Stab Magazine | Life Behind The Lens, with Tom Carey

Life Behind The Lens, with Tom Carey

Given the amount of world class surf photographers that use ’em, it’s quite clear that Canon are the most obvious choice when it comes to taking world class surf photos. Stab lensman Tom Carey discovered their tech early on and never looked back. Because we dig specifics, and because Mr Carey is the best kind of camera tech […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 7 minutes

CanonEC365Given the amount of world class surf photographers that use ’em, it’s quite clear that Canon are the most obvious choice when it comes to taking world class surf photos. Stab lensman Tom Carey discovered their tech early on and never looked back. Because we dig specifics, and because Mr Carey is the best kind of camera tech nerd (see also: V professional), we had him curate some of his favourite self-taken photos, and detail the precise setup for each one.

On a less pro but still quality level, we’ve been digging the PowerShot D30. These little things pack serious punch and are completely waterproof. They’ll dive 25m deep, handle shock from a 2m drop, capture with a 12.1 Megapixel HS System, and use GPS to log your shots. Pretty much the perfect camera to throw in your bag prior to departure on a surf mission or extended trip. If that sounds like your bag, catch more details here.


Pat Schmidt, Parker Coffin, Carlos Munoz in Puerto Rico
Camera: Canon WaterProof PowerShot D30
Lens: 5-25mm
Shutter: 1/500th of a second
Aperture: f5.6
ISO: 250

The Powershot D30 is my go to party/thrasher camera. I can leave it in my pocket and jump in the ocean or take into the pool and shoot those candid moments you’d miss setting a water housing up. I put my gear through the ringer so this little point and shoot camera suits me perfectly. It’s also super affordable and has a zoom lens, something a lot of the waterproof cams these days lack.



Josh Kerr, Baja California
Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV
Lens: Canon EF 300mm f2.8 L series
Shutter: 1/1000th of a second
Aperture: f5.6
ISO: 200

Before that lens was stolen, it was my go-to setup. It’s the sharpest lens Canon makes in my mind and when you have the ability to throw a 1.4x teleconverter on the lens, it becomes a real diverse and lightweight machine. You can hide out easier, eliminate the tripod and take a load off your back.


Mitch Coleborn, Off the Wall, North Shore, Oahu
Camera: Canon EOS 5D
Lens: Canon EF 15mm f2.8
Flash: Canon 550ex
Shutter: 1/30th of a second
Aperture: f5.6

This is one of the most tack-sharp photos I’ve ever taken. It’s hard to get the right exposure when you bring the flash into the equation. Some part of the photo can easily get blown out or too much motion blur can come into play. The hardest part is that you could only take one photo because of the flash and it’s recycle times. Your timing needs to be impeccable. After all the years of shooting flash photos this image really resonates with me.



Mitch Coleborn, Mason Ho, Ford Archbold, Alex Smith and Ozzie Wright, Salani Village, Samoa
Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV
Lens: Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM
Shutter:1/60th of a second
Aperture: f6.3
ISO: 400

The 50mm lens is a such a great, inexpensive tool to have in your bag. It’s amazing in the water, perfect for portraits. It’s lightweight, quick and responsive. Obviously the 50mm f1.2 L series is sharper but for the price and the fact it can fit in a water housing, you can’t go wrong with that lens. The depth of field for portraits is awesome as well. Even here on this group portrait it’s sharp all the way to the edges of the frame.



Nate Tyler Simelue Island, Indonesia
Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV
Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4 L Series
Shutter: 1/1250th of a second
Aperture: f5.6
ISO: 125

The 600mm is a beast of a lens. Once the industry standard for surf photographers, it seems like a lot of guys are pulling back and packing smaller lenses. But sometimes that extra length comes in handy. This photo of Nate Tyler was shot off a reef that straddled an epic, peaky beachbreak. The 600mm is nice because it compresses the background and blurs it out. The trees in the photo seem so much closer than they actually are. The photos are so sharp with this lens as well. However be prepared to use a monopod or tripod to keep it steady. I tend to use my 200-400mm Canon lens a lot more because it’s easier to travel with but you can’t beat the old 600mm.



John John Florence Western Australia
Camera: Canon EOS 1D-X
Lens: Canon 70-200mm f2.8 with 1.4x teleconverter
Shutter: 1/1250th of a second
Aperture: f/4
ISO: 500

When the Canon 1D-X came out it changed my life. It was the camera I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It’s the first camera that enabled you to shoot at an extremely high ISO with magazine quality. For photojournalism it’s insane. You can shoot indoors, at bars, music venues and low light surfing with out jeopardising the quality of your images. It doesn’t look like it here but I was running out of light and I needed to pump that ISO up a lot. In the past ISO 500 would be out of the question if you wanted an image blown up as a spread. I popped on my 1.4x extender to my 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens. The quality is still amazing with the converter on the lens. It’s gives you a pretty good range when you’re trying to shoot pulled back.



Parker Coffin, Santa Barbara
Camera: Canon EOS 1D-X
Lens: Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L series
Shutter: 1/1250th of a second
Aperture: f5.6
ISO: 200

The 17-40mm lens is as close to a fisheye and 50mm zoom as you can get. It’s perfect for wedgy, shallow waves like this one where you know you’re going to be shooting in the flats. I’ve been seeing a lot guys using the 16-35mm f2.8 Canon out at places like Pipe and OTW. It’s a fun lens to use when you’ve realised you’re out of position for the wide angle. It really picks up the slack when you need a bit more lens.



Jamie O’Brien, Off The Wall, North Shore, Oahu
Camera: Canon EOS 1D-X
Lens: Canon 8-15mm f4 fisheye
Shutter: 1/1600th of a second
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 400

I was the happiest camper when Canon came out with their new fisheye zoom lens. For a while everyone was stuck using the Tokina fisheye. But it was worth the wait. It seems like they listened to the consumer on this one as well. The shade is removable and for water shooters that’s a big deal. You can now get the lens super close to the glass of the dome port which means sharper photos. Before we had to grind down the metal shade on the 15mm. It was dangerous and easy to scratch your lens. Surfers move so much faster in Hawaii and being able to pump the ISO up to 400 with the 1D-X was a big help. And on the other hand, shooting at f/8 helped keep this image sharp as Jamie was super close to me. This shot landed on the cover of Stab and is one of my personal favourites.



Mitch Coleborn, The Peak, Simelue Island, Indonesia
Camera: Canon EOS 1D-X
Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f4
Shutter: 1/1250th of a second
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 200

I try not to buy too much gear these days but I feel like every water photographer should have the 70-200mm f/4 lens in their repertoire. It’s so damn light and sharp. It’s hard to believe it performs so well for the price. You can find it for under $700 these days. I have this lens and the f/2.8 version but I only use the f/4 in the water due to it’s weight, size and responsiveness. With a full frame sensor like the 1D-X that 70-200mm range is perfect for every angle.



Nate Tyler, Puerto Rico
Camera: Canon EOS 1D-X
Lens: Canon EF 200-400mm f/4 L series lens with built in 1.4x teleconverter
Shutter: 1/2000th of a second
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 200

My spine would like to thank Canon for making this lens. The 200-400mm is like every great telephoto lens rolled into one. I can now leave my 600mm, my 300mm and my 70-200mm f2.8 at home. It fits in a carry-on backpack. You’re able to hand hold the thing and the ability to zoom is such an advantage. I can go from 200mm’s to almost 600mm with the flick of a switch. The lens is also really sharp for such a big zoom. I’d say it’s worth selling your 600mm and 300mm if you have one and invest in this rig.



Dillon Perillo, Telo Islands, Indonesia
Camera: Canon EOS 60D converted to Infrared
Lens: Canon EF 300mm f2.8 USM L series
Shutter: 1/500th of a second
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 400

A few years ago I took an old Canon 60d and had it converted to an infrared camera. It’s one more thing to pack when traveling but it you’re heading somewhere like Indo it’s worth taking. The palm trees light up like snow and it makes for some crazy photos. It’s a hard camera to use for surf as it needs a lot of light and you have to shoot in on f/8 for some reason or the images will be soft. And once you convert the camera by taking off the infrared filter there’s no turning back. I wasn’t the first to do it or anything like that but it sure is fun.


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