#SAWinterWonders: Capturing waves as thrilling as riding them

2016-07-07 13:31 - Nick Pawson
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Cape Town - A kid who used to follow his surfer dad down to the beach, has become one of the most sought-after cameramen on the surf photography circuit.

“I used to flip through my old man’s surfer mags and was always more drawn to the angles of the photographs than the actual surfing, especially in the water,” says 33-year-old Hout Bay resident, Ian Thurtell. 

Initially shooting on film, the digital age of photography was kicking in just as Ian finished high school. 

“I started on the good old Fujifilm Sensia 100, and played around and learned on that. I also built my own water housing (water-proof camera casing) as I didn’t have the bucks to import a rig from overseas.”

Capturing a surfing "stand-up" image has become one of Ian’s favourite photographic experiences and in order to get the perfect shot, a lot of elements have to come together simultaneously. 

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“For me the most important elements are the surfer I am photographing, but more importantly the light I'm shooting in,” he says. “ The waves, wind and tide don't even have to be that good, as long as the two essential elements are in the water, I'm set.” 

A regular contributor to Zigzag magazine, Ian has developed huge admiration for the ocean, and arguably some of his best snaps are those which don’t feature surfers. 

Click here to see the full gallery.

“Some of my most fulfilling moments are swimming out alone to an empty swell, to just capture the water as it moves and forms into a breaking wave.”

As a Capetonian, Ian loves shooting in his home town. Despite the cold water temperatures and other challenges, Ian says Cape Town’s surf offers something special. 

“Cape Town is my home... where I first developed my love for the ocean. While the water can get freezing,  the light in Cape Town is amazing and you can get great clarity.

“Cape Town has so many different types of beaches and rocky areas to explore – it's always a challenge,” he adds. 

Ian continues to make water housings, which he now sells to aspiring surf photographers who have a limited budget, while his prints are for sale too. 

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