One of the reasons for my month long trip to Sri Lanka was to get in the water and improve my photography amongst the waves. Shooting in the surf is a lot more difficult than people imagine and you have to have some knowledge of that environment before you even get in.
Tides, currents, rips and big swells are all just some of the components that can make life challenging for photographers that shoot in the surf. Having a knowledge of these factors (which differ in every single location you shoot, and even day-to-day in the same place) can make life a whole lot easier, and safer.
I was apprehensive about shooting at these surf spots if I’d never even been to them before so I decided to start by exploring on foot and shooting from land with a longer lens. I don’t have my own long lens, but am lucky enough to have friends that trust me with theirs, so borrowed one from Caitlin (you da best) – unfortunately this Canon lens wasn’t really compatible with my Fuji camera body and with the converter worked okay but meant I had to manual focus for every shot. If you know anything about cameras and focusing whilst shooting MOVING SUBJECTS this was a bit of a nightmare, but made me work extra hard to get the shot. Sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got, and I’m really happy with how some of these turned out. It’s not all as easy as it looks on instagram folks.
First time @ Plantation Surf Spot (Midigama)
Coconut Surf Spot (Midigama)
The first time I jumped into the water was on a small swell at Weligama as the waves are more forgiving and it’s a beach break so no sharp reef to be thrown down on.
Here are a few of my images from that sunrise session…
Having made friends with a few Dutch guys who surfed everyday, I now had people to go out with and shoot which made my life a hell of a lot easier and also safer in the water as I had people looking out for me (you guys are awesome btw). I ended up in the water with them pretty much everyday and improved my photography (and duck-diving!) skills in the surf SOOO much. Thanks Janick, Joost and Stijn for being my surfing buddies, friends and best models a gal could ask for.
Sri Lanka has given me so much inspiration and love for photographing in the surf. I don’t think I’m ever gonna be photographing in massive swells and freezing onshore winds, but tropical waters and turtle spotting mid surf suits me quite well.
I also improved my own surfing quite a bit, conquered a fear of big waves and had my photo snapped a fair few times looking like I know what I’m doing (or not zzz) – this won’t be the last time I shoot in Sri Lanka, that’s for sure…
The best thing about forcing yourself into situations that scare you is they really do make you grow. Being as prepared as you can definitely helps (and keeps you safe!) but don’t be afraid to face some of those challenges and get your head wet.
I swallowed more seawater and cut my feet on coral more times than I can count, but it was soooo worth it.
See ya in the surf ✌🏼