September 28, 2011 1

Don’t Shoot A Waterfall Horizontally

By in Beach Access, Surfing

Hey event photographers – sorry to jump in front of your frame and fuck up your shot… but thanks for helping to make mine amazing. I think you are missing the big picture though.

He’s Kelly Slater, not JD Salinger – the last time I checked, there were plenty of pictures of Kelly in existence. Does the world really need to see another tightly-cropped shot of Kelly’s face? No offense to the blue-eyed champ, but the answer is no. It’s about the context of where he is that makes for a compelling and interesting photo. The fact that there were swarms of photographers elbowing each other through the surf (including the Quiksilver broadcast cameraman who I personally saw drop a 100k rig into the ocean) – THAT is what was unique about the scenario.

You stood thoughtlessly in a crowd and took the same picture as 20 other people. What did you end up capturing? A redundant and average picture taken at high noon – the textbook wrong time of day for flattering lighting. Come on guys. Know your lane and know your context. You aren’t doing an intimate sitting with Kelly Slater where you designed the lighting, set the creative tone and influenced the final image vis-à-vis your personality and your direction. You aren’t creating a moment on the beach. You are simply capturing one. Capture something interesting. Just because you shoot a tight frame with long lens doesn’t make it a portrait.

This above situation is entirely about the narrative. The greatest surfer to ever live is about to paddle out in the final heat of the largest surf contest in history. The crowd is at a fever pitch with anticipation and excitement. Kelly is hypnotically focused and immersed in concentration. The beach is teeming with photographers flocking aggressively around him trying to get his picture… Hey guess what, photographers – YOU are the interesting angle in this scenario.

An Intimate Portrait of Senator Barack Obama shot for Time by Callie Shell

Here is an example of a brilliant photographer making the right creative choice. This picture was taken by Callie Shell, who shot a wonderful essay on Senator Barak Obama during his run for the Presidency. I really love this photo and her work is always fantastic. Which particular element of this setting would be important to capture? Obama’s in-focus face? Of course not. She chose to showcase the soles of his shoes instead. This decision helped to craft an evocative and humanizing narrative. This picture speaks volumes about the man and his exhausting journey to the White House.

So if you find yourself part of a frenzied herd of photographers desperately vying for an opportunity to shoot the same subject from the same angle, chances are, you are the money shot.

Red Carpet Mayhem - Anywhere, USA

I Thought This Crowd Was Deep Until The Quik Pro NY Happened. The Man - Pipeline, North Shore

Celebrity Shopping - St. Tropez, France

"Look, Mom, I Got A Shot Of Diddy's Shoulder!" Crowds Surround The Mogul While Shopping - St. Tropez, France

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One Response to “Don’t Shoot A Waterfall Horizontally”

  1. Colin Melville says:

    Thats a awesome article along with some awesome pictures. I think you can sum it up like this, you don’t take a photograph you make a photograph, be creative and different not the same as everyone else. Make you picture stand out and don’t care if it’s the odd one out because more people will talk about yours than anyone else’s. Thanks again

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