An inception style moment, veteran still photographer and long time friend of Stab, Alan Van Gysen snatches a moment featuring fellow lensman Beren Hall on tools.
A Photographer’s Guide To Longevity
With those who spend more time than most under an ultra-violet barrage; Kai Neville, Beren Hall, Ryan Miller, Shane Fletcher And Dylan Roberts.
It's a simple formula; protect your skin, don't get cancer, live longer.
But still, we continue to venture outside and plunge unprotected into a warm bath of DNA scrambling radiation. We're all guilty. So, we gasp at the horrible fact that a very preventable form of skin cancer, melanoma, is the most common cancer to be diagnosed in young Australians.
In school they told us to slip, slop and slap. A basic jingle that's all well and good during prepubescent years with mum and a handbag containing anything you'll ever need to fend off the rays. However, now we're all (debatably) grown up, probably lazier and (from your skin to your heart) damaged.
Let's talk about surf photographers, they spend a ridiculous amount of time outdoors – standing in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time is at the top of the job's requirements. When you're out all day in remote locations with limited access to prescribed protective measures, taking care of your skin becomes difficult. What we see in their final films is a result of all this.
So, for our most recent joint operation with Pretty Shady, we called five of our favourite lens handlers to extract a few intelligent tricks they've learned along the way.
Turns out they've become very skilled in the art of dodging UV bullets. The wrap: it's either be smart or face the perils of that giant burning ball 150,000kms away.
Go on, slide down. Absorb the wisdom.
Beren Hall - Sunscreen and Zinc
Beren Hall is a man of multi-talents. From management to top tier surf cinematography, he's ridden shotgun alongside guys like Dion Agius and Craig Anderson, played a key role in films like Slow Dance, Strange Rumblings and even clocked timesheets as a senior visual creative here at Stab HQ.
"Filming surfing for a job has some obvious perks, but one of the big downsides is the amount of ultraviolet radiation we’re exposed to daily," Mr Hall tells Stab. "If I’m shooting I’ll always try and hunt down some shade to film from, provided the angle isn’t terrible. However in certain locations that just ain’t possible. The worst I’ve experienced is shooting from the reefs in Indonesia on low tide. It’s super hot and there’s zero shade. If the waves are good, and you’ve got a big crew on the boat, you can be out there for six-to-eight hours straight."
"My main rules are to wear long sleeve lightweight shirts with a collar and large brimmed hats, but most importantly cake your head in sunscreen with at least SPF30+ and zinc. I try and find the best one for being in the water while still having a high SPF rating."
Kai Neville - Hats
Surely one of the biggest names in surf film, there's little reason to regurgitate the lengthy list of achievements lining Kai Neville's LinkedIn profile. He basically visually revolutionised the game with the likes of Cluster, Modern Collective and Lost Atlas.
"You really want to protect your beak," says Kai. "Mine's prone to going bright red and no one wants to hit unwind later looking like a lobster after a day of shooting. Lately, I have been wearing a leather wide brim. I bought it at some fishing shop in Tassie when I realised I didn’t have a hat. It's weathering nicely."
"Wide brims are a pretty strong option. Otherwise your ears will cop it. Having a bottle of water is pretty key too. Some photographers I’ve shot with have camel packs, hooded lycra shirts, the works. Actually as dumb as those hooded lycra shirts look, they work incredibly to protect you from the elements."
Shane Fletcher - Collared Shirts
It must be validating having one of the world's most exciting freesurfers recruit you as their personal filmer. Just ask Shane Fletcher, seasoned vet behind a red button, who had a stint shooting for Noa Deane and produced the thumping Pulp.
"Why protect your skin?" Shane asks. "Well, that's a no-brainer. I mean aside from getting sizzled and feeling like death later that night, no one wants sultana features and a leather back. And cancer, whoa! Let's stay away from that one!"
"My go-to for protection in addition to sunscreen and shades would definitely be a long sleeve collar and a Turkish towel. Personally, I don’t like big hats cause the wind usually plays havoc with you and when your heads in the camera you don’t want to be getting blown around or have the brim folding in your face, but they definitely offer more protection. So yeah, white long sleeve and thin cotton wrap over the face and neck works for me. Even when I’m shooting somewhere cold like Morocco the wrap helps for wind shelter too. I back 'em. You want cotton or linen too. Something that breathes – stay away from poly blends and anything nylon!
Ryan Miller - Sunglasses
Ryan Miller is the World Tour's much adored still frame photographer. Wherever the top 34 go, he goes. Not only are his images world class, but he has the personality to match, allowing him the advantage of capturing surfing's high performers in their natural state.
"I have a pair of shades almost as big as snowboard goggles that are my favourite," Ryan explains. "I imagine most people just think I’m trying to be an kook, but I truly love the coverage those face shields give me."
"I was in France last year and Carissa Moore was asking me why I’m always so damn pale. I was embarrassed at first then realised I take my paleness as a point of pride. I’m not trying to look like some alligator skin handbag when I’m older. As I started to answer her I realised that I subconsciously hide from the sun any chance I can get. If I am in a parking lot I’ll gravitate towards the shaded side of a larger vehicle and stand in its shadow. Screw the best angle for the surfing, often I’ll pick the angle I am going to shoot from based on how much shade is available in that location."
Dylan Roberts - Shade
Currently on the books as Stab's man of all things motion picture, Dylan Roberts has forged a fine life for himself travelling and shooting for various names at the calibre of Julian Wilson, Jack Freestone, Mitch Coleborne, Alana Blanchard and Mitch Crews.
"Besides the painfully obvious and the really scary stuff like skin cancer, later in life I don't want to have a weathered face and look way older then I am – sunscreen and shade always can help with this," says Dylan. "The best angle and the way your footage is looking is generally the priority, but you definitely want to place yourself in some shade if its nearby, anything that you can hide under."
"I always find Indonesia and boat trips pretty taxing on your body. Usually you have to swim all your gear in to shore, carry it a few hundred metres across reef up to a good shooting location, and then pray that you have some shade to hide under while shooting for hours. The flip side is you score super fun waves. So, although you're dying from heat, you're at least being productive."
"Sunscreen, always. Plus a bit of zinc on my lip and a thin Turkish towel draped over my head. The towel is a winner, it blocks out the sun and doubles up cutting out glare on my camera, making it easier to see what I'm trying to shoot."
"Once I was shooting in the Telos Islands in Indonesia on a beach that didn't have any shade. I was stuck in the direct sun all day hiding under my towel. It ended up being so hot my phone overheated, I couldn't even play music to pass the time!"