Aloha, welcome to the last episode of the first series of The Temple of Surf Podcast!
We would like to thank all our guests and, especially, all of you that are following us every episode since June! We hope you enjoy the show as much as we do making it!
We will be back early October with a new series, 25 amazing new episodes that , we are sure, you will love!
Today with us, from Hawaii, is the very talented surf and ocean photographer Christa Funk.
Let's discover more about her, surf photography, future projects and much more!
TTOS: Aloha Christa, welcome to the show, where are you today?
I’m on the North shore of Oahu.
TTOS: How is it going over there? I heard that people never stopped to surf, even if there was coronavirus right?
No, we didn't have to stop surfing, at one point they didn't want people hanging out in groups on the beach and that was about the most that happened.
Other than that, you can still get in the water and surf and my life didn't change that much with it.
What changed for me the most, was the amount of shoots that I was doing and a lot of my upcoming jobs got canceled.
I could still get in the water though, which was really nice.
It honestly was a good break from all the craziness that was going on in the world with everything rapidly changing on a day to day basis.
TTOS: Today we're going to talk about surf photography, surf and your future projects, but the first question that I have for you is, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
I would say style at least in the idea of shooting photos of a surfer, you want people who have a good personal knowledge of their style and can convey that in their surfing and how they move in the water.
TTOS: You gave me the same answer of Rob Machado, if that can make you happy, most of the people say fun, it's very important to have fun, but I like the style answer, especially from a photography point of view, I guess if a person has a style it's even more beautiful, right?
When I think about style, the first person that comes to mind, for me, that I work with frequently is Leah Dawson, she has a very graceful style and you see it in photographs of her and in the movie projects that she's done. It's just, it's so beautiful and it's lovely to look at.
It just evokes kind of a different emotion and maybe would reach more people than just the individual surfing who just tried searching for the first time and then going, “yeah, I went surfing, that was great! here's a picture from it.”
You know, it has a wider audience reach, I think it's stylistically, beautiful looking.
TTOS: Okay. When do you start to do surf photography?
I started in, I would say it was summer, 2013, winter 2014 was when it really started for me.
TTOS: What was the first, the picture (surf photography) that you have taken?
I was shooting from land at Ehukai Beach Park, it was late season 2013. around April and there was a surfer in the background doing a turn on a wave and a kid running along the sandbar and the foreground with their boards under their arm.
TTOS: what was the most amazing or meaningful memory that you have in surf photography?
I have to say this winter, it was December 31st
The day before the waves maxed out at Pipeline and it was too big for Pipes, that was December 30th and then, the 31st in the morning, I just started watching the surf and kind of waiting for the size to go down, cause the waves were still too big for the reef.
As the swell drops, surfers are starting to go out, but I'm not going to go out yet, I was just waiting for it. And that swim out had to be one of my hardest ones that I've had, at one point, I thought “I'm really gonna make it? ” and then, two seconds later, I was like “No, I can't think like that, I'm not even gonna look back and see how far down the beach I am right now” , “I'm gonna get out there and I'm gonna make it”
It was just a very difficult swim out and the conditions were very challenging that day it, even the sand wasn't quite right….there was a big vertical sand berm at off the wall.
In one of the waves, there was GT (he's a lifeguard here on the North shore) doing bodyboard … imagine.. you have this vertical sand berm and a backwash came off of it (like an eight foot face on the backwash) and GT takes off on the wave at the same time when they collided, it just made this monstrous backwash that just like hucked out and threw across the ocean.
It had to be the most insane moment, what I've seen…. I was absolutely wild and I think there were about four other guys out shooting four or five at that point. And we all were just stunned going…. “What just happened”
TTOS: How do you deal with adrenaline and fear when you are out in the water?
“Embrace” is the right word, you accept them…
You have to check your adrenaline and I really have to do that because I get very easily excited, like even when I'm driving to shoot Pipe, I'm off “Oh my gosh, I'm going to shoot Pipe. It's going to be great.” and I have to go “Now calm down, breathe, you're not going to have any energy left by the time you can got there”. I believe it's being mindful of that and this also applies to the fear part of it too.
One other photographer, one time he goes : “you know I shoot only from safe spots, really on land”
I believe as a surf photographer, you just need to be aware that you're putting yourself in a dangerous situation and that fear is always in the back of your head, because you use it to keep you alert and focused on what's going on….. you kind of just try to use the fear and adrenaline in your favor.
It keeps you aware of this situation and what's going on, in order for you don't end up in a bad area and get absolutely just, I don't know, your cookies toss in shambles because you got distracted and drifted into a section and didn't realize it.
Sometimes you're just going to get absolutely wreck and there, no matter how aware you were, there's nothing you can do about.
TTOS: Do you train in some way, particularly?
I train, I do a mix of cardio weights and yoga during like winter season, and then I'll do some kind of workout in the morning before I go to shoot.
When the waves are under like eight foot Hawaiian, if it's under that size, then I'll do some kind of workout before I get in the ocean.
In the summertime, I free dive, I swim and then I'm also still doing those workouts, they all tie in together. I also body surf and surf too, everything kind of goes along and helps each other.
TTOS: At the beginning of the interview, I asked you what it was the most important thing in surfing, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surf photography?
The motion, composition and light, I'd say those three things make up, have the making for a great photograph…if you get that, is a perfect storm with the three of them.
TTOS: which kind of equipment are you using?
I use Canon cameras and lenses, as far as a favorite lens, I love the 70 to 200 f4 IS.
That lens is just so buttery and beautiful for water shot.
I also really like using the 24 to 105 mm five millimeter because when you have, especially at Pipeline, it doesn't break in the same place every time…. there's some swell where the wave will be like a lot deeper, more kind of starting at off a wall and further back and then there's other times where the waves will come up and there'll be basically throwing over you and you're going : “Oh, okay. Well, good thing. I have, like, I have a range on this zoom because I can just zoom out to 24 and still be able to get a shot”.
That range is really nice as well. And then 16 to 35 is good too.
And then as far as housing go, I use a SPL water housing for surf photography
TTOS: What are your reference in term of photography today or in the past?
I look at Sean Davey and Art Brewer.
Regarding Sean, I grew up in Colorado and I remember seeing one of his pictures in his book as it has a section and extreme sports photography.
I remember seeing his surfing images and just thinking they were so unique and, as I was a competitive swimmer, I’d love to be able to swim and have a water housing and shoot photos, but quite know how to make the pieces come together for that yet…..that was inspiration really early on.
I've always looked to his work and I actually, I met him a few years back and he's hilarious , you can crack up when you go talk to him…. he's still doing great work
Art Brewer, his work is just very broad and it's just seems so in the moment and very honest and telling of what exactly was going on at that time period when he was shooting.
I really liked that aspect of his work as well.
TTOS: I agree with you, when you have a picture that is just a beautiful picture, is one thing, but when you have picture that can tell you something is amazing, right? You stand in front of them and you really into the mood of the person that has been portrayed or the nature, you know…. it goes into a different level at that.
Not every photographer is able to take beautiful pictures , because everybody has a camera today, but a composition on that… it's one of a kind of, something that you cannot touch, that makes the difference between a beautiful picture and a very meaningful one….something that you can connect and relate….
What could be a good advice or best advice for a younger photographer?
Good advice would be to submit your work fearlessly and don't be afraid to have someone say no.
If you're going to pursue surf photography, you need to be consistently taking pictures and just keep getting in the repetition and the practice and see what, especially if you're looking at a photograph, part of maneuvers that they're honing in on and why are people picking that image… what is the surfer doing? What's their body positioning like, and just kind of end dissecting that.
Making sure your work gets out there and shooting consistently, I think are two big parts of it.
In addition to that, just realize where is the social media landscape evolving and try to work within those confines, because print is changing and social media is going every towards whatever trend is happening at the time, having an awareness of that can really help.
TTOS: What are your future projects?
Right now, I don't have a big project in the works.
I started a blog on my website titled “Who’s Got the Funk?” It comes out every Thursday. I share anecdotes and photos from different shoots. It has been going for 17 weeks now.
Future projects are looking weather based, they're swell based…. If there are waves coming up, I will be shooting surf and if the diving is going to be good, I'll be shooting diving.
I think I'm just sort of a point where I want to shoot photos for the rest of my life, so I know future projects will come in different ways and not having like a big cookie that I'm going towards right now or something that's coming up that I'm like “Oh my gosh, this is amazing”….
It's okay to just kind of be focusing on the smaller projects, because I think the bigger ones are gonna come along naturally.
TTOS: It's all about mindset, right? if you visualize it then you're gonna get it….I think so.
We are going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind.
Your favorite surfer:
Hank Gaskell is my husband best friend and they're always giving each other shit…. that's all, I'm sure this will get talked about
TTOS: your favorite surfboard. If any...
My favorite surfboard is a six/nine Charlie Smith, single fin.
It has an airbrush dolphin on it, that board is just amazing. I love it.
Her nickname is Missy, the dolphin, she has been made in 1980, she's got 10 years on me…..so fun to ride.
TTOS: Your favorite surf picture…
Art Brewer, It was a picture of gun surfboard and It's perfectly symmetrical the lights, all pink. I think he shot it in 1995, It's just the board and it's perfectly balanced. It's the trippiest looking photo.
TTOS: Your favorite surf spot.
My favorite surf spot, I can see it from the road, it's really not known at all and it's not widely famous for its waves at all.
For photography it's Pipeline,
TTOS: personal question, your favorite song.
My favorite song is “Pure Feeling” by Florence + The Machine.
TTOS: And then the last question is, your best relationship advice…….
The “Fuck Ya” rule……it's a great rule… if you you meet someone, if feel like you're settling and you're not hearing “Fuck Ya” on your head when you think of the person or when you're out on dates with them or doing things with them then “Get out a relationship, leave! Don't settle!”
Recorded in June 2020