Few photographers work harder than the legendary Russell Ord. While other photographers shoot from the safety of a boat or ski in the channel, this Western Australia’s most prolific photographer shoots from the water. Russell Ord’s has indeed taken the art of big wave surf photography to a new level.
Ord spoke to AWAYN about his process, his photographs and years of experience in the action sports photography.
I injured my knee surfing (1999), and instead of just sitting on the lounge I picked up a camera and started taking photos of mates (surfing). The passion grew from there, surfing had become quite competitive and crowded so being reunited with that feeling of freedom especially when your swimming out alone was more of an incentive than jostling for waves. The learning curve was steep especially at the start being self-taught and using film, so I gradually progressed my camera skills, and I was lucky enough to have 20 years of ocean experience to call upon which I have always said is the hardest skill to learn regarding surf photography.
I have been patient over my career and understood it takes time to build trust, develop skills and be in a position where athletes, clients etc. want to work with you because of your work. Surfing wise, I started shooting my mates for practice, the local surfboard riders club and worked on my portfolio. I never felt I deserved to be trusted to do a photo shoot until skill level had significantly increased, like doing an apprenticeship. Today you will see photographers, buy a camera and expect to be shooting topline athletes the next day?
I like to look at photos and see skill level or photos that are very creative, photos that make me wonder "how did they do that". I feel people including judges in photography competitions look at images and only see the moment in time and don’t take enough time to understand "what level of skill or knowledge is required to capture the picture". As an example: A beautiful mountain climbing image captured with a drone vs a mountain climbing image that would have taken years of knowledge and skill just to be in that position to press the trigger, I know which one I would choose as a good vs average.
My most memorable trip has been to work on "projects of purpose"; Environmental, Humanitarian, Educational, The art of giving, such as the Wunambal Gaambera People / Uunguu Rangers in the far north of Western Australia. Apart from being a huge learning curve and experience, my imagery is being used to "make a difference".
I have been using Fuji Film mirrorless cameras for the last three years they have indeed brought that "feeling" of photography back into my work. I remind myself that all the best photos in history were probably taken with a worse camera than mine to stop me thinking that I need this and I need that. A lot of photographers dwell far too much on equipment and not focusing on the art of photography and their client's needs. Lifestyle images - Fuji X100F / Surf images Fuji X-T2 with Aquatech housing, the only challenges I face is with myself and how to overcome what I think some shortfalls may be.
The more you travel and experience the world the more of an understanding you have for other cultures, people and their environments plus you learn a lot about yourself, the positives and negatives.
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