The North East of England has the most amazing surf on offer if you know exactly where to find it. Seems I looked in all the wrong places during July this year as it was flat, flat, flat. Not to be defeated I packed my van ready to chase waves… the Outer Hebrides and Devon were calling!
An 8 hour drive saw us arrive on the Isle of Skye in much need of sleep, it was dark so I decided to take a chance and turn down the nearest track, wondering if I had picked one of the great viewing points we had read so much about… as it turns out we hadn’t read enough… we woke to the sound of a cow just outside the van only to discover we had spent the night in a grave yard! It was time to hit the road again ready to catch the ferry to the neighbouring Isle of Uist. North Uist was mind blowing… soft white sand, turquoise water and empty breaks… we were stoked. A few days around Hosta and we were back on the ferry heading for the Isle of Harris/Lewis. The mini tornado which had hit Lewis the day before we arrived turning cars and lifting roofs, had cleared. Our first stop was to be the cliff break Valtos… feeling somewhat disappointed by the 3’ on shore conditions we decided to make some food then venture up the coast. We started chatting to a local surfer named Sophie who had just left the water. I was looking for the most amazing surf and wondered if Sophie would know exactly where to find it. Seems she did as we found our way to Dalmore and scored an excellent session. The next morning we checked the surf but it had dropped off quite a bit so we were on the road to Europie but it turned out to be small and messy…. as was Bravas, Arnol and Bragar. Long discussions lead us back to Dalmore in hope that the rising tide would work its magic but it hadn’t. My wave lust got the better of me and I went in anyway… sadly it turned out to be one of those… ‘’I wish I hadn’t bothered’’ sessions!? I was leaving the water a little disgruntled to say the least as this was our last day on Lewis, when I spotted Sophie on the beach waving. I walked over for a chat explaining how I craved one last surf before we started the second leg of our journey to Devon. Sophie and her friend Laura told us to hang around for low tide as this is when ‘’Dumpy Dalmore’’ is at its best.
We grabbed some food then I reached for my camera… awaiting the miracle. I watched as local surfers began to enter the water but the 2-3’ conditions were doing nothing for me. Then slowly but surely as the tide decreased the swell increased to 5’… I actually left the camera on its tripod and ran for my board! Was it coincidence that we had bumped into Sophie and Laura? Either way I’m glad we did or I could have been chasing waves all the way back to Newcastle. We left the water as it got dark and I collected my camera from the beach. I really should have been taking pictures but I didn’t, I surfed. I’ll never forget that surf, everything about it was perfect… clean punchy waves, stunning views and great company! I did however pick up my camera when we arrived in Devon, sacrificing precious surf time to capture the most amazing light as the sun began to set over the water… the question was… digital or analogue!?
I shot this photo digitally in the studio, as I wanted to create a surf silhouette against a red background. I set my camera to Manual, ISO 100, White balance to flash, shutter speed 1/125 sec and aperture f16. In order to create the silhouette, I photographed my subject against a light source creating a strong contrast between light and dark, emphasising the subject. I used a white scoop, x1 large soft box on low power purely as a modelling lamp, allowing me to focus on my subject (not slaved to background lights), x2 flash heads with spill kills and red lighting gels as my background lights (behind and to the side of the subject, aim for even lighting), x2 8’ boards either side of my subject to stop the flash light from filling in unwanted detail.
If you haven’t used a camera manually in the studio, all is not lost, in fact some of my favourite silhouette shots were taken during sunsets or sunrise with a LOMO L-CA. Position yourself so that your subject is between you and a strong light source and release the shutter. I enjoy Lomography’s care free… ‘Break all the rules’ approach to photography but I also believe in learning the rules before you break them. This will help you create the effects you want depending on the conditions you are shooting in. Or simply choose to be a true Lomographer… shoot without thinking and enjoy making happy mistakes.