November 21, 2011

About the Author: Patrick Stern is a social media strategist and photo hobbyist residing in San Francisco. His personal blog can be found at and can be contacted at @patrickstern.

The ASP Tour for surfing came to San Francisco recently and we were privileged to see some of the top surfers in the world compete for $425,000 cash prize. Naturally, you can imagen that this was a rare event for us here and it posed an opportunity for some great photos. San Francisco isn’t always known for it’s great conditions or spectacular waves, but Ocean Beach delivered on several days of the contest.

Create. Action photography is a bit out of my regular day to day, which allowed me to expand further into an area that I am not fully familiar with. I went out with the intention of showcasing the beauty of surfing and how much of an art form it is. The style, elegance, and sometimes astonishing ability that these athletes have is hard to capture in a still. However, with a little effort It you can capture the perspective of how the sport is a lifestyle.

Grow. Having been to many surf contests before but never shot one, I had to shoot from the hip at this event. However, equipped with a 300mm and a doubler, I found that you can come up with astonishing sequences that leave you rushing to look at the preview. I took two main learning points from the three days that I was out there, the first having to do with how to gauge what kind of light was coming off of the water. Because of the white water in the foreground in most of these shots my light meter was usually off. It was showing me that the light was much higher than it actually was. So, I had to compensate by keeping in mind that the meter was off by almost a full stop ( most of these shots are at 1/2000).

The second was timing. My camera (Canon T2i) allows for 8 shot bursts per second and I found that as surfers set up for large maneuvers, they have to generate momentum in order to pull an air or a carve. As an example, surfers will do large bottom turns in preparation for a maneuver, hinting at the potential of their next move. I would begin to shoot as the surfer was moving up the face of the wave, allowing me to capture a series of their maneuver. It also ensured that I didn’t have an excess amount of images to have to go through in post production.

I’m really impressed with the shots that came from the event. None of them have been touched in post production, so what you see is what I shot.