Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?
My name is Emy and I’m an Australian Surf and Underwater Photographer living in Sayulita, Mexico. I’ve been a professional photographer for 3 years now, working as a designer and a photographer. In May 2018, I decided to quit my full-time design job to pursue my dreams of living in Latin America, being a Full-Time photographer, speaking Spanish fluently, surfing every day and creating wonderful human connections. I’m having a bloody wonderful time at attempting all 4 things. I love anything to do with Latino Music and shaking my booty, endless adventures, longboarding, the ocean (kinda obvious) and photography. You’ll find me cruising around with a big fat smile and crazy blonde curls, sometimes with one foot on the ground and my head in the clouds but most of the time, floating around in the sea.
What equipment do you use to create your images and why did you select it?
I shoot with a Canon 7D Mark2 and an AquaTech housing. I chose AquaTech because Ocean Photographers I aspire to, recommended it to me. I also love the functionality, durability and design of the housing. I chose the Canon 7D Mark ii because of the autofocus capabilities which are well suited to Sports Photography, it presents some limitations by not being full frame but other than that, I love it!
What would be your favourite lens and why?
For surf photography, I love shooting with my Canon 70-200mm. It gives me room to sit far away and still get a wide shot at 70mm or I can right in the action and get beautifully detailed shots.
For under the water I love shooting with my Tokina 10-17mm lens. It throws out a beautiful deep and perspective without having to be too far from my subject.
As a Female Surf Photography do you come up against any challenges?
The industry is very male dominated so I thought I’d experience a lot more misogyny. But most people are curious more than anything. So in terms of being a female surf photographer, I’ve only ever experience curiosity, acceptance and encouragement. When I’m out in big swell, the surfers are constantly checking in to see if I’m ok and people are always interested to hear more about what I do. If anything, I experienced more challenges as a female surfer than a female surf photographer!
Which photographers have inspired you, and how did they influence you?
Sebastiao Salgado, Morgan Maassen, Sarah Lee and Ming Nomchong. Sebastiao Salgado for his ability to tell such powerful narratives through his imagery. Morgan has always been a huge inspiration, I love his vivid colours and simplistic yet mesmerising compositions. As a Motion Designer/ Editor, Morgan first caught my eye with his Motion reel, a collection of his video work. His editing and music selection are always on point and he always manages to take me right there, where ever he is in his imagery.
Sarah is actually a friend of mine and I’ve been privileged to work alongside her for years with my Motion Design work on Alison's Adventures. When I first saw her work, I was blown away, I couldn’t get over that someone could see that moment and create these images, I was like how the hell does she see that?!? Sarah has always been a huge inspiration for me to take the leap from Motion Designer to Ocean Photographer and to look for those little hidden details in everything.
I love the dreamy filmic style of Ming’s work. Whenever I see Ming’s work, I feel like again I’m there in the picture, mesmerised by her work. She’s also been a huge help and inspiration when I was first getting into Ocean Photography.
Do you think you need to be a surfer to shoot the ocean?
I find this question hard to answer because I’ve been a surfer longer than I have been a surf photographer so I’ve never known what it’s like to be a surf photographer without the knowledge of not knowing how to surf. But what I would say if you need a good understanding of the moves and moments. If you love surfing and have an appreciation for it and you’re not a surfer, I’m sure that appreciation will drive you to capture beautiful images.
But what I do find is my surf photography improves the more I surf and it helps when you have shots in mind, understanding how you can achieve it and directing the surfer. But more importantly, what you definitely need more than anything is a good understanding of the ocean, how it works and your limitations. And how to get yourself out of trouble!
Three things you have learnt this past year?
Ohhhh I feel like I’ve learnt so much this past year! Numero uno… I’ve learnt to really really believe in myself! I’ve struggled so much with this. But when I decided I wanted a change, moving halfway across the world and then I just did it, I was like, ok maybe I can do this haha. There have been moments when I feel like I’m not getting anywhere but I’ve learnt to hang in there, don’t give up. And there’s been a lot of things that have got in my way! It’s taken a lot of hard work and persistence.
Numero dos!!! That it’s ok not knowing! I’ve always been a person who doesn’t have much of a plan and then thinks, shit, I need a plan, so I try to be organised. I go between being super organised to super disorganised. When people would ask me about I was doing, I’d get defensive because I didn’t know and I thought I should. I’m getting much better at the fact that sometimes I have a clear idea of what I want and other times, I have no idea at all. Embracing the unknown is such a beautiful part of life, life would be so boring if we knew what was going to happen all the time.
Numero Tres! That Mexicans are the masters of living in the moment. And that mañana is always a good time to do everything haha.
What inspires your creative vision?
For the most part, colour and light, textures in nature. Getting lost on a visual journey in nature around me. People and their stories. Anything to do with surf!
Other ocean, portrait, photo documentary and fashion photographers, Films and documentaries.
Art! I’ve always been drawn to abstract art movements like Impressionism, Art Nouveau, dreamy art where you can float away with colours, patterns, repetition and so on.
How have you developed your imagery over the years? What steps have you taken to develop your work?
I have an artistic sometimes abstract style. My style has developed organically over the years, I guess the active steps I’ve taken is pushing myself to shot in a different light, moving around in the surf to shoot from different angles, paying attention to little details that catch my eye and following where they can take me. Before I started photographing in the ocean, I’d go down to the beach at sunrise. I would always think, I’m going to the same beaches, I’m never going to get different shots but I don’t have time before work to go further afield. I would get down there and I was always so surprised at the things that would catch my attention and then I’d be off down the rabbit hole, so I guess what I’m saying is always being open and flexible in the environment I’m shooting it has helped develop my style as it feeds my curiosity and opens doors to seeing things differently.
How would you describe your current photographic style?
Artistic and dreamy, colourful and full of life. Whether it be cotton candy skies with the light catching in the flecks of the spray of a nice bottom turn or the midday sun specks highlighting and framing someone paddling by.
Have you ever had any experiences in the ocean that really scared you?
Yep! Totally! Before Christmas, a big swell came through here in Sayulita. The waves were about 2.5 metres. Some decent sized sets were coming through. I swam out and it was fine, it was actually really exhilarating. Everyone was dropping into these faces of water and cheering each other on. For me, it was the third time I’d been out in waves over 2 metres. I went in and decided I wanted to go back out again. In those 20 minutes, the tide had dropped a little and the current had become stronger. As I started swimming back out again, I started to realise how much bigger the waves were. I made it out through the first set fine but then the 2nd set came through and jacked up right in front of me, I made it under the first wave perfectly fine but the pressure of the wave breaking on top of me made me realise how big it was. I freaked out and started to lose my breath. I started swimming in, letting the waves toss me around as I tried to calm my breath down. I got stuck in the trough right inshore, I didn’t have enough energy to get out. By this stage, I’d washed down the beach and my friends had thought I’d already exited the water. I waved my arm in the air but no-one could see me. Eventually, I just let the waves wash me right up onto the sand. Whilst I was never actually in trouble, my mind definitely got in the way and fear took over.
Do you have any projects you are currently working on?
At the moment I’m waiting for my camera to be repaired so I’m working on my first solo exhibition here in Mexico! I’m also working on my blog that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. I love writing so it’ll be a collection of short stories about my experiences and the people I meet and shoot, so stay tuned! I’m also working on the Fine Art Print side of my business, selling more physical products! Coming from a design background, I love seeing my Art printed and framed.
Once I get my camera back, I’m heading to Cabo San Lucas, Baja Mexico to shoot with a travel blogger! Whoop whoop!
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring ocean photographers?
Just get out there and shoot. If you’re like me, I’ll make up excuses in my mind but it’s the times when I’ve ignored those excuses, I’ve captured some of my best work or made the best connections. Shoot in all different conditions from light to weather. Make sure you know your limits though. Learn as much as you can about reading the ocean, breath hold. Shoot as much as you can and learn from your mistakes. Get curious, research, ask questions, when shots don’t work. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re pushing yourself. Things don’t always go to plan, and if you can be ok with that, and change your creative direction, then you’ll be surprised at what you can capture.
Reach out to Ocean Photographers you admire and ask for their advice. Be patient but persistent, opportunities and growth come from a combination of hard work and talent.