Back for another series of interviews, and this first one really re-enforced to me why, when I was sitting down one Sunday afternoon last year, I had this ridiculous thought - What if I just started writing to all the photographers i’m inspired by on Instagram and see if they would be interested in answering all the questions i’d love to ask them.
I have been a huge fan of Kyle Jenkinson’s scroll-stopping images ever since I downloaded that little app. And getting to learn more about the person behind the images, what motivates him and drives him to choose a life of waking up early in the cold and jumping in the ocean to photograph waves, only further enhances the experience of viewing his incredible work.
Through an injury, leaving him unable to surf for a while, that would have been considered unfortunate at the time, began the fortunate outcome of Kyle picking up a camera and jumping in the ocean so he could still be immersed in the experience.
Kyle’s ocean photography is art in the truest sense. Capturing light, angles, form and shape and displaying in equal parts, the beauty and raw unpredictability of nature.
None of this comes about without the day in, day out dedication to wake up and swim out, in the hope of immortalising these fleeting moments.
Print-worthy moments don’t happen every time but consistency and commitment is what separates people from the pack.
The result is a gallery of images you could look through and study for hours.
If you are already following his work then none of this will be a revelation to you at all.
But I hope some of you are discovering him for the first time and after reading about the man himself below you can dive in and discover this super talented photographer via the links at the end of the interview.
I’m super lucky to have grown up by the coast in North Curl Curl NSW Australia.
Was photography always the plan or what first made you pick up a camera?
I first picked the camera up after an injury which left me unable to surf for a couple of months. So I started to shoot my mates surfing and what not, but never really got super passionate shooting only from land. A few years later I got into it again, but by this time I had acquired a cheap second hand housing. I was over the crowds in Sydney and was wanting to find some motivation to keep me in the ocean. I got hooked after that because I realised all the amazing things I’d see while I was surfing could now be captured in a photo. The continual motivation with my photography is to take the best photo possible to do the moment justice.
You definitely have a distinct style in the way you capture the ocean. It almost feels Fine Art like (whatever fine art means these days. Haha). Do you have an idea of where this vision came from and has it been something that has evolved since you first started shooting?
Thats cool you say that because its how I try to convey my work. It has definitely evolved since I started and still is. But the main passion and idea of shooting empty waves to showcase their unique beauty has always remained constant.
How often are you shooting? Are you looking for specific conditions when you know the waves you chase will be on, or is there an element of going anyway to see what happens?
I had a period for a while where I was pretty busy and wasn’t getting out with the camera as much as I wanted to. But lately, with a lot more time up my sleeve I’ve been stoked to be able to shoot most days. I feel like in some ways I’ve come back with a fresh set of eyes and a different view of what I want to capture. And that’s got me excited to explore some new ideas and angles!
If I’m going to shoot the local just for interesting plays with light, textures and shapes then there isn’t much thought involved with weather etc as I’m just looking for good light in the mornings and afternoons. But if I’m heading up or down the coast to shoot then it’s pretty much always based off if the right swell, wind and tide will line up to help the odds of the trip being a success.
You mentioned in something I read that photography has helped improve your surfing and vice versa. Can you expand on that a little as it’s a really interesting comment?
Yeah for sure. Basically as I had grown up surfing my whole life, it made swimming around with a camera and knowing where to position myself in the water etc a lot easier than if I was just coming into it all fresh. But what I didn’t expect was how much the water photography would improve my surfing on many levels. It got me out of my comfort zone and continually placed me in situations I would never put myself in normally in the ocean. It made me more confident and more aware of the finer intricacies of waves and where to find the hidden pockets of energy.
Is photography your full time gig, or if not, is that the goal? What would the ideal photography career look like to you?
It’s not a full time gig yet but anything is possible. I just need to put the work in. I have a few ideas on what i’d like to ideally be doing in the near future and photography is a big part of it.
I imagine you have a tonne of great images when you come in from a good session. What are the elements needed in an image for you to pick it from the bunch and publish it?
Thats a tough one, its just everything coming together in an image that I think looks good or if it matches what I’ve had in my mind (and my idea of a good photo is always evolving). To roughly break that down though, its mostly a combo of lighting, composition, wave intensity or shape, and image focus. Sometimes you have all the perfect elements but the focus is just off. Torture!
If you were given a round the world plane ticket tomorrow, where would be the first 3 waves you would go and shoot?
Teahupoo in Tahiti is number one, to watch from the boat when its big would be mind boggling. Second would be the open ocean reefs in West Oz to see the sunset colours they get over there through enormous barrels. And number 3 would be those renowned slabs in Ireland for the combo of raw power and amazing back drops.
As ocean photographers we are a weird bunch in that no one is forcing us to wake up super early in the morning to go and chase waves. What is it that stops you hitting the snooze button on a cold early morning to go and jump in the ocean?
It’s tough sometimes for sure, but the feeling of pure stoke being out there in perfect waves and light and coming away with a good photo usually gets me out of bed pretty quick!
Any other parting advice for aspiring surf and wave photographers?
The best advice I could give is you never know what its like until you’re out there!
Dive into Kyle’s world further here