Surf Photography is not easy. You are working with the elements of wind, and of course a body of water that does it’s own thing.
Amongst that you are trying to capture a surfer moving through that with fast motions. Just like any sport, the difficulty is making the fast moving object (in this case a surfer on their board) the main focus of the frame.
Capturing surfing from the beach, while keeping you and your camera out of harms way may only leave you with beautiful ocean landscape shots with a surfer in it. You need to keep finding the great angles. Always find the vantage point close to the break. At an angle to the wave is preferable, even better is looking down the barrel with the surfer coming towards you. This will gives a great impression and makes the surfer the focal point of the shot.
This means of course, that getting in the water will be your best bet. This doesn’t mean you have to buy an expensive waterproof camera. Outex has fantastic coverings shaped for many styles of cameras that work brilliantly.
Get as close to the action as you can! The closer you can get to the surfer the better. Closer means extra detail – facial expressions, the flecks of water coming off the board. The detail is what can make the leap from okay photographer to professional.
Make the surfer fill the frame. If it’s all water and a speck of a surfer it won’t be as exciting a shot. Unless it’s epic surf and it’s going to add to the visuals, like the wave face coming down over the surfer.
Shutter Speed – this is important as the waves and surfer will be moving fast. A slow aperture will leave you with blurs across your frame. A good start would be to use a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second or faster. An ISO of 100 and 800 should be enough. The lower the ISO, the less ‘noise’ you will be dealing with. Try having the aperture around f/8. It gives a greater depth of field so you can keep more of the surfer and wave in focus.
However, this is all up to you and your eye. Make sure to practice with your camera as they all have different standards. If you are using the outex, set your camera to what you would like before heading out into the water. Changing apertures can be difficult with the cover and the added element of waves and surfers.
Essentially, the best thing when tackling surf photography is to know your equipment and practice, practice, practice. Take some time out in the water, then look back at your shots to analyse and see what you could do better next time. Just remember editing can’t fix everything.