Surfin’ Safari

Setting up my camera I was confronted with two exposure problems. The first was the beach’s southern exposure that required me to maintain a shooting angle away from the sun. The second was the surfer’s black wet-suits.

Listen to the Beach Boys to get into the surfing perspective.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

I’ve been doing some background work to better prepare for photographing surfers. Some readers of my blog might recall my recent post about photographing waves (during a Nor’easter). The goals then were to figure out the best lens, and combination of shutter speed and f stop to stop motion. After looking at those photos, although my 70-200mm at 200mm lens did a nice job of capturing the waves, I realized that had there been a surfer in one of those photos he or she would have been pretty small. This meant I would have use the “big glass” and go with my heavy 100-400mm lens at 400mm and tripod.

I also needed to know about detailed surfing conditions and soon discovered there are several websites providing this information. Knowing when the “surf’s up” is rather important for finding surfers. My favorite website for this is Magicseaweed. I also stumbled across a Maine Calling broadcast from a few years ago about Maine surfing. These sources provided me with at least a basic understanding about Maine surfing.

Well, I’ve been on a surfin’ safari for the past few weeks, watching the surf reports and driving up and down the southern coast looking for surfers, to no avail. But today’s weather with a strong cross-wind (generally off-shore wind is preferred since it makes the waves taller), and given that the swells weren’t all that high seemed less than ideal. However, it was a sunny Sunday with the air temperature around 40 degrees F so I figured I would check Higgins Beach. I got to the beach at 9:00 and the place was packed with surfers and dog walkers (one dog came up to me and dropped a ball at my feet, I had to throw it three times back towards his owner before the dog tired of me).

Here, I was confronted with two exposure problems. The first was the beach’s southern exposure that required me to maintain a shooting angle away from the sun. The second was the surfer’s black wet-suits. If you have ever tried to photograph a black dog you know how difficult it is to get any details captured in their fur. The same problem occurs with white dogs and snow. Ideally, for photographers, surfers should wear anything but black or white. In any event, here are some of the day’s participants in the photographs below, including several people who just decided to go in for a dip–without wet-suits!

After shooting for about an hour it was time to “pull up stakes” as the sun was getting to be an ever greater problem. I did speak briefly with one surfer coming out of the water. He had spent several years surfing in California and said that the surfing here in Maine is just as good, except there are fewer good surfing days. And, since Maine’s best surfing is during the fall and winter you need to have a winter wet-suit.

So there you have it. Take surfing lessons, rent a board, and jump in! BTW, surfing is not only good for body and soul, it’s very green.

Finally, I might mention that most of my shots were not tack sharp. In some cases auto-focus was likely thrown off by wave spray. However, I suspect the bigger problem was due to setting image stabilization for panning. Next time I’ll try a faster shutter speed and turn image stabilization off.

Look for my sharpest action surfing shots of the day at my on-line gallery.

Author: Stephen Fielding Images

I'm a retired medical sociologist from the University of Rochester. Climate change is one of the two great challenges facing humanity (the other is nuclear weapons). In writing about the impact of climate change I read reputable books and articles on the topic. So when I make statements about climate change you will see a link taking you to the scientific source(s) of the information I provide. As for my independently published photobooks, each has gone through several layers of editing and peer review for both readability and accuracy. This is not to say that everything I say is accurate. Even the New York Times makes mistakes. So, if you find something that is factually incorrect, let me know. I hope you find reading my blog a positive experience. If you do, please encourage your family and friends to have a look. You can find photos from my other photo work by clicking on the My SmugMug Gallery tab, above. Best wishes, -Steve

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