The Californian Art of Surf Photography
A Surf Photographer with no tattoos? Despite living in California Chuck Schmid has allegedly never said “sick”. He is mobile free and has spent 40 years of his spare time in an amphibious state of bliss photographing the Californian surfer’s dream.
What was your first step into the world of surf photography?
My first small photo in Surfer Magazine was a photo of Lenny Foster at
Huntington Pier that was in a Russell Surfboards ad in 1972 or 1973. At
that time, Surfer Magazine was number one and seemed to do their best to
discourage kids with cameras. At Surfing Magazine, Richard “slick”
Dowdy was both editor and photo editor and he was very helpful and
patient. He looked at my photos and made suggestions, then showed me
photos on file that were examples of photos they might use in the
magazine. He showed photos from Florida shot by Alan Margolis who he
declared to be the “Prince of Sharpness.”
The photos were crisp and the water was bright blue. Slick encouraged me to shoot from the water
because my telephoto lens was so poor that those photos were unusable.
After that meeting I went out and bought a Century 650mm lens for $400
which was more than two month’s wages.
Surfer versus Surfing
Eventually, Surfing used a few of my photos and later put my name on the masthead and paid for film and processing plus a retainer of $75 a month to keep me from submitting
photos to Surfer. Over time, I grew tired of not getting anything
published and gave up on the retainer so I could submit photos
How to get a break in surf photography today
If I were to give advice to those starting to shoot surf photos: Google
Clark Little and Chris Burkard and see if there’s anything there you
can apply to your world. In the past, freedom of the press was a right
only to those who owned a press but in today’s connected world, anyone
can make a movie, write a book, share their photos, record music and
create art. Hopefully you’ll make something interesting enough to
have an audience. Since the advent of digital cameras and GoPro’s,
there’s been a ton of photos but also a lot of really amazing photos.
Start with an idea and see if you can have fun with it and see if you
create something great.
Biggest change in art of riding waves today?
I think the biggest change I’ve seen in surfing recently is the Aerial
manoeuvres popularized by everyone from Josh Kerr to Gabriel Medina have
become a regular component of riding waves. Where you used to see
somebody go for a radical manoeuvre and rarely pull it off, now you’ll
see guys land an air reverse and ride out a nice section tail first,
recover and look for another opportunity.
Thank you Chuck for the interview! To see more of his world visit surf-shot.com