Big waves

The awe­some pho­tos of Clark Lit­tle

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This col­lec­tion of images are all fea­tured in my book

Shore­break, and were taken over three years, from 2009-2012. The lo­ca­tions vary from beaches near my home along the famed North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, to breaks in the neigh­bour­ing is­lands, or in Ja­pan, French Poly­ne­sia and Cal­i­for­nia.

My spe­cial­ity is tak­ing pic­tures from the im­pact zone, where a wave breaks on the sand or reef. I cap­ture a unique and some­times dan­ger­ous per­spec­tive of waves from the in­side out, for oth­ers to en­joy from the safety of dry land. Be­ing in this po­si­tion re­quires a per­fectly timed es­cape out the back of the wave when it breaks, af­ter I’ve pulled the trig­ger. The dan­ger is real, and a mis­take in tim­ing could re­sult in a ma­jor in­jury or worse. Each shot is unique due to the lo­ca­tion, time of day, size of wave, tide, wind and other con­di­tions – no two waves are alike! Since I love shoot­ing wildlife, there are also a few shots of sharks and tur­tles in the se­ries too.

Shore­break is the sec­ond book I’ve pub­lished with my team. It was an en­core to the first one, The Shore­break: Art of Clark Lit­tle, which we self-pub­lished in 2009. We wanted to put to­gether a sec­ond book, as we knew there was as­trong de­mand for it and there were so many new pho­tos that weren’t in­cluded in the orig­i­nal. With all of the trav­el­ling that I was do­ing, vis­it­ing events, photo shoots for cor­po­rate cam­paigns, ex­hi­bi­tions and film screen­ings, I was amass­ing a large se­lec­tion that were taken out­side the North Shore. The idea be­hind

Shore­break was for a book that cap­tured my life dur­ing this pe­riod.

None of the ar­eas was specif­i­cally cho­sen, and the largest se­lec­tion of shots come from the North Shore, five min­utes away from my house. The oth­ers were all from the trav­el­ling that I did for dozens of projects. While at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, I would al­ways make a point of jump­ing in the wa­ter and hav­ing a few photo ses­sions. For ex­am­ple, the French Poly­ne­sia shots were from a project I did in Tahiti for an Ap­ple cam­paign.

My main cam­era back then was a D300 with a DX Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8D fish­eye lens, plus a back-up D3 and D200 with AF Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D fisheyes. Each had its own wa­ter hous­ing to pro­tect it from the salt wa­ter and im­pact. The only func­tion and but­ton I put onto my hous­ing cases are a trig­ger for the shut­ter. Once the fo­cus is set, Itape it so it doesn’t change. When I close the cam­era hous­ing case, I don’t need to make any changes. With the drive mode set to Con­tin­u­ous High, the D300 takes eight frames per sec­ond and the D3 nine frames per sec­ond. A wave moves very quickly, so hav­ing the abil­ity to shoot in bursts helped me cap­ture the ac­tion. Us­ing fish­eye lenses en­abled me to in­cor­po­rate as much of the wave as pos­si­ble, while also in­clud­ing some of the gor­geous back­grounds at the beach, in­clud­ing the shore­line, trees and sun­sets.

Big Blue

The im­age ‘Big Blue’ was se­lected as the book cover be­cause it cap­tures the North Shore shore break in its finest form. All of the con­di­tions came to­gether for this shot – tide, wind, wave size, sun­light, wa­ter and clar­ity. It’s also one of my best­selling images, and very pop­u­lar and well known. It was taken around noon, with the sun­light com­ing through the wave from straight above. This lit up both the wave it­self and the sand that’s churned up in­side it.

The thing I love the most about these photographs is how they show peo­ple a per­spec­tive that they could never ex­pe­ri­ence other­wise. Most peo­ple can’t stand where I stand to see these waves and ex­pe­ri­ence this side of na­ture. When I’d cap­tured some of these gems, Iknew, deep in­side, that peo­ple would be very ex­cited about see­ing some­thing new.

1 Char­i­ots of fire

A glassy wave dur­ing sun­set at The Wedge, Cal­i­for­nia’s fa­mous shore break

2 Oc ean ea­gle

A Hawai­ian green sea tur­tle be­hind a break­ing wave in the shal­low waters

3 Big Blue

A large wave hits a shal­low sand­bank, suck­ing sand off the sea floor

4 Tahiti

A ma­jor chal­lenge is avoid­ing wa­ter droplets on the hous­ing’s lens

5 Sun curl

The sun’s rays are per­fectly cap­tured in the arc of an early-morn­ing wave

My spe­cial­ity is tak­ing pic­tures from the im­pact zone. The dan­ger is real, and a mis­take could re­sult in a ma­jor in­jury or worse

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