What went into planning the shoot?
New England is not often known for its surfing culture. In fact, people who have lived their entire lives on the shoreline are surprised when they see a surfer in the water. However, from Rhode Island to the tip of Maine the north east coastline is covered in beautiful surfable beaches, surf shops, and thousands of surfers of all ages. The original concept for the shoot was an editorial series that showed the freezing winter conditions that a select few surfers brave to catch the biggest New England waves.
What was the concept of the shoot?
Since I knew the skies would be dark and stormy, I wanted the surfboard to have a lot of color in contrast. So I used a retro shortboard from the 80’s to really make it stand out in the snow. This also helped make the surfer more interesting since being covered head to toe in a wetsuit you don’t get a lot of personality from him. With few exceptions, wetsuits tend to be mostly black with some dark blue. This looks good against the white snow but just doesn’t show very much detail. The colorful retro board becomes the surfer’s personality.
What story were you trying to tell with your image?
Some of the best surfing in New England comes in the winter right before and after a nor’easter. Hundreds of dedicated surfers brave these storms and frigid waters for the chance to catch epic waves. A lot of the imagery of these surfers is of the surfing itself which makes for great photos but you cant see the snow and ice in the water. You can’t feel how cold the air and water is. I wanted to create an image that tells the viewer what it felt like to not just surf those waves but to be on that cold shore in the snow before and after.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was predicting the weather and surf conditions. Timing is everything when surfing in the North East. I wanted there to be snow in the images and great waves in the background. Not every storm that produced waves had snow and not every snowstorm produced waves. Because of this I had scouted several locations that produce waves under different conditions. For the month of January every time snow was predicted I went and checked these locations for surf. As an Outdoor Adventure photographer knowing the sports you are photographing is extremely important. When your studio is the outdoors the more you know the better you can manage problems that arise, things like weather. You also have to be in the same shape as the athletes you are photographing so that you can be in these locations under the same conditions. Whether that is hanging off a cliff in the case of Rock Climbing or running on the beach during a snowstorm in January with surfers.
About Michael DeStefano