I just want to say the water was freezing but they were having a ball.
As I’ve mentioned before I am not a surf photographer and there are people out there who are five million times better at this than I am. Also they spend time in the water whereas I, I stand on top of a cliff getting vertigo instead.
This is from Saturday.
This off the coast of Doolin, not too far from Crab Island.
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.
Things have been a little tight on the photography front lately – I have been doing other things involving computers and looking at satellite imagery but not taking very many photographs of my own. I’d like to get to Sligo for some of the big waves before they leave us again by the spring…maybe I will be lucky.
This photograph was taken in Brittany last March. I got a lot of really nice shots there which I haven’t finished harvesting for the site yet. This was taken on the Pointe de Raz, a lovely, lovely part of the coast of Brittany and which I learned, age 15 how to pronounce correctly (apparently I was doing it wrong, dammit).
What I see in this photograph are endless possibilities, endless options, I think it’s a suitable way to look at the start of a new year, when the days are (slowly) getting longer and (apparently) getting slightly warmer. We haven’t done too badly on the weather front this year (so far no snow) (and not much frost).
I intend to go back to Brittany again this year; I would have liked to go in March again but that’s unlikely to be practical at this point in time so it’s more likely to be September. There are a raft of places in Finistere and Morbihan that something pulls me back, such as the Pointe du Raz, and the boatgraveyard of the Blavet River. But I would also like to go t the Ile de Sein and Ouessant this time, and possibly, Belle-Ile. I will need time.
Now, in January, is a time for dreaming and planning, and thinking about places to go.
I haven’t taken that many photographs this year.
I’d like to say it’s not because I have a crisis or anything.
It’s a beautiful sunny morning here in Dublin, with a glittering blue sky. Maybe I should have been up earlier. Maybe, maybe not. I’ve spent 30 minutes this morning looking at surf photographs, wave periods and weather forecasts. It looks like today might have been the day to go to Clare, not tomorrow. I may not now travel. I’m looking for one special photograph this year; I don’t know what it is but I don’t think it’s a kite photograph and anything I don’t think I took any photographs of kitesurfing this year. Would have liked to go to the Aer Lingus KSP in Mayo but the way things worked out, I just couldn’t until the very last day and it poured rain that day. I really couldn’t face the four and a half hour drive to not take photographs in the rain. Because I know that’s what would happen. I live in Ireland. I spent half of my early days taking pictures in the rain and I know, if what you are looking for is one special beat of your heart, and you have spent a lot of time in many conditions looking for it, you know sure as hell where you’re not going to find it. Pity I couldn’t make it the previous week but them’s the breaks.
So I haven’t taken that many photographs this year. I don’t – unlike previous down years – think it’s because I’m losing skill with the camera (see this post from around a year and a half ago on this). I’ve been very lucky this year. I have take a lot of photographs I love, including two which are sitting in my parents home on canvas waiting for a wall for me to hang them on. I’m happy with some of what came from Finland, very happy with some of what came from the Tall Ships, very happy with some from Clare, like this:
I’ve learned a lot about myself. In fact, I started this journey on a surf photography course with Lucia Griggi when I discovered I didn’t care about being a professional surf photographer. I’d always written off being a professional photographer living in Ireland because I couldn’t face the weddings which are pretty much the bread and butter. But I had idly wondered about surf photography. I can’t do it because…for me the business side of things leaves me completely and utterly cold.
There’s this moment, when you’re taking kitesurf, or wave photographs, when you’re standing there, snapping away, wondering where to stand, where to point. Mostly this is a bigger deal when I am standing on the point in Doolin, my absolute favourite place to take wave or spray photographs, and I don’t know where I’ll get the next perfect sculpture either against a rock or rolling on. You have very little time to make those decisions and it is exhilerating. To some extent it’s the same with the kitesurfers.
So I might take somewhere between 300 and 1500 photographs of a day and I’ve had all this exhileration of trying to second guess the sea, wondering will this be the photograph, the one that I have to print on canvas or, if and when the wave photograph comes, the one I do try to get in the magazines. I’ll drive home – and it’s a three and a half, four hour drive from Doolin to Dublin – not knowing, waiting, and hoping that in the tiny box beside me – is a photograph of my dreams.
That hope ends for better or worse when you open up a computer and start finding out. That hope, that wonder, that exhilaration turns into a cold assessment of what’s a definite goner and what you can do something with. Invariably, most of the time you’ll be disappointed.
I’ve seen many different assessments of how many throwaways a photographer might expect to have out of any individual session. A keep rate of 5-20% seems to be the most common amongst the people I’ve talked to about this. You get one keeper in twenty, you’re doing well.
That’s an awful lot of disappointment to be overcome. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get one huge star of a photograph that will define that day but mostly, what you get….is a few keepers and nothing life changing. This is what photography is for me. A few stars over the last 6-7 years, a few keepers and an awful lot of disappointment.
I couldn’t do it for money.
So I can’t see myself ever making it as a surf photographer either. I know in my heart that there are people who are far better than I at it anyway. If you don’t me, hop over to Clubofthewaves.com and have a look for Mickey Smith – even better, here’s a link. And pick up Tonnta and Carve any time you’re in a newsagent that has them. Tonnta in particular have published some extraordinary shots of his.
The tagline on this site is “Notes from a photographer on a journey”. I guess what this note is saying that I’m still on that journey but I’m at a crossroads, and I’m rejecting routes on that crossroads by process of elimination. I don’t want to go the club photography route, the wedding photography route, the prosurf photographer route…Sometimes, it seems, you just go where the road takes you and somewhere at the end there might be something special to make the journey worth it. Call it soulphotographer if you like.
And now for your more regular service of things I have seen on the web that you might want to have a look at:
Michael Clark spoke at Google lately. His adventure sports photography book is a must have if you’re interested in adventure sports. Here’s a link to the talk.
Roger Sharp has some hints for submitting stuff to the surf magazines. He’s connected to Carve and Tonnta so his advice is Well Worth Following. Have a look for that here.
I get my weather wind and waves information from Windguru and Magic Seaweed most of the time. Also Surf Republic are good with the forecasts for Ireland and they have links to even more surfcams than I do.
On Saturday, I took a mosey around the south docks and had an eerie feeling at the contrast between the yesteryear mood of the tall ship masts and the late twentieth century architecture that surrounds the quays in Dublin these days. And I was reminded of something.
A few weeks ago I was in the National Library and they have a few photographs on exhibition there (amongst other things – it’s worth a wander in if you have time some day) including, at the moment, this one of a ship in front of the Customs House. That photograph dates from 1858 according to its catalogue, by the way and there is also this one from William Lawrence, sometime beween 1890 and 1900 I think. I like to think that in the hey day of sail, the quays would have been full of masts like the photo above depicts. Of the photographs I took of the ships, it’s the one I like most; a chaotic collection of masts and ropes and flags and rolled up sails.
The Tall Ships appear to have been a huge success in Dublin. I’ve always wanted to have a closer look at them again because of some of the stunning photographs I have seen by Guillaume and Philippe Plisson like this one of the Belem. (some info about the Belem here). Word has it there were around 200,000 people in the city centre to see them sail off yesterday. That’s quite extraordinary; would make me want to see it happen again and soon.
I’m sorry I wasn’t in a helicoptre for yesterday; I was in Cork so a long way off. However, the Irish Defence Forces had someone flying around and some of the results are here. Worth a look at their other shots here.
Sailing ships are beautiful. I still feel for the loss of the Asgard II although you can now go and look at the Asgard (I) in the museum in Collins Barracks.
and the old and the new again.