P.O.V Killed The Photography Star
The winds of change don't blow so often in surf photography, but we're feeling a gust right now. P.O.V, being point-of-view, is a term some readers'll associate with the kinda websites that require age verification. But more recently, Stab has come to glue the term with images like the one y'see above. It's Shane Dorian, steaming through a barrel at Teahupoo, captured recently by Shane himself. Surfers everywhere are documenting what they see, from their own P.O.V.
"Yeah, photogs must be tripping," says Kelly Slater. "Surfers actually can capture the best angles but haven't had the cam for it til now. Nothing replaces lineups and long lenses but close-up P.O.V is pretty rad overall."
Recently, a small handful of surfers have been capturing the best angles we've ever seen. There's two ends of the spectrum: Maybe this is is the beginning of the end for surf photography as we know it, or maybe this is a passing fad that viewers'll tire of by year's-end. Stab guesses the reality lies somewhere in between, but we dialled Shane in just to make sure…
Stab: I feel like all the best surf imagery I've seen lately have come from surfers like you. Please discuss.
Shane Dorian: The intro of GoPros makes it so much easier to get a surfer's perspective. Really unusual angles you're not used to seeing. We'll keep seeing it, but I don't know how far it can go. Y'know that GoPro commercial with Anthony Walsh, where he's in the barrel and there's that camera behind him? Healey and I were wearing them at Teahupoo. You look like such a fucking idiot wearing it. It's a harness that goes around your waist and back, with a skinny pole that has a GoPro attached to it. You rig it up to aim however you want it.
A lineup of guys with GoPro in their mouths has gotta feel dorky. It feels really dorky, f'sure. And I don't see myself as that guy who fucken has GoPros all over the place. I'm so not that guy. In fact, I cringe when I see that. But I saw that footage of Anthony Walsh and was like, man, there's something there. I was actually down in Tahiti filming a TV show, and they wanted to get some different perspectives, so that was part of the reason I was using it. It's a framegrab from a video clip.
Who's the best surf photographer in the world right now? Wow. Kelly Slater. That shit he shot with his GoPro is unbelievable. In the US I'd say Chris Burkard is up there as an overall photographer, and as far as action goes I'd say Pat Stacey is up there, too.
Who do you think has the potential to get the best shot? Mark Healey. Or Anthony Walsh. Just 'cause every time they surf, they have a GoPro. They're on it. GoPros are not the easiest things to use well. For me, it's easy to fuck up the whole deal. I got lucky. I'm not the most tech-savvy person, so I feel lucky getting those images. It's pretty easy to get your photos back and have them all suck.
In the top five best things about a session at maxing Chopes, where does seeing the documentation afterwards rate? There's nothing better than sitting in the channel. I'd much rather be sitting there on a boat or a jetski watching the carnage, than surfing myself. On those really big days, it's such a circus nowadays. I try to actually avoid it. I didn't really surf this swell. Being out there in that chicken fight with jetskis is not that fun. It's rad to see footage of young guys like Koa Rothman getting an insane wave and riding it really well. I don't know what answer you're looking for here.
I ain't looking for anything, just wondering if footage is a tree-falls-in-the-woods type deal. We've all been so desensitised by seeing amazing images of Teahupoo that it's difficult to surprise anyone. We've seen it all before there, no one's doing anything different out there on those tow swells. It's reached its limits. Guys are performing really well, but in reality it's nothing new. It's funny though, how you've seen it all before but it's still so exciting to see.
There was a lot of men trying to get that one Koa got. Y'know, he didn't just accidentally get that wave. Laird was driving his ski and they were going, period. It was rad that Koa was willing and psyched to go on that wave, but in order to get a wave like that at Teahupoo, you have to be holding the rope that's connected to the right ski, with the right guy driving, or else you have no chance. There was 10 skis going for that wave.
What's most attractive: The cover of a surfing magazine, 30k new Instagram followers, or your most 'liked' shot ever? Getting a cover, f'sure. It's super fun to get a cover shot. Y'know, each mag only has 12 a year. It's so hard to get a photo that's deemed worthy of getting a cover. Especially if you're not the super cool guy.
You're the super cool guy Shane! (Scathing, high-pitched laughter). Well, y'know what I mean. When you're the flavour of the month guy it rains covers, but if you're not, it's really difficult to land yourself a great cover shot. And Instagram is neat for creativity and it's fun for me to follow people I'm interested in following, I really dig it, but I really don't care how many followers I have, and I post whatever the fuck I want.
How long til we see an action self-portrait on a cover? Minutes. It seems like they're already worthy. With those GoPros, I haven't figured out a way to do the photo-burst mode and get it clear. The resolution on a screengrab when it's in video mode isn't high enough to get a cover shot. On the photo-burst mode it is, but people have had a hard time getting the white balance straight. I know that Mark Healey was really trying to get an insane shot with that set-up on his back in the photo burst mode, but he got his photos back and they're all blown-out, all white. Once the tech's there, it'll change. That framegrab I sent you, if that was a photo-burst photo and super crystal clear resolution, it would be super cover-worthy, I think. Or, one of Healey's. I definitely think it's on its way. – Elliot Struck