Monday, November 11, 2013

Bali for the WCT: Behind the Scenes

Jordy Smith's laid-back style

People think of surf photography as a dream job, and in a lot of ways it is. The avoidance of the office, life on the road, travel to dream surf destinations and working with the rockstars of the surfing world. But things are never quite what they look like on the surface. For me the surface was something I've been scratching at for a while. The surf industry does a good job of glamourising itself, the stories and images the surf magazines and media give off only work to feed the ego. The parties, the boys clubs, the lifestyle...

This winter I needed an internship to complete my degree and Perth was cold, rainy, surfless and pretty much had nothing going on. My salvation came in the form of the WCT tour stop in Keramas in Bali, and one kind photographer who was willing to take me on. We spent three weeks bouncing between shooting the contest and covering some free surfing for a well known surfing magazine. Dream job right?

I learnt a lot over those three weeks. First off I learnt Bali black sand is really really hot, and the sun has no mercy. Long shoots on the black sand meant trying to cover myself in head to toe with sarongs and sunscreen, overheating like a dog locked in a car in the sun. Worst thing is you want to drink water, but if you drink to much you have to pee, and if you pee you'll miss the aerial the guy you're shooting is about to pull and everyone will be really angry at you. Plus how do you pee while holding a 500mm surf lens???

Secondly I learnt that shooting contests isn't a whole lot of fun. Take what's mentioned above, then apply it to a crowded beach from 7am until 5pm. I think what blew me away though was just HOW MANY photographers are on the beach, and they all have great equipment. When something happens (like John John's 10 point aerial), you have to hustle to upload and send it off before it becomes old news. A long day of shooting is followed by an evening of editing, because you have to send your images in for publication no more than a few hours after they're shot, otherwise they become obsolete.

Third thing I learnt was it's all who you know in the boys club. Photographers in the industry have spent many years making their contacts. The pros only shoot with the guys they know, so first off you need a foot in the door and THEN you have to build your relationships. And as far as I can tell, it's very much a boys club.

And the positives? Being on location. Being out of the office. Being part of a team. Staying in team houses. But most of all, the satisfaction when you come home to edit your pictures after a long day of shooting, and they're really good. The feeling that you've nailed it.

*Photographs featured are from an unused shoot at the Keramas contest (all images © Tia Calvo)

Team accommodation 

Can't miss the air shot

Jordy Smith

High emotions
Post work chill time in Lombok