Surfing USA

Chris Dodkin

West Coast Correspondent
Couldn't pass up the opportunity to shoot some surfing action, as I'm here on the California cost.

There are plenty of breaks in the area, but many are difficult to shoot, as they are offshore, and beyond the reach of the camera lens.

That being said, I found a couple of breaks in Oceanside CA, where I could get out on the pier or breakwater, and shoot with the 600mm lens, to get good results.

Also found that wading out knee deep at Swami's near Encinitas, gave me some decent shots with the x2 extender on the 600. Although waves breaking under you when you have your precious camera and lens on a monopod is somewhat unnerving!

Exposure and lighting are a real challenge - the Pacific coast here is only nicely lit early mornings. By mid-morning the sun is coming around and you end up shooting into it, with poor contrast and some flare. So get up early! :p

Exposure is tricky because the surf is bright white, but the surfers are often wearing dark wetsuits - so depending on where your metering lands on the subject, you'd get wildly varying exposures.

The fix for this is to use a hand-held light meter, and manually set the camera to a high shutter speed to freeze the action, and the f-stop recommended by the meter.

Take a few shots, check on the LCD and histogram, and tweak as required.

Then shoot away until the lighting changes.

Support is either a monopod, or full gimbal mount - you need maximum flexibility to pan with the subject, keeping it smooth to ensure a clean capture.

All shots are 1D and 1D MKII - AI Servo AF - Single center AF point selected - full frame.

1200mm shot off of Swami's:


600mm shot off of O'Side:







And finally, the competition! ;)

Good stuff mate. Clear as crystal, and I feel wet just looking at these photos. Keep them coming!
outstanding! a perfect example of where kit is as important as the man behind it IMHO... try doing that with a camera phone!
that said they are to my eye excellent examples of surf photography... i have tried it only once .... and failed... that said, we don't quite as regularly get the sort of waves in england do we... especially in worcester (the severn bore doesnt get this far ;) )
i am very impressed indeed and would love to see more!
Fab set of action shots,full of detail and great timing, I particularly like no 6's composition with that wave to the left of the surfer giving the impression its going to swallow him up.

I always wanted to try surfing have a small problem though I am terrified of fish and I won't invade their space lol