North Shore Surfing

March 08, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

While in Hawaii, I planned to photograph surfers on the North Shore of Oahu. During my stay, there were three surfing competitions scheduled--two at the Banzai Pipeline and one at Sunset Beach. Unfortunately, things didn't work out as I hoped.

I arrived at the Banzai Pipeline just after sunrise to view the competition. Not knowing anything about surfing, I was pleased to see that the waves were very high. However, as time passed, I was surprised that nobody was in the water. I asked the lifeguard when the competitive event was going to start. He explained that it was cancelled due to "disorganized" waves. Apparently, the choppiness of the sea made it impossible to surf that day.

The next day, I tried my luck at Sunset Beach. I was pleased to see surfers in the ocean. I was there quite early, so the event organizers were still setting up. One of the announcers for the event told me that the surfers at Sunset Beach were going to be "way out there" and that it would require a large telephoto lens to photograph the event. I thought I came prepared with my Nikon 500mm f/4 lens--but that wasn't nearly enough! So, I attached the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter--which gave me an effective focal length of 700mm. And, that really wasn't enough! I couldn't even see the surfers with my naked eye. If nothing else, the magnification of the 700mm lens permitted me to better view the action. And the action was thrilling.

Fortunately, my Nikon D800 has a high resolution sensor. This allows me to crop the frame somewhat without losing too much image quality. Also, the waves were so massive that I decided to frame the entire wave rather than trying to isolate the surfer. This permitted me to retain more of the original file--which also improved the image quality.

I utilized a few tried and true long lens techniques to create sharp images with such a long focal length. First, I secured the lens to a stable tripod. Next, I rested my left hand on top of the lens to help minimize any vibration. Then, I selected a fast shutter speed. When I view the high resolution version of the image below, I can read the print on the surfboard:

Hawaii surfingHawaii surfingSurfing competition (North Shore Surf Shop Pro Junior) at Sunset Beach at 59-104 Kamehameha Hwy on the North Shore of Oahu in Haleiwa, Hawaii on January 28, 2017

The event's announcer told me that I would have better luck the next day at the Banzai Pipeline. He said that the action was much closer to the beach. So, I once again arrived at the Pipeline at sunrise the next morning. The weather seemed suitable to me, but once again I know nothing about the sport. I didn't see anyone at the beach. After wandering around for a few minutes, I came upon this sign:

And with that, my surfing photography came to an end. I was leaving for the airport later that day. Of the three events that I attended, only one took place--and that was the one with the surfers positioned far out into the sea.

To view more of my surfing photographs from Oahu, please CLICK HERE.


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