How did you originally got into photography?
I grew up in Saudi Arabia which had a huge impact on me. It think it opened my mind, imagination and curiosity to the world. I know my love for experiencing and exploring different locations and cultures stems from my formative years in the Middle East. After Saudi I returned to Canada to pursue a degree in Outdoor Recreation. I always gravitated towards art and physical education classes in school so in University I took some photography courses. Loving the immediacy of photography, capturing those amazing moments in time got me hooked as I was able to capture moments from my adventures. I started bringing my camera with me on my climbing, camping and paddling adventures and it quickly became a perfect marriage of my passions of travel, adventure and photography. After university I went on to pursue guiding opportunities in the outdoor adventure world eventually landing a job as a photo editor for a large Canadian outdoor retailer. This gave me the opportunity to learn the editorial side of the business but eventually I got antsy to get back outside. I quit that job to travel and explore and shortly after I found myself sailing around the world. I ended up living at sea for a decade. I thought it was an amazing opportunity to focus on becoming a better photographer so I began photographing my travels full time.
You have traveled the world and got exposed to many cultures. What is the most surprising fact you’ve learned which you would like to share with us?
I think the most surprising thing and not so surprising thing is that there is a human connection between all of us. Despite our religion, language, culture or ethnicity, we all fundamentally have the same needs and wants and I’m constantly surprised by that when I’m in a remote village in the middle of nowhere.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve had?
Hmm, I have had many but one of my highlights for sure was during our 5 year world kiteboarding expedition. We sailed 600 miles across the Mozambique channel from Madagascar to an island group located off the southeast coast of Mozambique called the Bazaruto archipelago. This island group is considered to be one of the most beautiful destinations on the African continent. Upon our arrival we could see a massive 20 mile sand dune on the island of Bazaruto. Everyone onboard just looked at each other speechless. We new we had to fly it.
The east side of the dune juts out of the Indian Ocean at a perfect angle for paragliding and is a few hundred meters above the sea. The downside we figured out was that getting to the dune was extremely difficult. There is a huge shore break that denies access to the beach. So we plotted our attack at low tide. Deciding that keeping the dingy ashore wasn’t an option, we decide to anchor it 10 or so meters off the beach. With a gentle sea breeze we proceeded to explore and fly the dune. We were in heaven..we had discovered this never before flown 20 mile sand dune and had it all to ourselves. It is the stuff that even vivid dreamers cannot imagine and as a photographer it just couldn’t get any better. The way the light danced and played along the sand was mesmerizing. I flew and photographed for hours. It was perfect until one of us spotted our dingy washed up on the beach. By the time we reached it there was no obvious damage we would have to wait again for low tide to make any attempt to leave.
We ended up sleeping on the dune that night in our paragliders and awoke again to more perfect flying conditions. Being quite possibly the most playful and beautiful soaring site on the planet, we had to keep flying. Only after we were completely, sunburnt, exhausted and dehydrated did we manage to get the dingy through the shore break and back to our catamaran. It was magical.
What equipment do you use to captures your footage? What are some of the challenges of using them?
I use a variety of cameras. Mostly I use Canon and Leica cameras and I have a Hasselblad and a few Polaroid cameras that I enjoy taking portraits with. Some of the challenges are that my Canon is too big but great for shooting action. My Leica’s are great for slowing down and being inconspicuous but they are not fast when you need them to be and my film cameras are always more labor intensive. Dealing with film, storing it, developing it, not knowing if the shots worked, etc…is always a challenge but those images are always the most rewarding.
When you’re presented with a less than ideal situation, how do you find your subjects and produce images you would be happy with?
I think adapting to the challenges that arise on assignments is one of the best parts of being an adventure and travel photographer. When the going gets tough you have to problem solve and improvise. For me it’s about finding people who can help facilitate what you want to achieve, be very open to opportunities and any changes that occur. You have to be able to act quickly, improvise and be spontaneous. You have to trust your gut and seize the moment and enjoy that process rather than become overwhelmed by it.
Closing Thoughts … What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s looking to get into photography, or surf photography?
It is a tough job, a tough industry and with most artist related professions doesn’t provide a lot of income. Therefore, first and foremost it has to be your passion. One that is so strong that you can’t imagine not doing it. Then you have to go out there and shoot. Shoot your ass off. Be curious about life and the things around you. It is an essential part of being a good photographer. Photograph the sports or subjects that you connect with and mean something to you. Be very critical of your own work and submit only your absolute best shots to editors. You will start making contacts and as you get better you will begin to get published. Be patient and persistent.