After 19 interviews with surf & wave photographers from all around the world including USA, Poland, New Zealand, France, Tahiti, Mexico, The UK and more, for number 20 I’m bringing it all the way back to my little home town of Newcastle, Australia.
I’ve followed and admired Nathan Henshaw’s imagery, from before I had personally even picked up a camera to photograph a wave, and his work just keeps getting better and better with every new photo he releases.
Newcastle has produced a lot of talented surfers and surf photographers and it’s a super inspiring town and photographic community
to be a part of.
Nathans skill and knowledge behind the lens is only matched by his humility.
It’s refreshing, in a social media world where self promotion is often not backed up by any substance, to have someone whos work so clearly speaks for itself that he can just calmly go about his craft.
There is a generic, often repeated statement that ‘Photography is all about light’
This is definitely true, but going even deeper, the ability to capture light is secondary to the ability to see it in the first place.
Noticing where highlights are happening and understanding how the angle at which the light is hitting the wave, or the ocean surface, accentuates texture and form. Then adjusting both your positioning and camera settings accordingly, to showcase the subject in it’s finest light and contrast.
This is the space where ‘taking a photo’ becomes ‘creating an image’ and Nathan Henshaw creates some of the finest ocean images to come out of our little coastal paradise.
If you don’t already, be sure to follow him immediately and check out the rest of his work via the links at the end of the interview
Was photography always the plan or what first made you pick up a camera?
Ummm, yeah there was definitely no plan. I think surfing and being around the ocean as a young kid you see so much magic, and especially when I was a kid when we had very little in the way of online surf reports and how ocean swells arrived. It felt like a magic entity to me and I wanted to try and capture that.
You have a distinct style in the way you capture the ocean. There’s definitely a darker overall tone, with shape, form and really interesting light play all working together. Do you have an idea of where this vision came from and has it being something that has evolved since you first started shooting?
A lot have people have said that but I don’t really see it because it’s just the way I see the world I guess. I think maybe I’m always looking at the highlights in the wave (hence my red pterygium ridden eyes) so that exposes for that & I guess brings the rest of the exposure down. I think the form side of it just comes wanting things to sit right within the frame. Probably comes from my ol’ boys undiagnosed OCD rubbing off on me haha.
How often are you shooting? Are you looking for specific conditions or is there an element of going anyway to see what happens? And is it good to challenge yourself to try and create an image no matter what the conditions are like?
Lately I’ve been looking for a specific kind of light that gives me the tones, & colours I’m after, which kind of goes against the rule of shooting at sunrise for the saturated colours. But I like mid morning on cloudy days as the sun breaks through, so I get a dark scene and a backlit neon blue wave & hopefully some bokeh highlights in the foreground. Pretty specific haha! It’s also nice to just walk down without even seeing the ocean yet & seeing what I can capture. There’s always something magical happening if you’re looking at it from a perspective of gratitude.
You swim and shoot in some pretty solid conditions. Do you have any physical and/or mindset practices when it comes to shooting in the water?
No special training or anything like that. I just love being out in that energy. I love the feeling after the first 15 minutes of being scared out of my mind, when my brain kind of surrenders to it all and enters this super calm state. I guess it’s similar to meditation or something?
When you come in from a great session there’s potentially a lot of good images on the camera. What are the elements required in an image for you to then select it from the bunch as one to publish?
I think the best photos just grab your attention straight away.
What does your current photographic life look like and do you have any goals you are working towards over the next 12-24 months?
It looks like nothing over complicated or serious, just as I like to live my life, but I’ve got some awesome opportunities that have come up of late for the near future so keep your eyes peeled! Haha
As ocean photographers no one is forcing us to wake up early in the dark 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?
Most of the time I’m hitting the snooze button haha. But you can just tell the mornings that are going to be worth it and I usually attack those and try & make the most from them. I try not to make photography feel like a job but more of an escape, so waking up to an alarm every morning would probably have me getting over it pretty quickly.
If you were given a round the world plane ticket tomorrow, where would be the first 3 waves you would go and shoot?
Nowhere specific in mind, but places way off the beaten track with more of an emphasis on the adventure there than the wave itself.
Any other parting advice for aspiring surf and wave photographers?
Dive into Nathan’s world further here