Surf Photography with the EOS 70D

May 23, 2016

Each winter, the North Shore of Hawaii brings incredible surfers and waves to our islands. Living on the North Shore for those winter months, your days are mainly centered around swells and how to capture unique and different imagery.

For me, it is always been a personal challenge to find different angles and styles of shooting. There are so many different variations to always try.  As digital becomes more accessible to the masses and a love for the ocean forever grows, the number of photographers grows with it.  I am always in search of evolving and being at the cutting edge of technology.

I have been photographing professionally since 2006. At that time I worked with Transworld Surf, and they would assign me to shoot certain surf contests.  I would go out and shoot the photos and edit them that night, e-mailing the selected images to the web guy who would then try to upload them by 10am the next morning.

In 2008, I became a senior staff photographer with Surfer Magazine and covered many more surf contests. Sometimes I would shoot a heat or two in the contest, swim in, and try to upload the images instantly to e-mail so they could be on the website within hours of the actual heat.

With the coming of Instagram and Snapchat, people wanted to be there at the moment and have things instantly. No one liked waiting to see things that everyone knew had already happened. They wanted to see it instantly as it was happening, and I realized that it would be fun to shoot and Wi-Fi directly from the water during a surf contest.

I started to look for a camera last year that would allow me to be able to shoot in DSLR quality and upload my images as needed. I found the Canon EOS 70D to have exactly what I needed in a camera to make this idea work.  It has the speed for the action, the size for maneuverability and ease of use and most importantly, the built in Wi-Fi. 

I am able to shoot photos with DSLR quality right in the water. I use my iPhone with the waterhousing to send the photos via Bluetooth. I can the edit the photos in the water and send them out in real time. No easy mission, but doable.

Shooting this way is a different mindset when doing the live imagery, because you are trying to beat everyone else to get the images out first. When an amazing ride happens, people hear about it within minutes via Twitter; that evening, they may see the image on various social media outlets.  But I wanted to bring them the image from the water within minutes of it happening.  

Being able to tread water and load the images off my DSLR wirelessly straight to my phone in the water is no easy feat, but the results are amazing. People are able to see the views from within the waves almost instantly.

In 2015, Quiksilver approached me to ask if I could shoot their prestigious big wave contest titled The Eddie. The contest does not run every year as the waves need to be at least 40 foot face value plus and must be consistent in size all day long.

On February 25, 2016 the conditions proved to be just right and I swam out into the waves with fins on my feet and my camera in a waterhousing strapped to my wrist. I ended up spending 8 straight hours treading water and shooting while uploading images wirelessly.  

The ease of use with the Canon Camera Connect app helped me to be able to do this relatively fast. That day, history was made not only with some of the largest waves ridden at Waimea Bay, but also with the speed of social media and real time we were able to broadcast from within the water.

I used the Canon 24-105mm IS lens because combined with the EOS 70D’s smaller APS-C size sensor, the focal length gave me both the width and distance I need to be in the channel. This allowed me to stay at a safe distance and still be able to capture the moments needed when they presented themselves.

In previous years, I would shoot a full day of a competition and then go home that evening to edit and upload images to a server.  They would then have the images appearing hopefully by the morning, once someone had uploaded them to the website. The speed and timing were not there for the fast-paced world we live in today.

The 7 fps speed of which the Canon EOS 70D processed was just what was needed for this high-speed action, and its compact size was crucial.  It allowed me to swim out with one hand; and the other with a steel grip on my waterhousing. And, every attribute I've spoken about with the EOS 70D is possible with the recently-introduced successor model, the EOS 80D.

Canon’s new camera technology has allowed my industry to capture new images that were never thought possible in the past, and to deliver them to ever more demanding audiences faster than we could have dreamed of even a few short years ago.

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