INTERVIEW WITH MARIA FERNANDA @mariafernandaphoto
Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself and when you started your photography journey?
I was born and raised in Mexico City. When I was 7 years old, I became a competitive swimmer.
However when I started college, even though I got a scholarship, I had to stop swimming competitively after the first semester since I couldn’t complete my schoolwork and train to the level required. Sadly in my country, people that pursue sports aren’t really supported. So for me it was impossible to go to school and then after school drive 1-2 hours out of the city to train four to five hours. It didn’t leave enough time to rest and do homework so I decided to finish my Bachelors in Business Administration in Tourism and Hospitality Management and leave competitive swimming.
Even though I grew up landlocked every time that I would have vacations, I would escape to the beach.
Seven years ago, I volunteered at a humanitarian organisation, Surfing the Nations in Hawaii. I was there during the summer and met this surf/windsurf videographer/photographer called Peter Sterling. Peter told me to come back during the winter if I wanted to learn how to shoot from the water. So I did and fell in love with it.
What equipment do you use to create your images, and why did you select it?
I use a Nikon D800, and I usually use either the 24-85mm lens or the 70-200mm lens.
My first camera was a Nikon, so I got used to how Nikon worked and continue to use it..
For the water housing, I use SPL water housing, and I have never had a single problem with the quality of the product, I honestly love it.
What inspires your creative vision?
The ocean is one of my favourite things in the world, it’s so majestic, powerful, raw, beautiful, colourful and forever changing. I am still left in awe. I hope to show those moments, the energy and these feelings with others.
How do you feel about the misrepresentation of female surf photographers in the surfing industry?
Well, one thing I don’t really like, is that they always think that because I’m a woman, I should be shooting women surfers or female events. I would hope that brands or organisers would look more at my work, and the fact that I am a woman shouldn’t make a difference. As long as my work is good enough it shouldn’t make a difference.
If you could change the perception of women’s surf photography overnight, what would be your ideal vision for the future?
That people would see that we are not all focused on more artistic or longboard work. Not that is a bad thing, I actually think generally women have more of a creative eye than most men, then again let’s not generalise since there are amazing male photographers that have crazy artistic style. But, I would like to start opening eyes, to the fact that there are women that do all kind of surf work, big waves, slabs, artistic, underwater, etc.
What has been your proudest body of work to date?
Definitely, summer of 2017 in Puerto Escondido. I achieved the best images in the harshest conditions at Zicatela. After that, I had a significant injury, but I guess now that I think about it, it was worth it. I definitely didn’t feel like that during my recovery process, hahaha but now looking back, I haven’t achieved pictures like that in a while. Hopefully, I’ll get some soon again!
Talk me through being in the ocean in a 20ft swell what goes through your mind?
Like everything that I do that might be a little scary or that makes me nervous, I try not to overthink it. I concentrate on the things I need to prepare for, I don’t have much time for doubt or to back out once you’re out there you are committed. I try to observe everything and take as much time as I need to feel relaxed and comfortable. It’s essential to be aware of the whole scenario. I pray before going out in the ocean for my safety and for everyone out there and enjoy it because that’s what is all about, if I’m not enjoying it then there is no point doing it.
I just try to be as careful as possible but also take it in, enjoying the views, the energy, everything, it’s magnificent out there.
Where has been your favourite location to shoot the ocean?
That’s a tough question I always change my mind about this.
Every break has its beauty, and it’s good or bad aspects.
I love the challenge of shooting at Zicatela and the fact that there is barely anyone else shooting from the water most of the time. I love the crystal clear, perfect barrels of Teahupoo and the amazing locals.
Also pipeline can get some beautiful and varied colours, also many faces, depending on the time of the day.
What are you looking for when you are creating your work, what makes the perfect image for you?
I love showing the reality of my photos, when you can portray the same power, emotion and energy that you felt in the moment of the shot, for others to experience, simply by looking at your photo. That is when I consider an image to be just right.
How do you prepare yourself to shoot in the ocean, I understand you were a competitive swimmer?
Yes, I’ve been swimming all my life, of course, it’s different to swim in a pool than in waves. But having that confidence in the water definitely helps.
Whenever I want to get in shape, after a period of not being as consistent in my training, I try to run at the beach, it’s cardio but also running on the sand helps strengthen my leg muscles.
Apnea training is so vital for big waves, it cannot only save your life, but it also enables you to be more relaxed and calm out there.
I love boxing whenever I’m not close to the ocean and playing tennis.
Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring ocean photographers/videographers?
Do not give up. It’s not an easy road, but if it’s your passion, it’s definitely worth it. Train and prepare yourself as much as you can, believe in yourself and don’t let anyone bring you down and tell you-you can’t do it. Most importantly enjoy every moment.
If God put theses desires, dreams and gifts in you, it was for a reason, use them to the best of your ability!