What better way to remember that sick wave you caught than to capture it on camera?! Here at San Diego Surf School, we are lucky to have photographers that are passionate about catching both waves and pics. I sat down and talked with Kendall and Chris, our surf photographers, about their interest in surf photography and how they are able to capture such epic pictures of surfers. Both are awesome surfers and great photographers. They know what to look for when taking pictures and are able to capture that surfing stoke. So what does the stoke look like? All we had to do was ask!
Meet Kendall and Chris…
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GO INTO SURF PHOTOGRAPHY?
I have always grown up in and around the water. When I was a kid, I got a GoPro for Christmas, and that is where it all started to snowball. I made my first print and saw the impact it had on people as a piece of art instead of just a jpeg on a social media site.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND ON PHOTOGRAPHY? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS?
I founded Kendall Leue Photography in 2014 and have been practicing professional photography since then. I have always been into creativity and art. I paint, draw, design, film, and of course do photography. I live to create and make new connections with different mediums.
When I grew up my dad had a canon DSLR camera that he always used to photograph important and fun events throughout my childhood. I always loved looking through all of the photos and memories and really valued having a unique way to look back upon all my vacations, sports games, holidays, music performances, and family gatherings. Once I moved away from home I realized after a year that I no longer had a gallery of photos being taken that I could look back on, so I decided to purchase a DSLR and GoPro in order to capture important moments in my life. As a surfer and surf instructor, surfing has become a significant aspect of my life so the transition into surf photography happened naturally.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL GOAL?
Ideally, I would be able to practice photography alongside other media and be able to be a living paid artist. I want art to be accessible to all, no matter how big or small. I want to touch my audience and leave a memorable impression. I would hope that they remember my art and in a way, to be kept in mind is a way to maintain an artistic dialogue with my audience. To make a lasting impact is a success in my book.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN TAKING PICS?
The first thing I will look at before deciding to go to the beach and take photos is the surf forecast. I’ll check the swell, wind, and tide to make sure that there is going to be good surf. In San Diego, if the surf is pumping there will always be lots of surfers catching great rides to take photos of. The second thing I will look at is the lighting conditions. I have gotten most of my favorite photos in the morning when the sunlight is soft and shining right on the front of the waves. If it is foggy or past midday, the lighting is often really hard to manage.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT TAKING THESE KINDS OF PHOTOS?
Growing up in and around the water, it only feels natural. As an artist, I am not just a photographer. Being in the water and swimming with the waves I can literally feel the image coming to me. Being able to feel the waves and stay in tune with the rhythm of the sets adds so much more intensity to the image. The best work comes from love, passion and connection. SO naturally I feel this is my best work.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT SURF PHOTOGRAPHY?
The hardest part about surf photography is capturing the exact split second moment where maneuvers are performed. Most surfers want to see the moment where they hang five, hit an off the lip, lay into a carve. These moments happen really quick and you don’t want to miss them because they might only happen for one half second during a two hour surf session. If the photo is out of focus, or someone walks in the way, you’ll miss the shot and might not get the opportunity again.
HOW DOES THIS KIND OF PHOTOGRAPHY DIFFER FROM OTHER KINDS OF PHOTOGRAPHY?
What I believe differs most in surf photography is the fact that you are swimming in surf, sometimes big surf. There is a lot more to prepare for and do, in essence you are preparing for two activities at a time. It is the ultimate multitasking challenge, and to be able to perform well can be difficult.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I get to be in my favorite place in the world, doing what I have been passionate about for most of my life, and I get to deliver that passion and love in my photos. I’m grateful for photography as a medium. There are few better feelings than being in the water and playing in the waves while I get to snap pictures of a moment that usually lasts a split second on the last breath of a wave. I find that profoundly beautiful. I’m doing my two favorite things in the world and I’m in my happy place when I’m doing them. I hardly want to call this a job.
My favorite part of the job is actually sharing the photos with the surfers themselves. It’s always super rewarding to see a great photo of yourself surfing and performing a maneuver because it’s not something you can achieve by just yourself. It’s very hard to actually know exactly what you look like when you’re surfing because you don’t have the ability to watch yourself from the beach, and having a handful of photos of yourself surfing can help you improve your form, fix mistakes, or just be a really rewarding image to look at and share.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SURF PHOTOGRAPHY BEING A MIX BETWEEN ART AND SURFING?
I would argue that surf photography could only exist because of the mix between art and surfing. You have to love both surfing and photography, and to combine them you have to live for them. If you have to make art in order to live then I would consider surf photography pure art.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?
Stay stoked and be nice to your fellow ocean goers <3.
Now you know what goes into capturing that perfect moment in the water. The next time you book a lesson with pictures you’ll know who’s behind the lens. We know surf photography requires a lot of passion, practice, and patience and for that we are grateful to be able to work with these amazing and talented people that love what they do.