'll ever want to look at again, and I should throw a lot of them away, but instead they live on in digital storage. Within all that chaff, there are a few gems.
Those special photos instantly bring back a memorable moment, like a frosty November dawn patrol at a lonely spot with just my buddy. And I'm glad I had my camera with me.

This post was published on The Inertia on July 25th 2011.


  1. I still have that last shot as my desktop, one of my favorite pictures of me.

  2. It's one of my favorites too. I can still feel the cold and hear the frosty sand crunchy underfoot.