Morgan Maassen Filmmaker, Ocean Photographer and Gallery Owner

Interview with Morgan Maassen on The Creative Series


Firstly, can you start with a little bit about yourself?

My name is Morgan Maassen; I am a 28-year-old filmmaker and photographer from Santa Barbara, California. If I am not travelling, I spend my days surfing, playing tennis, reading, or hanging out with my dog, Moose. I also have an Art Gallery and a coffee shop called Breakfast.

Can you give a breakdown of the equipment you use to create your images?

For photography, I primarily use Nikon D4s's, single length prime lenses like the 35mm and 50mm and a trusty 300mm f/4.

For filmmaking, I use a Red Weapon and Scarlet-W, the same Nikon lenses that I use for my still bodies, and an ancient Bogen Manfrotto tripod. I have SPL waterhousings for each and every camera body and carry it all in pelican cases. I also don't go anywhere without my trusty Churchill swim fins.

Interview with Morgan Maassen on The Creative Series

How would you describe your current photographic style? 

I think my photography and filmmaking are like postcards of the things I see while travelling or exploring, of what I find fascinating. Whether its people I meet, water textures, or beautiful clouds... I love to bring home memories of what I was interested in while adventuring.

Interview with Morgan Maassen on The Creative Series

What would be your favourite lens and why?

The 50mm, without question. Its the one lens that I take everywhere, constantly. It simplifies everything and allows me to work with the subject without ever worrying or being overwhelmed by options.

What are your go-to settings when you shoot in the ocean? 

I always shoot on shutter priority. Otherwise, everything is manual, and I control it all through various buttons and knobs on my waterhousings.

Interview with Morgan Maassen on The Creative Series

What inspired you to capture the ocean and what continues to motivate you?

I love to capture the water. It is such a beautiful, mysterious, feminine entity to me. No matter how rough or violent the sea, it is always beautiful. The only drawback, of course, is dealing with those conditions when you are trying to capture it... but I find the challenge only more inspiring. Motivation-wise, I love to point my camera at everything... I grew up reading books voraciously, about any and every subject. When travelling, I love to appreciate all aspects of where I am at, and I think that mindset directly translates to my images.

Interview with Morgan Maassen on The Creative Series

What do you love most about making films?

The beauty of things in motion, combined with music, can be as simple or complex as the heart desires. Its an art form like no other.

Have you ever had an experience in the ocean that scared you?

I've nearly drowned in Australia, been chased by sharks in the Caribbean, rolled across the reef in Tahiti, caught in rip-currents in Mexico... it's never-ending.

Interview with Morgan Maassen on The Creative Series

Can you tell me about any crazy encounters with marine life?

I was on a lifestyle shoot where we were zipping across the channel from Tahiti to Moorea when we saw the calf playing in the water. I jumped in with my camera and watched it swim around, as playful as a puppy, yet still clocking in at a solid 5 meters long. Suddenly, it disappeared into the depths, only to return a minute later, ascending underneath its massive, 20-meter long mother. Not only was I dumbstruck; I literally couldn't breathe. As they drifted silently towards the surface. Moments before the mother's pectoral fin was within touching distance; I found my composure to snap this one photograph. They surfaced, grabbed a breath of air, and were gone with the flick of a tail.....

Interview with Morgan Maassen on The Creative Series

Among all your work what is your most memorable capture?

My photo of the mother and calf Humpback Whale in Tahiti, it, was the most breathtaking moment of my life.

Interview with Morgan Maassen Filmmaker and Photographer

What methods do you use for editing? Can you explain your workflow?

I edit my images in Mac OS Photos. Importing everything before weeding out the ones I don't want. Then I focus in to edit the few that I keep. I don't shoot very many photos, to begin with - maybe 250 in a full day of shooting - and then proceed to put them in black and white, change contrast/exposure, etc.

I don't do any advanced editing in Photoshop, as I don't like to digitally alter my photos much beyond minor corrections to the colour and exposure. I just prefer it that way.

Interview with Morgan Maassen on The Creative Series

How do you educate yourself to become a better photographer? 

I am self-taught, and honestly, it all came from trial and error. I was 18 years old when I started shooting, and for the first year, I shot on auto. Then I advanced to aperture priority, before messing around with ISO... it was a very slow process. I learnt by asking other photographers questions, reading online, and shooting out in the wild. I get out and shoot photos every day, no matter what, and this s how I continuously learn and evolve as a photographer.


Who would you say are your greatest influencers and inspirations?

Films and art guide my work, under these three pillars: composition, minimalism, and visual storytelling. So many other things also cast inspiration: music, the outdoors, architecture, graphic design, fashion, emotions, my dog Moose, and most importantly... the sea. 

Interview with Morgan Maassen Filmmaker and Photographer

Where is your favourite location to shoot?

That would have to be Australia, without question. There is so much beauty, diversity, and raw nature. Tahiti for its spectacular mountains and ocean, and Europe for its architecture and cultural heritage. 

Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in photography?

Shoot photos every day, of everything. Rain or shine, there is always a photo to be made, something to learn.

Films:  Water 11  Fluorescence 

See more of Morgan’s Work:  Instagram   Website

Interview with Morgan Maassen Filmmaker and Photographer