First In A continuing Series:
1) When did you start shooting surf? My first dabble in surf photography came in the early 1970’s when my dad showed me how to use his Argus 35mm rangefinder which was exclusively loaded with Kodachrome slide film. Never got any good results because his short lens could not cut it. But I learned the importance of getting the correct shutter and f-stop combination and properly framing subject matter as slide film was not friendly to improper exposure and composure. In 1977 I got my first real surf photo gear, an Olympus OM-1 MD with a 28mm, 50mm and 70-200mm Soligor Zoom. Most important in this early effort was my experience with Kodachrome which I used but had no idea that it was the industry standard at the time.
3) First photo published, was it film or digital and how much did you get paid? My first ever shot published in a surf magazine was actually two shots in the June 1980 issue of Surfer Magazine. The first was a two page color photo of Manasquan’s Chris Rooney carving a cutback at the Inlet during a great late November swell in 1979. The second was a black and white shot of Chris pulling off a pretty radical layback from the same shoot. The color shot paid $100 and the black and white fetched 20 bucks. Both shots were made on Kodachrome 64, 1/250 sec @ f8 with a 600mm lens on my Olympus OM 1-MD camera body. Surfing magazine published an article I had written about the same time that included several photos by Dick Meseroll. Florida-based Wave Rider also published a lengthy article I penned on surfing and ocean pollution in Jersey and featured about a dozen of my shots. I made over $400 just from surf magazine shots and words that spring and was able to buy a waterhousing.
4) Biggest photo buyout? My biggest photo payday was not a single event but was the decade from 1977 to 1987 when I freelanced in the newspaper industry. Working nights and weekends while holding down a full-time career, I worked in my own darkroom and sold enough images to rake in about $30,000 over those years. That kept me in film, supplies and gear pretty well.
5) Favorite place to shoot and why? Currently, I have two favorite places to shoot, Manasquan and Sebastian Inlets. It is all about the angles and there are so many options at both of these that you can almost always get something no one else got on every shoot. I am pretty well known at both and have some perspectives on Manasquan Inlet that nobody else has access to. (Although I may share one with a friend next week).
6) Non-surf image you are most stoked on? Paul McCartney at Giants Stadium August 2016.
7) Photog you admire and find inspirational to your work? Every shooter has others who influenced or mentored them. Merkel, Brewer, Woody and Devine really got the goods in the 70’s and 80’s. But for me, Larry “Flame” Moore and Dick Meseroll really inspired and guided me early in my career. I admire them immensely for their contributions to surf photography and publishing. When I first started shooting, Flame would never criticize and would always offer tips on how to get better surf shots, even though I was a young kid wasting his time by sending him pretty gnarly slides. He set the standard how images would be made in “Larry Light.” Meaning everything would be front lit and preferably, the wave riders face could be recognizable in each image. Meanwhile, Mez helped show that there was an international media market for the Jersey boys and always coached me on how important it was to get your shots to have perspective. Like get the pier or the rocks or the beach umbrella or boat in the frame. And Mez got Right Coast surfing where it needed to go by co-founding ESM. With Tom Dugan. I am grateful for their guidance in my early years.
8) If you could pick a place to travel and photograph all expenses paid where would it be and why? There are loads of places I need to hit and shoot in this lifetime. But for today, if someone was to foot the bill, I would love to shoot surfing at the 2020 Olympic Games. That would be a once in a lifetime opportunity of historic significance. Rubbing elbows with the best never hurts you. (DM me on Instagram if you want to cover my expenses).
9) How do you feel about the rise of digital imaging, social media “platforms” and the semi-slow death of print media? I am saddened by the decline of print media and surf magazines in particular. A monthly surf mag would sit around the house for months and you read it cover to cover over and over until the titles, slogans and quotes got burned into your brain. When you recited things like “A Day Beyond Description” or “Full-on Full-time” to someone you had an instant connection with them. Digital photography has changed the game as everyone can be a shooter and post it up on social media. There is the advantage of instant information and image sharing but the lasting impressions are rare. You just gotta’ work harder for your shots to separate you from the crowd. That could mean get up extra early, stay extra late, look for the angles and, most importantly, know your subject matter well.
10) Any other comments on the state of photography today good, bad and ugly? Photography today is better than ever, unless you are a film purist. It permits more people to make quality images without the effort or training required in the film and manual focus era. Sharing with family and friends is effortless. Create and share images is what we all do. Some of us just happen to operate on a different level.
11) Current equipment? In the bag (or vehicle) we got a pair of Nikon D-2xs, a D7100, Nikkor 18-140mm, Nikkor 70-300mm, Tamron 300mm/2.8, Nikkor 50-200mm, Nikkor 18-70mm, Sigma 70-210mm, Nikkor 80-400mm, Sigma 150-600mm and 2 Newer dedicated speedlites.