I’m not sure what you were doing when you were 21, but personally, I was finishing university and looking at the map for anywhere I could get away to, to be lazy and do nothing… under the guise of “travelling” :)
Today’s interviewee is a much more mature and motivated 21 year old who is fast making a name for herself in the surf photography community.
So much so, that, as you are reading this, she is currently shooting the US Open of Surfing for the WSL.
A local of Huntington Beach, California, Jenny Herron’s work has been featured by Surfer Magazine, Surfline, Stab Magazine & RVCA Surf.
What strikes me most about Jenny, beyond just her great images, is her clear mindset and strategic approach to her photography.
Well aware that so much of the photographic noise on social media is just people seeing a photo and then going to the exact same spot and taking the exact same shot, Jenny’s approach is to find new angles and new compositions, which is inevitably what is helping her to stand out and be noticed.
“I used to think that Surfer mag or Surfline would like my photos more if they looked more similar to the ones they are already posting. As soon as I stepped out of that and started getting angles that I thought were my own and unique, those same brands started getting back to me.”
This is insight and wisdom to soak up at any age!
Jenny could not have been nicer, more grateful or humble when I contacted her, and these traits combined with her incredible eye for imagery will be a killer combination on her path to success.
Most of these interviews are simply about sharing stories and images from photographers that may be someone new for you to discover.
This one is a little bit more selfish.
In 3-5 years time when the name Jenny Herron has completely blown up, I’ll be able to re-produce this interview with the words
“I knew her when…” :)
Born and raised in Huntington Beach, California.
Was photography always the plan or what first made you pick up a camera?
Photography wasn’t even a thought! So crazy. I started playing softball when I was four, and that quickly turned into my biggest passion in life. By the time I was 10 years old, I was playing softball almost all year round and at one point I was on two teams at once, sometimes having two practices a day. It took over my life, but I didn't mind. I knew that softball could benefit me when it came to going to college and helping me pay for schooling as well. Then during Christmas break of freshman year, I had gotten a GoPro for Christmas. That morning, I took it straight to the beach. As I was taking photos, it made me realise how mesmerising the ocean is. I didn’t even realise what a wave looked like from underwater or even what the inside of a barrel looked like. I just never paid attention to any of that before owning a GoPro. As my passion for this kept growing, my family and friends around me noticed how much it started meaning to me. The day I got a real Canon camera, I knew I didn't want to play softball anymore, and that I wanted to focus on photography full time. My passion for it only grows.
The main thing that drew me towards your photography is your use of composition. Foregrounds, backdrops, pulled back shots, subject placement etc which all tell a greater story about an image than just a zoomed in wave. Where do you think this came from for you? Do you have any other artistic background and is it a conscious choice or just naturally how you view scenes?
Composition is such a huge part of photography for me. Here in Orange County, you have surf spots like The Wedge for example that hundreds of photographers go to every time there is a big swell. I remember one of the first times I went there with my camera and noticed how maybe 15 to 20 photographers were sitting in the same spot. For me, getting a unique shot means to not be around the crowds of photographers. The first thing I thought of is how many of those people are going home with the same exact frame of every wave? I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I decided to try and find a spot where no one was. When a wave comes through, I am most likely to be the only person who has that angle which can make a photo more unique. It's fun to mess around and have people, rocks, sand, cars, buildings, rails, trees, anything you can imagine in your foreground. Even though close up shots are nice, being pulled back and having some sort of a subject tells more of a story. I have people messaging me and asking where I was standing for some of my shots. It's fun to leave people guessing so they can get creative with what they put in their photos.
For someone that hasn’t been at it for a super long time, your photography is getting noticed in the right circles, with a number of industry brands reposting your images. For young photographers trying to make their mark do you have any insights. For example, are there ways you are actively promoting yourself, are you reaching out to accounts, is it solely just about putting out the best images you can etc?
What helped me the most to get noticed by these top industry brands, is that I am shooting my photos to bring a unique angle and feeling to them. Don’t try to get a shot that looks exactly the same as someone else's that might be a top professional photographer for one of those industries. I used to do that, thinking that Surfer mag or Surfline would like my photos more if they looked more similar to the ones they are already posting. As soon as I stepped out of that and started getting my own angles that I thought were ‘my own’ and unique, those same brands started getting back to me.
How often are you out shooting and what are your favourite conditions to shoot in?
I try to shoot every single day. That’s all I ever want to do. But sometimes it could be as little as once a week, which sucks. The best time to shoot also is early in the morning when the winds are calm. Most of the time here, the onshore winds aren’t the best in the afternoon, so the afternoon is not the best to take pictures. My favourite condition to shoot in would have to be offshore winds, aka Santa Ana winds, here in southern California. Most of my favourite shots in Huntington are during offshore.
What’s the surf / surf photography community like in Huntington Beach? Are there any people that have helped / inspired your journey?
Huntington Beach has one of the biggest and best surf communities in the world. When I first started out my surf photography journey, I was really scared because I didn't know one single person. I am not the most outgoing person either, so I thought it would be pretty difficult to make some friends/connections. Everyone that I have met have been so cool and supportive. Thanks to my photography friends, surfers, and local surf shops for helping me grow and supporting my photography. I can’t wait to meet and grow more friendships with people here in the near future!
Earlier, I commented on what I like about your style, but can you tell me, when you get home from a session of hundreds of photos, what are the elements required in an image for you to choose it as one to publish?
I am not looking for something exactly, I am just trying to find photos that are different from previous photos that I have taken in the past. Whether it be a motion blur shot, barrel shot, action/surf shot, or even sunset shot. I don’t want any photo to look exactly the same. If I have taken a motion blur shot of a surfer, the next time I do that effect, I will make sure it’s from a different angle or have a different foreground. It doesn't always work out but it keeps my creativity flowing!!
What are your immediate (next 12 months) goals with your photography and then what is the dream?
It’s hard to tell what will happen in a year. I just go day by day. As much as I love surf photography, I want to start expanding to landscape and astro this year ahead. Hoping to keep growing and expanding my name in the photography community. Also I am hoping to have a website where people can purchase prints. My dream all together is to make photography my main career, and to be able to teach everything I know to young aspiring photographers.
If you were given a round the world plane ticket to photograph at any 3 destinations (surf or not) where would you go?
This is such a hard choice! Haha. There are too many places I want to explore. First I would want to go to Iceland because of the crazy scenery and glacial rivers. Second is Tahiti to see Teahupoo, one of the most insane waves with my own eyes. Third, anywhere in Australia.
Any other parting advice for aspiring surf and wave photographers?
The most important thing I have learned, is to stick to your own style. It’s important to be happy when you’re taking photos. Also, creating something unique keeps your fire going for photography! Also, don’t be picky about conditions. Even if the waves are considered ‘poor’ get out there. I’ve gotten some of my favourite shots on those type of days.
Dive into Jenny’s world further here
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