This is from Newquay, Cornwall, a couple of years ago.
This is the end of the road for a lot of people walking through northern Spain.
A Coruna is the second biggest city in Galicia in Spain, with a population of around 250,000. Right in the middle it’s got a stunning beach – one of the loveliest beaches I have ever seen (particularly if you keep your face to the beach and ignore a good whack of the tall office and apartment blocks behind you), with the sports grounds of Deportivo de la Coruna away to your left. Away to your right, if you walk along what is one of the loveliest proms I have ever seen, is this statue of two surfers. It really is gorgeous.
The beach in question is a surfable beach if you have the right conditions. The day I took this photograph (yesterday), they had good conditions for both surfing and bodyboarding; the weather was stunning and the sea was sparkling. I spent some time considering where you could possibly live while having really easy access to surfing beaches and had not really come up with an answer. But I think I could more than easily bear La Coruna. More than Newquay anyway. I did not spend much time there but it was glorious.
The photograph – 40D with the 17-75 stuck on the front. A little bit of work with the highlights and black slider, and then desaturation. Easy peasy.
I’m never going to make it as a professional surf photographer for reasons which include the words “professional” and “surf”. The whole swimming business so far has not attracted me – I’m happy to wade 4 feet into water and have a kitesurfer or 5 jump over me. Swimming out into a wave that is as likely to hurt me as not….I don’t have the guts. I’m man enough to admit that. Woman enough. Whatever. Well being honest, it depends on the wave.
This wave is known as Aileens. Some people (probably not surfing types to be honest) call it Ailleach. I called it Ailleach myself but Aileens appears to be a higher profile brand for it. I had never actually seen it before yesterday which may explain why I took about 400 photographs of it. Her. Which ever.
I’ve seen a bunch of photographs of it – you can’t avoid it really. Most of the photographs I have seen are taken from the water, with the occasional one from the cliffs I think. I have always felt her to be a vicious, selfish wave, which would as soon as spit you out as given you the ride of your life. When I look at waves breaking, as above, I see one of two things, either an eye, or an eagle’s beak (actually, sometimes I think I see Sam the American Eagle). Some of the accounts I have read by surfers who have surfed her have left me with no changed impression. On other occasions, she seems almost benign.
Yesterday she was benign enough to be paddled. But I still think she looks less than friendly. She shut down her break quick enough on a lot of occasions. Yesterday’s hardy bunch of surfers spent a lot of time sitting and waiting for her to present them with a ride.
When I say yesterday was cold, I mean yesterday was cold.
High tide in Lahinch yesterday was very high and some of the kids had an absolute ball playing chicken with the incoming waves. More often than not, they won and beat the waves back up to dry ground. Occasionally they lost and got soaked. But once wet, they were wet. I was cold looking at them.
The journey began maybe two years ago, and it finally reached the first stage, at least, yesterday.
The road from Dublin to Lahinch is getting shorter. From 4 and a half hours the first time I drove it to a fairly reliable three now, it has, from a practical point of view, never been easier to get from east to west provided you can cope with the petrol costs which have doubled in price and the three tolls you meet from a house in north Dublin city to Doolin Point. There are days it’s worth every penny, every minute stuck in the car.
Arriving in Lahinch is different to arriving in Kerry. In Kerry, as you’re coming down mountains into Tralee, you can see the sea for miles out. Lahinch, you’re practically at the chocolate shop before you catch sight of the Atlantic. Yesterday, top right hand corner of my life. Northeast, I call it, through my camera lens, a long line of white breaking beyond the cliffs. I hang a right and head straight for Doolin instead of passing via the carpark in Lahinch which is where I usually stop first. I don’t know why.
All the week, my twitter feed has been full of an epic swell forecast. I couldn’t get in to see the Lahinch surfcam before I left but I left anyway. I could, I suppose, have left earlier; I would not have arrived in Doolin with the midday sun. I just want to take photographs of waves. I can live without the surfers to be honest – I don’t know any of them and I won’t be flogging the photographs anyway – I have this decent wave sized hole in my photography collection and three winters now, I’ve missed epic opportunities to go and take pictures of massive waves just because….just because. And somehow, I just haven’t been taking photographs because…well what’s the point of taking photographs of flowers when what you want are waves?
I don’t know which is my favourite. It probably won’t turn out to be this one, for all that I like it. And I have so much to say about the trip to Clare that I don’t know where to start. But I do know that it marked a stage in a hunt, a hunt which regularly gets delayed by other people’s cares impacting on my life.
Yesterday was mine.
Details – 40D, Sigma 50-500 probably somewhere between 400 and 500. Mashed through Lightroom using the black slider, some exposure help. Shoved through Photoshop because I can’t find a crop tool on Lightroom yet.
Yesterday the sun was shining.
Today I reap the harvest.
I take photographs of kitesurfers, occasionally. And on quite a few occasions, people say things to me like, why don’t you quit the day job and do this full time.
There are a lot of reasons but most of them come down to money. Seriously.
Take a look at this post by Roger Sharp who is one of the top surf photographers in the UK. Surf, not kitesurf. The difference is important because while it might still, just about, be possible to make a living as a surf photographer, I’m not sure there is one kitesurf photographer in the world working exclusively in that zone. Most of them wind up supplementing their income with something else. Wedding and baby pictures. Videography, a bit. Web design. Fashion photography. When I shot the PKRA a few years back, the official photographer was shooting fashion and wildlife in addition to sports. Travel photography. And writing.
One of the reasons I truly love Roger Sharp is that he is a honest writer who calls things as he sees it. The volume of photographs available to look at is flying off the scale, but the money to pay for those photographs…well…there’s less of it.
Orcasurf, the company which publishes Carve, published a great book of surf photography a couple of years ago called Shooting the Curl in which at least one of the photographers interviewed talked about the increasing numbers of photographers in the lineup (there’s a photograph somewhere of about 20 of them on a single wave with 1 single surfer) and the challenges that brings in the business. By the way, I truly recommend that book – it is wonderful.
But I still won’t go into the business, not part time, not full time. It just isn’t worth it for me to give up a job which has a regular income and which pays real actual rent every month to go into an industry which is suffering huge disruption at the moment.