Big Swell, “The Wedge” (Newport Beach, CA) and Photographing Surfers

Big Swell at the Wedge
newport beach ca august 29 2011 affad shaikh

To keep my sanity I have tried to take some time each week to develop a hobby and skill in an area of interest that I haven’t spent much time pursuing.  Photography is something I have found to be fascinating.  The ability to capture a moment and make it last forever is captivating for me, further, to share across mediums to people across the world is even more enticing.  Mixed media and art in general is something that I am attracted to.  I find that my passion in art is directed to political and social messages.  I believe art has a immense way to shift perceptions and develop support in a way that changes society.

Photography is a hands on hobby, one that requires the practitioner to be an active participant in its process.  It takes immense investment in equipment to really get into it.  This monetary barrier keeps away lots of folks, and thats probably for the better (debatable?).  Besides equipment there is software and hardware now that requires substantial amounts of cash to manipulate the images.  But if you can overcome all these hurdles and the barriers to learning the new hardware and software ins-an-outs don’t turn you off.

But I chose to pursue photography as a means of retaining my sanity during law school.  There are probably significant benefits and other aspects of my interests that I could explore, but why waste your time now?

So the “big swell”- wondering what the heck is that?  Well it has something to do with water, ocean, waves and surfing, if you made those connections, then there really isn’t much else to enlighten you on.  But I can help you figure out “the wedge” element- that is basically the portion of beach in Newport Beach peninsula that is wedged between the outcropping of a rock jetty.  When the southern waves come in right, the conditions are just perfect, there are 30 foot waves that smash into the beach!  Last week we had the pleasure of having the “right conditions” and since I couldn’t brave the waves to surf myself, I decided to take out the Nikon D90 SLR to capture the surfers and body boarders braving the “the wedge”.

But the thing with photography is that you can’t just go out and “point and shoot”.  That’s not the purpose of an SLR and you shouldn’t be using the SLR in the “automatic” setting!  To learn SLR techniques the internet is full of amazing resources.  I did a quick google search for “surfing photography tips” and pulled up hundreds of sites devoted to sharing some great techniques to capture those perfect shots.

Personally I found’s “How To Shoot Dramatic Surfing Photo’s” ; Travis Owney’s “Surf Photography Tips and Short Recount of My Thrashing” along with “Surf Photography 101” by Mike Baird all to be really helped me make the most of my trip to the wedge as a photographer.

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