Sunday, June 16, 2013
Sometimes we can all get a bit picky when checking the surf. I used to employ a rule that if I saw a surfer do three turns on a wave then I'd get straight in there, but if not then I'd stand and scrutinise the waves for ages.
How're the sets hitting the sandbank or reef? How many waves are there in each set and how long between sets? What're the wind and tide doing? How many guys are there on the peak and are they getting good waves?
I hate driving away from good waves, but I also hate paddling out and just wearing close-outs on my head every couple of minutes. In horse racing they check the "going" of the track, whilst cricket commentators always talk about the state of the wicket; in surfing we stand and observe so many interconnected variables before making the decision to commit our time to a particular spot. But at the end of the day, plenty of non-surfers find a lot of value in staring out to sea - we get to do it all the time and with a purpose.
I seem to have an inordinate number of images of the back of my friends heads with the sea in the background. A few years ago I collated a whole load of them into a photo essay called "Watching Waves" which was published on Drift…probably about time I updated that set and framed a load of them.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Brad running a pro-lap back along a remote beach (just a seasonal fishing settlement) littered with debris following a tropical cyclone. Al-Ashkara, Oman, 2010.
I checked my e-mails on Thursday afternoon and found, to my great delight, that one of my images (shown above) had won the best image award at the Beneath The Waves Film Festival Falmouth event. I was really made up…I think it's perhaps the second time that I've submitted images to a photography competition so to win and have my work exhibited was a real honour. The e-mail was to check that I would be attending the event, which was starting in less than four hours... Luckily Falmouth is just down the road so I made it there in time for the intermission between films and got to enjoy the second half of the evening before making a brief, awkward, appearance on stage next to a wall-size projection of one of my images.
Better on the other side of the camera.
The Beneath the Waves Film Festival is an annual event held in Savannah, Georgia, USA, with the aim of encouraging, inspiring and educating scientists, advocates and the general public to produce and promote open-access, engaging marine issue documentaries. It shows documentary films covering topics such as marine conservation, plastic pollution and ocean ecology whilst providing a platform for scientific discussion. Each year there are a series of mini festivals held internationally, with the Falmouth festival coinciding with World Oceans Day (yesterday, June 8th).
Looking around the exhibition space at The Poly, Falmouth, I was really astounded that my image had been selected for the top honour; there were some incredible underwater images and marine photography that captured such a wide range of the issues found around the coastline of the UK. The winning short movie is well worth checking out, and I would really encourage you to click this link through to Sonia Shomalzadeh's website to watch it. Sonia is an artist based in Falmouth who produces enormous and beautiful images of whales drawn in the sand on local beaches; visible for just a single turn of the tide. The video captures her working close-up, walking the beach with just a pointed stick, before pulling back to a viewpoint on the cliffs above from where the grand enormity of her efforts can be appreciated. Her work is spectacular, take a look.
The incredible sand art of Sonia Shomalzadeh.
This was the first year that Beneath the Waves has been hosted in the UK and, judging by the packed cinema, it was a resounding success. Enormous thanks to Lucie, Sarah, and Phil (who is the brother of an old friend of mine and who I haven't seen in perhaps fifteen years, small world huh) who organised the event, and congratulations for putting on such a great show. If you're around any of the cities listed on the poster below on the dates that the festival is being hosted then please go along and help to support and spread the word of marine conservation.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
My hands are starting to get horribly sweaty. It's not the tropical sun getting to me though, but nerves.
It's a Saturday morning in early November 2007 and I'm stood on the sand of Tavarua Island in the South Pacific with three small lengths of palm frond gripped in my outstretched hand and I'm waiting for an American, an Australian, and chance to decide where I surf today.
Prior to a recent change in Fijian Law which had extended land rights to the coral reefs over which islanders fished (and thus meant that island surf resorts such as Tavarua and Namotu could claim exclusive access to several world-class waves) the only way that you could catch a wave at Cloudbreak if you weren't paying US$350 per night to stay on Tavarua was to turn up on changeover day and surf the short window between one set of guests departing and another set arriving. I was staying on the mainland, next to the mangrove swamp and boat ramp that was the jumping off point for these luxury surf resorts, and had asked the lady at the place that I was staying to call ahead and book me a space on the boat out to Cloudbreak for changeover day. Somewhere along the line there had been a mix-up and Tavarua resort were only expecting two of us, rather than the three who jumped out of our skiff into the warm, ankle deep, waters off their beach. Their boat was already almost full of surfers who had boated in from other islands and the mainland, so there was no way around this: we were going to have to draw straws and one of us would be heading back to the soft right-hand reef pass that none of us had travelled to Fiji to surf. I didn't want to put the pressure on myself to draw a straw, let alone go first, so I picked a fallen palm frond out of the undergrowth and tore two long lengths and one short one from it and arranged them in my fist. The others could decide my fate. I offered out my hand, equidistant between the young American surfer who I'd been surfing with all week and the Australian banker who'd unapologetically dropped in on me several times the day before. They both reached out and simultaneously drew a piece of green.
I tried to swallow but my mouth was dry.
It felt as though I was being punched in the chest but from the inside, my heart was beating so hard.
On the count of three we all opened our fists to see who would be taking the two remaining seats on the Tavarua skiff. I exhaled loudly, tried to stifle my smile, and made ready to spend the next few precious hours grabbing my outside rail and hoping that I'd make it to the end of each wave.
This piece was also published online this week by the folks over at Approaching Lines, timed to coincide with the start of the Volcom Fiji Pro 2013. Please head over to Approaching Lines to check out some of the ace content that they're publishing.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
High visibility, high performance, surfing by top UK surfer Toby Donachie at arguably the UK's most famous and most photographed wave earlier this year. It's not often that Toby and his brightly coloured surfboards and wetsuits are outshone, but on this occasion the high visibility award has to go to the fisherman on the breakwater. That jacket is something else.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
I spent today wandering around the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth and came away with three things busying my mind: The first thing hit me when I was less than ten steps inside the front door where I was confronted with the fully restored "Mirror Dinghy #1" and I recalled that repairing the upturned hull in my back yard needs to be higher up my to-do list this summer. I was also reminded of just how much I love the idea of being a lighthouse keeper and the accompanying necessity for circular furniture when I stepped inside the recreation of the communal quarters of the Godrevy lighthouse. And finally, tucked away on the first floor, I was struck by the incredible photography of Alan Villiers.
Villiers was a distinguished sailer, author and photographer who documented the last days of the merchant tall ships through the early twentieth century. His incredible black and white photography depicts life at sea aboard these beautiful vessels honestly and intimately, showing the hard work and the romantic lifestyle led by the sailors who lived and worked under great canvas. The Last of the Tall Ships photographic exhibition runs until July 18th, and you might even manage to time a visit with the Falmouth Classics weekend (the middle weekend in June) which is a classic boat regatta and sea-shanty festival.
- J-Class racing yacht (one of only ten) shot during Falmouth Classics whilst on a completely different, watery assignment. Mat Arney.
- Aboard the Pilot Cutter Hesper, by Mat Arney.
- 'Out on the yard, furling the sail' by Alan Villiers, 1929. Courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich.
- Aboard Parma. Image by Alan Villiers, courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich.
Monday, May 6, 2013
The sun's out and winter seems so long ago all of a sudden. Time for the photos to do the talking, but may I suggest taking the next available opportunity available to you to take a walk across fields, scramble around the rocks, play in the sea, eat burnt food straight off the fire with your fingers, drink a beer whilst the sun's still up, catch your own dinner, sleep in a tent and enjoy being outside whilst the weather's so agreeable.
Oh, and if you happen to pick a copy of this month's Coast magazine off the shelf at your local newsagent, I was lucky enough to score the cover shot and provided photography for an article written by Alex Wade about the "build-your-own" wooden surfboard workshops that my friend James Otter runs. What a nice start to summer!
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Today was finals day at the UK Barista Championship and the last day of the London Coffee Festival, so it seems like an appropriate opportunity to put out a teaser image from a shoot that I did with the guys down at Origin Coffee a while back.
Personally, coffee is a day-off drink. Making good coffee takes a little more effort than simply throwing a bag in a mug and pouring over hot water and milk, and I struggle to find the time or energy when I'm half asleep and in a hurry to get going as I am on most work mornings. So I save it for my days off when I can immerse myself in the process of grinding beans, weighing out my ratios (theres a science to good coffee) and allowing the elements to brew for just long enough. Don't go thinking I'm a coffee snob; I've enjoyed crunching on the grinds at the bottom of a cup of Bali-Coffee and often rely on service station offerings to get me through long drives in the middle of the night. But I've spent enough time being paid to make coffee in the past that I know the value of following a process and being patient. Origin Coffee are an independent coffee roasters based here in Cornwall who supply some of the more discerning restaurants and independent coffee shops across the country. My friend Dave works there as the Barista Trainer, travelling around sharing his knowledge and obsessive scientific approach to hot caffeinated drinks, so I went to work with him one day to photograph what he does and skulk around the roastery taking photos of hessian sacks full of beans and enjoying the smell. We've since put together an article detailing how to make the best coffee in the comfort of your own kitchen, without the need for a cardboard cup or paper money, which hopefully will see the light of day at some point fairly soon. When it does, I'll post up a load more pictures...