New Zealand Surfing - - Between Sets -

“I first met Chris Gar­den in the early 2000’s while shoot­ing on as­sign­ment in the deep south. I was still im­mersed in the medium of film and had to wait weeks till I saw my shots, so when Chris pulled out his dig­i­tal cam­era, snap­ping away with in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion I was slightly jeal­ous. He scrolled through a few re­cent im­ages on his screen that sim­ply blew my mind. At the time the qual­ity was far off that re­quired for pub­li­ca­tion, but the waves, line­ups and com­po­si­tion of his shots were fault­less and they were the kind of waves that many only see in their dreams. Chris had taken the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion by the horns and in the com­ing years as tech­nol­ogy grew, so did Chris’s skills be­hind the lens, to a point that to open an email from him has me ex­cited as to what new an­gle, spot, or mind blow­ing wave will open up on my screen.”

- Cory Scott, Ed­i­tor.

How did you get into pho­tog­ra­phy?

I’ve been tak­ing pho­tos most of my life but be­ing a typ­i­cally poor teenager of the film era, I could never af­ford to take as many pho­tos as I would like. Around 2002 how­ever, dig­i­tal cam­eras started com­ing onto the scene, and I was quick to jump on board. Around this time, a few of my mates that I used to go on surf trips with moved away, so I of­ten found my­self cruis­ing the coast solo, look­ing for waves and tak­ing more and more pho­tos. I started get­ting a few good shots, so saved up my pen­nies and in­vested in some de­cent gear. The rest is his­tory. Shoot­ing surf is ob­vi­ously a pas­sion of yours. What else do you shoot?

I love shoot­ing land­scapes, though never seem to be able to find the time to get amongst it. I travel a fair bit too, so en­joy cap­tur­ing the amaz­ing scenes and peo­ple along the way. The last cou­ple of years I’ve been get­ting into shoot­ing wed­dings. Never thought I’d do it but sur­pris­ingly it’s heaps of fun. Lots of pres­sure, and the day is of­ten in­tense, but it’s re­ward­ing and I get to meet lots of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple who are hav­ing an epic day. What do you look for when shoot­ing surf or any sub­ject for that mat­ter?

Per­fec­tion. In terms of surf that means hol­low. I’ve never been in­ter­ested in shoot­ing fat waves... the big­ger and slab­bier the bet­ter! I also try to give waves a con­text, us­ing fore­ground and back­ground not only to frame the wave but also to tell a bit of a story. Broadly speak­ing, I guess I of­ten find my­self look­ing for strong com­po­si­tions, bold colours and unique an­gles. You spend a lot of time shoot­ing from the wa­ter in a re­gion that is renowned not only for its frigid wa­ters, but also big fish of the bit­ing kind. Have you had any close calls, or run ins?

Yeah, I guess there’s prob­a­bly a few big biteys lurk­ing around down here. I’ve seen a cou­ple from land but, for­tu­nately, no close calls in the wa­ter... that I know of. To be hon­est though, I hardly ever give them a thought. When you’re swim­ming around at a bom­bie a kilo­me­tre off­shore, it’s not go­ing to do any good think­ing about sharks. Wa­ter shoot­ing lends it­self to putting you in some dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. Have you had any near death ex­pe­ri­ences chas­ing the per­fect shot? Aside from get­ting cut up on reefs and stuck in nasty cur­rents, I’ve been fairly lucky shoot­ing in the wa­ter, touch wood. That said, there have been plenty of hairy mo­ments. Shoot­ing in the wa­ter of­ten gives me far more of a rush than rid­ing waves ever did. What in­spires you to head out each day, with the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing some­thing, some­times in less than in­spir­ing weather con­di­tions?

The search for per­fec­tion I guess, both in terms of find­ing per­fect waves and tak­ing great pho­tos. Ev­ery photo I’ve ever taken I can pick apart and find ways that it could be bet­ter. That’s what’s kept me so ob­sessed with surf pho­tog­ra­phy - there’s al­ways a bet­ter wave that will break, and a new an­gle to cap­ture it. Shoot­ing surf in the deep south def­i­nitely has its added chal­lenges, and if I waited around for good light to co­in­cide with good waves, my cam­era would sit in its bag most of the time. Down here you have to make the most of what­ever the weather throws at you. Re­gard­less of the con­di­tions, there’s al­ways an op­por­tu­nity for a good shot, and luck­ily down here the wave qual­ity usu­ally makes up for what the lighting lacks.

Who In­spires you?

Ac­tu­ally, I try not to spend too much time look­ing at other peo­ple’s pho­tos. I’m re­ally keen to let my style de­velop on its own, and try not to be in­flu­enced too much by other pho­tog­ra­phers. That said, there are a lot of pho­tog­ra­phers whose work I re­ally like, and too many to sin­gle out just a few. In life, peo­ple who in­spire me are those who are out mak­ing the most of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and en­joy­ing what they do. Noth­ing is more de­press­ing to me than peo­ple who seem stuck in a sit­u­a­tion that doesn’t work for them. There’s ab­so­lutely no rea­son why any­one shouldn’t be do­ing some­thing they en­joy the ma­jor­ity of the time, and it’s never too late to make a change.

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