Sunday, February 28, 2010

Who can? Pelican can.

They look like pterodactyls, those crazy flying dinosaurs (yes I did check that I spelt pterodactyl correctly) and they ride waves better than most of us. Pelicans are incredible birds; their fossils have been found dating from as far back as 40 million years ago so they've had plenty of time to adapt to the twin arts of flying and fishing, and inbetween those they've become pretty good at riding waves. There are several reasons why you may have seen them speeding so elegantly along the wall of a clean, unbroken wave while other seabirds are flapping awkwardly out of the way. With a skeleton that contributes to only 10% of their total body weight and a higher than average number of secondary "flight" feathers they are well adapted to either glide to altitudes upwards of a kilometer or skim the surface of a wave. I'd always wondered how they managed to glide mere millimeters above the face of a wave without clipping a wing and splashing in. I was told that they have what can only be described as "fingers" at their wingtips, allowing them to make minute micro-adjustments to their trim, much as we surfers make tiny adjustments to our weight distribution and foot positioning whilst in motion.

Why do they ride waves? I've no idea, but I'd guess that it's purely for the enjoyment of it much as we do, as I can see no practical reason. Perhaps the updraught coming up the face of the wave provides them with more speed, perhaps they just plain dig the view as they race down the line.
If the link betwen the way surfers, animals and birds ride waves preens your feathers then check out "Way of the Bird", a beautiful illustrated childrens book that uses Andy Davis' iconic artwork to tell the story over the background of Andrew Kidmans wavescape photographs. A fantastic concept and an incredible book, whether it's aimed at grommets or not.
Top: Australian Pelican, Kiama, NSW.
Bottom: Crazy pelican symmetry and all the colours blue, Dunsborough, WA.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Books are rad.

If you've never read any books by John Steinbeck, purveyor of stories that capture the beauty, comedy and inescapable tradegy of humanity, then take my advice and go raid your local bookshop.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Importance of Curiosity

You'll have experienced it if you've ever wandered a little way off the beaten track, and if you're carrying surfboards with you then it's a dead cert. Curiosity.

It's your curiosity that has taken you there, so it's only natural that that curiosity is returned.

Adults will often be more restrained, perhaps out of politeness or because they've seen your type before, maybe just because they're not all that surprised; but it's children who have that real insatiable sense of "who, what, where, how?" when they see a stranger in their midst, one who looks radically different and may be dragging a big funny shaped plank around with them.

But there's one important thing to remember if you're seeking or the subject of curiosity. It doesn't happen if you distance yourself from experience: a nice hotel, restaurants, taking a taxi.
It happens when you're immersed in the experience - trying to load your boardbag on, in or under the chicken bus, buying food from a market or from a roadside stall, making a mess of trying to speak the local language, bartering, mucking in and getting amongst it.
Curiosity is how we learn. Mine, yours and theirs. Embrace it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Surfing's Baby Brother

Surfing's baby brother skateboarding has gone and gotten all grown up. Spawned on flat days or windy afternoons to scratch that whole sideways slipping itch, it has grown and grown, spreading where surfing can’t; to anywhere on the planet with a solid smooth surface.

Skate photography has developed with it and quite frankly blows my hair back. The majority of surf action images are restricted to sky, sea and surfer in various combinations and with a narrow range of colours (blue or grey sky, blue, green or grey water and a surfer in boardshorts or a wetsuit…) and it’s pretty rare to find a good eye catching background or foreground.
But look at the options available to the image makers for skating…a static environment, the chance to repeat a trick or run until the shot’s nailed, lighting rigs, colour, outfits, props, long exposures and rear curtain flashes, shooting inside studios, and all manner of complicated photographic techniques that I don’t know enough about because I don’t have to.

I’m not putting down surf photography in the slightest, it’s incredibly difficult and you’re at the mercy of the elements and chance a whole heap more, not to say dangerous for the guys who swim around with heavy water-housings. But I’m envious of the opportunities that skate photogs have to manipulate their subjects and settings, and I’m certain that if I lived in a city I’d spend a lot of time chasing skate rats with my camera. The closest surfing has come is probably the award winning Insight51 “Dopamine” campaign shot by Dustin Humphrey under the artistic direction of Steve Gorrow, but guys are out there trying new things all the time. I can’t wait to see where it takes us.