This article is written for all those dedicated individuals out there who take pride in Surf Photography and capturing moments in those gnarly environments like the surf.
Whether taking pictures from the shore, in the surf or from above the surf – photographing surfers is one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks in sports photography in my opinion. Dreaming of getting into surf photography? Many of us have seen those 4-digit price tags on telelenses, underwater DSLR housings and some of us even gave up the idea of surf photography after all. Well, welcome back, because it is 2018 and you can get pretty good deals online!
Whether taking pictures from the shore, in the surf or from above the surf – photographing surfers is one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks in sports photography in my opinion.
Dreaming of getting into surf photography? Many of us have seen those 4-digit price tags on telelenses, underwater DSLR housings and some of us even gave up the idea of surf photography after all. Well, welcome back, because it is 2018 and you can get pretty good deals online!
Surfing photos and videos in the SURF:
ACTION CAMERA & DSLR
The most popular and easiest solution is to get an action camera with waterproof housing. You will probably need a floatable foam attachment as well just for the safety when the waves decide to grab your camera when recording from the board or in the surf. You will also need some knowledge on how the surf, swell and waves work for your own safety precautions. It’s an environment where a normal human being is not supposed to be. But once you are brave enough and feel confident with the surf, check out some of those cameras to capture this awesome and unforgettable time while in the surf.
HERO 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Records a stunning 1080p@60fps and 720p@60fps video, 8MP still images, time-lapse and bursts up to 5 photos in one second. Built-in touch LCD and speaker. The great deal that will last you a long time. Can not go wrong with the GoPro.
A square version of the GoPro. Widely used to its compact size
AKASO EK7000 4K
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The Current Best-Seller Budget Action camera on Amazon. Comes with plenty of extras, definitely a good and cheaper alternative for GoPro. But GoPro’s quality is of course top of the range.
SJCAM LEGEND SJ6
This Legend deal has probably the best price and quality value here. An awesome action camera that records 1080P@60fps which is all and more you need anyways. Unless you have a MacBook Pro from 2014 edit 4K videos. Or an equivalent laptop with unreal specs – then yeah don’t choose this one since it does not have a 4K recording option. But Since this is a budget list surf photography article – you will get a camera with two batteries and heaps of accessories to keep you going even outside the surf.
NIKON COOLPIX AW130
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Shockproof, Waterproof (100feet) GPS Digital Camera that makes 16 MegaPixel photos and 1080P videos. This camera is a better choice than the regular “Action Cam’s” since it has more features to customize your photography habits, like the zoom that’s up to 120mm, larger and brighter screen and a longer battery life.
Essential Extras for the GoPro in Surf photography
Includes A Bobber, Foam Floaty, Anti-Fog/humidity Inserts, Thumbscrew and a Wrist Strap – all you need for underwater and surf photography when you already have an action cam. Those Mounts are originally for the GoPro, but most probably suit any other Action Cam that has visually the same construction as the GoPro
All these essential extras available from AMAZON
Bobber handle with a trigger
A great and handy way to use the handle with a trigger. A great grab and a useful trigger.
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Telesin GoPro Dome
My favorite gadget for GoPro for sure. Perfect for those 50-50 shots as well. Definitely, a go if you are after many different Pro Shots.
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GoPro Mouth Mount
Awesome gadget to make awesome shots. Whenever you use it, make sure to use it this way as pictured here (Upside down). If it is standing up, it is going to rub your nose and you’ll look like a clown. But by the end of the day – who really cares anyway, right?
Anyway, it’s available on AMAZON
I know the struggle when you choose if you take the GoPro with you or not. Well, I only took it when I went out with my friends, and I could slip the GoPro on my wetsuit’s chest pouch. Otherwise, I know it feels dorky to be there alone with a weird thingy in your mouth – but then again those are some great memories and nice views!
ACTION CAMERA pros and cons in surf photography:
PROS: Action Cameras in surf photography are the easiest way out because they are rather cheap compared to the bulky DSLR with a lens and housing. They weight less than the DSLRs and have a 180-degree view for close shots. Great to shoot with one hand only. Simplicity as it is extremely easy to operate.
CONS: Although many action cameras nowadays make superb pictures, there is still the Image quality in low light performance which is not comparing what the DSLRs has to offer. Taking photos in medium range distance is also a bit tricky since the surfer will not be in total focus. Lack of manual settings to get a different style picture.
GoPro Surf Photography Tips
- When using a GoPro mouth mount, place the camera in front of your chin, not on the nose. It’s more comfortable that way.
- Use a tiny bit of surfboard wax on the housing, and buff it in lightly – so that the water would drip down the lens instantly
- Use time a bobber and write your name inside the camera. If you lose it – someone could return it to you
- Use different shootings settings. Timelapse intervals are great when there’s an intense surf.
- Use dry bags so that the inside of the camera would stay dry
- A great tip is also to use the safety plug and line when attaching the camera on the nose of your board
- One of the mayor photography basics is to shoot a picture vertically straight
With waterproof casing/housing
If you don’t have a DSLR, you could get a good second hand one from anywhere from the internet under $300. But if you already have a DSLR, all you need is a waterproof housing for your camera. Rigid and solid casings usually cost around 1000-2000 USD!!!, so if you already feel like a Borat on the Hummer car-dealer, take a look at the following plastic bags for DSLRs.
BUDGET RANGE PLASTIC BAGS for DSLR Cameras
Though those bags do the trick I would not really recommend it for big surf photography. I have used some of those bags personally on 3-8 feet waves and it lasted for quite a while, sometimes really getting blasted, but you don’t want to drown your camera that’s for sure. These are more suitable for small surf, canoe, and kayak trips, BUT will last for some time if you are careful.
To anyone who has never used or seen any of these bags before – Underwater DSLR bags usually have three finger-holes for the buttons. One for the obvious shooting button and two to adjust the lens. Useful, if you don’t have a fixed focal length lens. 18-70mm range is what you might want to look for in the water.
Would be a safe option for Canoe/Kayak trips rather than surf and big waves
Though Venterior does not claim these bags are for diving, they are still ideal for taking pictures on the boat near the surf, or good for kayaking, rainy days etc.
See the product on AMAZON
This Waterproof DSLR bag claims to be waterproof up to 20 meters or up to 60 feet but I would take cautious going further than 15 feet or 5 meters. It is still great whenever going areas where you need to ensure that the camera would not get wet or dusty.
See this product on AMAZON
Zonman Triple Clamp
I have personally used this bag in low and heavy surf. It lasted quite a while and took the beating, but after 15 times, or 15 hours in the water it started to leak in a little. Total recommendation for careful photographers, or for Canoe, Kayak, Sailing trips. Thumbs up.
See this product on AMAZON
DiCAPac WP-S10 Pro
Total thumbs up on this product. DiCAPac claims this bag to be safely submerged down to 16 feet / 5 meters. DiCAPac makes really great waterproof plastic products.
See the WP-S10 on AMAZON
I have used this rugged bag myself since it has a very secure way to make the bag watertight.
WP-S10 model is for a DSLR with a larger and longer telephoto lens
WP-S5 is for a standard 18mm-70mm lens
Make sure to get the right model, otherwise, if you use a small lens in a big bag, the bag would be really baggy and uncomfortable.
And USE THE BODY CAP when you slide your camera in the bag since you have to attach the lens from the front later. And sometimes lots of dust can end up in your sensor due to the fiddly action of putting the lens on your camera.
High-End and Mirrorless Camera Series Waterproof Case
Suitable for small DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras. Another great and trustworthy product from DiCAPac.
See this product on AMAZON
The most important thing for your own safety in surf photography – is a pair of fins. Due to the currents, it’s crucial to wear SMALL bodyboard, snorkel or swimming fins in the surf – so you could dive under the waves or move away from certain spots FAST if needed. In surf photography, fins that photographers usually find quite convenient are similar to the selection below:
Wildhorn topside snorkel fins
PRICE range: $
Available in size: From Women’s 5 to Men’s 12’5
Check them out on AMAZON
With those fins, you could even freely walk to the water and back out later. Although the size of the fin on this model is quite small – it still gives you a great deal of safety in the surf and currents. The smaller the fin – the less it will tire your ankle as well, and with the mid-size neoprene shoe – there will be not much flutter so don’t worry about the blisters later.
Price Range: $
Available in size: 5 women’s top 15 men’s
A classic pair of swim fins, that you simply slip on. Make sure to get the right size that’s not too loose or tight to prevent getting blisters later. Those fins can be used with wetsuit socks as well.
Check them out on AMAZON
Whether you choose to shoot with a regular 18-100mm range lens or would you like to have the widest point of view as the action cameras provide. The only difference is that those lenses on a DSLR make way better image quality! So here you will find the following budget range fish-eye lenses for your camera:
It is advisable using a lens-hood when possible in your underwater bag since it keeps your UV filter or the lens glass from being scratches with the bag and vice versa
ALTURA 8mm / f 3.0
PRICE $$ / WEIGHT 1.14 pounds / 520 grams
OPTEKA 6.5mm / f3.5
PRICE $$ WEIGHT 0.45 pounds / 200 g
Great Ultra-Wide Fish Eye lens. Just like a GoPro view – the only difference is that with a 180-degree view range you can add way more depth and manual settings into getting the right photo.
NEEWER PRO 8mm / f3.5
PRICE $$ WEIGHT 0.95 pounds / 430 g
KELDA 8mm / f3.5
OSHIRO 8mm / f3.5
PRICE $ – $$ WEIGHT 0.9 pounds / 414 g
See this model for CANON
ROKINON 8mm / f3.5
PRICE $$ – $$$ WEIGHT 1 pound / 450 grams
SHOOTING FROM THE SHORE
BUDGET RANGE TELEPHOTO LENSES
JUPITER 21M – 200mm f4.0
Weight 1000 g / 2.2 pounds
With this old-school lens, you can only shoot in Manual mode and have to set the light manually since a modern DSLR would not recognize the lens.
This Jupiter 21m used to be one of the best consumer class tele-lenses back in the day – and believe me they still make awesome quality pictures. Plus they look cool of.
This lens weighs 1000g, 25% more than an average DSLR body.
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Might sound like too much to fuss around, but you will definitely get more than you pay for! Great lens when you have a 35mm camera and shoot on film as well.
Canon EF 75-300mm
Weight 1.1 pounds / 500 g
A great range lens, but unfortunately the autofocus system uses a DC motor instead of a USM to drive the autofocus – which means modern DSLR will have to use the manual focus. Other than that – a great budget range telelens for such a distance to shoot!
This giant comes with
Built-in tripod collar, 2x doubler (to extend the focal length to 2600mm), t-mount, case, front and rear caps, 10-year warranty. A little overkill to shoot a surf but could get some gnarly pictures far-far (I mean FAR) away from the shore.
Great range, great price for a Manual telelens. This one comes with lens pouch, rear, and front lens caps
OSHIRO 500mm F6.3
WEIGHT 3.3 pounds / 1500 grams
Extreme budget manual lens for most DSLR’s out there. Extremely long range. Comes with large and 10 cm deep sunshade plastic cover, and a neoprene pouch. Filter size is 82mm. It is a very solid and well-built lens.
See the lens for NIKON, CANON, PANASONIC, FUJI, OLYMPUS, PENTAX
Some shots shot with the OSHIRO
Another great manual-focus product that gets you close to the surf from the shore
BOWER 500MM PRESET
WEIGHT 2.6 pounds / 1200 grams
The Cheapest choice from the list. Just be creative and make the most out of that ridiculously low price.
WEIGHT 2.1 pounds / 950 grams
This lens is compatible with Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and Sony – only this you will need is the right T-Mount for the Camera
How many people have you seen taking pictures in the rain? Not many – will be the one and make awesome photos in the rain. Rainy day surfing photos are quite unique.
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SHOOTING FROM THE AIR
Take advantage of the technology-age and get a drone! The choice is wide, prices are low and the outcome is the most professional/cinematic of the choices in surf photography. Though it is advisable to train and get to know the drone on land before flying over the surf.
Record videos at 1080p@60FPS, 16MP Stills, 90-degree capable vertical tilt camera with live first-person view streaming, maximum flight radius 500-meters. The maximum speed of 44mph, battery lasts up to 25 minutes and a return home feature.
I think anyone who has had some contact with the drone world has heard from Parrot. They make super good quality drones that can be trusted. It features all the specs to fulfill your surfing photography needs.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this article. This is just an overall view on a few examples of how to get into surf photography on the budget. There will be more articles about surf photography and more coming shortly. I will be reviewing the other gear like wetsuits, fin’s and so on.
Have a good one!