Surf Photography 2021

Discussion in 'All Discussions' started by headhigh, Apr 15, 2021.

  1. headhigh

    headhigh Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2009
    You guys are always inspiring me with your beautiful photos. I think I'm ready to take a leap and invest in some gear to take photos of my own.

    Do you have any advise for someone who wants to start taking photos of his friends surfing? I would be starting from scratch gear-wise, but I do have a diverse artistic background. I'm not trying to go too crazy but would like a half-way decent, preferably pre-owned setup to see if photography is something I really want to get into.

    I see myself shooting from land rather than actually in the water.

    Also, any cool photos that you want to share?
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  2. CJsurf

    CJsurf Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    It really depends on your budget. To get the results you see from me you need to spend a minimum of $1,000 used. Is that in your budget?

    These days you can get yourself a good used first generation Canon 7D for $300. To go with it the least expensive lens to do the job is the Canon 300mm F4L which you can buy a nice used one for $700. For about $900 you can get yourself a nice used Canon 100-400 first generation lens. This lens has been my go-to for a few years.

    I just recently upgraded to the 7D Mark II and I think a beginner would actually do better to start out with the original 7D to learn on anyway as the Mark II is considerably more complex in its settings and I'm still not comfortable with the buttons and menus after 2 months of heavy use. I can get the Mark II to do what I want but I have to pause, look at the camera and look for the settings where with the old 7D I could change any setting I needed without even taking my eye out of the eye-cup. I use both of the lenses mentioned above.

    Then you need to learn how to use it. What settings to use when. I was very lucky to get some photography advice from the late Mickie McCarthy and most of all from Dick Meseroll. It was a tiny little tip about camera settings that Mez gave me a few years ago that took my shots from snapshots to what you see from me now.

    Last you need Adobe Lightroom. This program makes the ordinary extraordinary. I've used other editing programs but none work as easily or as effectively as this one.

    Last it helps a lot to have access to some really talented surfers to shoot. The best camera gear in the world won't make bad surfing look good.





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  3. headhigh

    headhigh Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2009
    Thanks for replying, CJ. This is the exact info I needed to get started. $1000 is in my budget for sure.
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  4. Mitchell

    Mitchell Well-Known Member

    Jan 5, 2009
    Big camera distributors have a lot of lightly pre-owned equipment. Adorama, and B&H Photo are two that I buy new/used/remanufactured camera bodies and lenses from regularly and have had good luck.

    A good entry level Nikon or Canon DSLR camera body should run you about $500-$600. I shoot with a Nikon D5600.

    I would start with two lenses so you can take a variety of photos.

    18-55 mm for shooting landscapes where you want to see the beach/scenery i.e. not zoomed in.

    70-200 mm. or 70-300 mm. zoom lens for the majority of your shooting from the beach.

    You should be able to buy both of these lenses together new or lightly used in excellent condition for a total of about $300.

    To give you an idea of zooming lens needs, both pictures below are taken from the beach. The top picture has a focal length of 112mm. The bottom picture has a focal length of 220mm. This is why I pretty much stick with the 70-300 lens when shooting surfers from the beach.


  5. CJsurf

    CJsurf Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    I should add that whatever body you get you want to check the specs for the frame rate and buffer size if you want to shoot sequences. The Original 7D shoots 7 frames per second and the 7D Mark II shoots 10 frames per second. A lot of DSLR cameras only shoot 3 or 4 frames per second where these two bodies are made for sports shooting.

    My old 7D was good for about 20 Raw frames at 7 frames per second before filling the buffer. Here is an example with that camera.

    The 7D Mark II shoots 3 more frames per second and shooting Raw files it doesn't fill the buffer for about 40 frames. Here is a sequence shot with this camera.

    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
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  6. CJsurf

    CJsurf Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    Weatherproofing. Important to note that many cameras and lenses are not weatherproofed or are barley weatherproof. I've shot in some really bad conditions. It was snowing a lot harder than it even looks when I shot this session in February.

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  7. Mitchell

    Mitchell Well-Known Member

    Jan 5, 2009
    I agree completely with you CJ about the frame rate/buffering bottleneck. When shooting in large file sizes/Raw, its the single factor that I run up against most frequently with my Nikon. I get about 3-4 frames per second and run into buffering delays after about 8 shots (2 seconds). Then the camera wont take another shot for a second or two.
  8. CJsurf

    CJsurf Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    The two Canon camera models I mention were designed specifically with sports photography in mind. That comes with the fast rate and powerful buffer and weatherproofing. There are other Canon cameras that will take a better picture (note picture singular) but in terms of performance for sports photography the 7D or the 7D Mark II are the ones you want. I only shoot in Raw file format.

    In Nikon gear the Nikon D500 would be the camera body to match up with the Canon 7D Mark II.
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  9. CJsurf

    CJsurf Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2014
  10. Carson

    Carson Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2006
    What do you lose with that extender? Full stop? More? Not concerned about that with the f 4.5?

    Full disclosure, even when I had good equipment, I was a novice at best.
  11. CJsurf

    CJsurf Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    I believe its one stop but its really not an issue with the R5 and R6. Those cameras shoot high ISOs with little to no noise so shooting surfing at a higher Fstop (which is generally what you want anyway) is no problem.
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  12. CJsurf

    CJsurf Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    Perhaps worth considering, before I got a DSLR I was using a $500 Sony super-zoom point and shoot. That camera is 10 years old and I still have it and believe it or not it performed pretty darned good. There are newer ones out now that are far better than that old Sony.

    This is the current incarnation of my Sony camera. Mine is the 1st generation of this design.

    Here are a couple of old shots I got with that old Sony. In good light it takes pretty damned good pictures.

    Jordy Smith taken in 2014. Click on this one to view it in full resolution to see what the camera is capable of. Biggest downside with this camera were low light performance and that it only shoots Jpeg format.




    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  13. steef

    steef Active Member

    Sep 11, 2019
    I'm still using an old Canon 40D that I bought second hand, and it still takes great pictures. I've thought about upgrading it, but maybe when it finally snaps its last shot.

    A couple things to consider: your memory card matters. To help with filling up a buffer make sure you get a nice fast SD card.

    For lenses, I have the 400mm f/5.6 prime, which is a great lens and I love it, but I often wish I had spent a little more and sacrificed the lighter weight to get the 100-400mm zoom so I could take wider shots to get a better sense of the wave. With the prime lens, I am generally standing at the dunes or on the boardwalk even, and at that, the composition is what it is. I will say that the 400mm focuses very fast and is sharp wide open, but if I have the light I stop it down with f/8 being the sweet spot, imo. I can't speak to the zoom, but people LOVE it and my understanding is it is still very sharp and focuses quickly. There's a reason I see that 100-400 on a bunch of cameras!

    I'd also add that really sturdy tripod legs and head are a great investment. For sharp photos, handholding a big heavy long lens is pretty tough, even with image stabilization and newer cameras that can shoot at high ISO with little to no noise. My opinion, it's a bad idea to put thousands of dollars of equipment on a budget tripod, so spend a little money here too. You might also get by with a monopod, which is also a lot more portable as you're shooting. I've found for me though, I can generally set up in one location at the peak and get decent shots, and it's nice to take my hands off the camera between waves especially when it's freezing outside!
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  14. CJsurf

    CJsurf Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2014
    I have a good tripod and a monopod. I rarely use either. Almost everything you see from me is hand held.
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