How would you describe your photographs or aesthetic?
I think overall my photos have a darker feel with an emphasis on ocean textures. My focus isn’t on the biggest waves, partially because I am still carrying that back injury so I have to know my limits in the water, but also because you can capture amazing details, textures and shapes in smaller waves. When I’m shooting with people in the ocean, I tend to not shoot their face as the emotion I’m trying to convey can easily be changed because a person’s face is so expressive — which is hard to control with so many changing variables in the ocean. Additionally, I think not showing the face creates more mystery and intrigue.
What catches your eye?
This is hard to answer because I’m intrigued by so many things. Clouds, storms, water, rain, people, details, texture, colour — or lack thereof — and light.
What makes a good photograph?
There’s so many elements that need to align for a good photo. To me, ultimately a good photograph is one that evokes emotion. The moment you see it, it hits you and it just feels right. One that you can see again and again and still feel it. Also one that makes you question how it was taken and what is exactly happening in the image. I like the ones with an air of mystery or subtle abstract appeal and a bit of grandeur.
Describe a memorable moment leading up to a photograph …
A few months ago I experienced some of the greatest lighting I’ve ever witnessed and it was just me floating with my camera amidst a storm. That afternoon I had put my waterhousing together and went out to shoot because the forecast conditions were perfect. I walked down to the beach and I was shocked because it was terrible, super windy and the waves and lighting were so bad, I sat on the beach for about 10 minutes thinking about just going home but I decided to go out anyway. I shot average waves for about half an hour before these really dark low hanging clouds emerged seemingly out of nowhere. The wind died and then a soft offshore wind started blowing creating these amazing textures on the water surface. The crowds disappeared and the ocean turned a deep dark blue. The clouds were so dark and low over the beach. The clouds then parted and this golden spotlight shone over the water, bathing the ocean surface in a contrasted light. I was in awe, it felt like God had put on a light show for me. I was laughing and yelling I was so excited! It didn’t last long — good lighting never does — but I got some of the best photos I’ve taken that afternoon and it was a great lesson about patience and persistence considering I almost didn’t go out.
How did you learn photography?
When I was younger I injured my back pretty severely and immediately had to quit surfing and skateboarding. So to stay involved, the natural progression for me was to pick up a camera and shoot. I shot photos of my friends surfing and other things on and off for five years — but I never really found my photographic niche. I remember trying to find something that was as exciting as surfing and skateboarding but I didn’t have any luck. Photography was fun, but what I was shooting didn’t ignite my passion. I had been following water photographers like Morgan Maassen for a while and was always so intrigued by their lifestyle and images. So in 2016, I finally took the leap and bought a second hand waterhousing and Nikon D700. I instantly fell in love with the perspective from within the water and since then I have dedicated a lot of time and effort into refining and progressing my style. In terms of learning technical aspects, I’ve studied the photographers that I like, their images, their composition, their techniques. Imitation is a great way to learn something, it is then a question of how to proceed to become original and different.
Tell us about your process and techniques.
Lighting is critical and at the forefront of my mind when I’m planning to shoot. Shooting in the light that captures the emotion you wish to convey is critical, because it dictates the feel of your photo. I like darker images, so I only shoot when its cloudy. It creates darker tones on the water. I tend to only shoot early mornings and late afternoons when the sun is right on the horizon to create more contrast on the water. I’m always very conscious of the lighting at any given moment, so when the lighting is right I can pull out my camera and shoot. When I first started I fell into the trap of over editing my photos. I’ve since learnt to edit as minimally as possible and to do 95% of the work in camera. It’s more authentic and you can’t cheat the viewer. I absolutely love shooting in storms because you can create very brooding images but I’ve had a few close calls with lightning, so its important to be careful because no image is worth dying for.
Do you pursue any other art forms?
I’ve dabbled in graphic design a bit but ultimately I love music, I’ve played guitar for 13 years and started teaching myself piano about a year ago. I love it because there are endless opportunities to progress and do it your own way. I’ve been really enjoying teaching myself new theory and techniques and learning the styles of guys like David Gilmour and Blake Mills. I like the way they are influenced by their favourite musicians and how they take that and put their own spin on it. I have learnt a lot from those artists and those lessons I can even apply to my photography, not just music.
Who are some of your favourite photographers or artists?
Ray Collins — when I told my uncle I was interested in purchasing a waterhousing, he showed me a coffee table book he had by a water photographer named Ray Collins, who had written a personalised message to him on the first page because they had known each other for a few years. I’d never heard of him but these images were unlike anything I had seen. They were dark, abstract and grandiose portraits of empty waves. You can definitely see his influence in my work. I believe he is one of the most innovative, progressive and intelligent photographers in the world and he lives five minutes down the road! Small world!
Jon Frank – The godfather of water photography. He has one seascape that incorporates everything I aim to create in a picture, a wave rising with black contrasted water with dark black clouds in the background, its perfect.
Dylan Rieder – I guess most wouldn’t consider skateboarding an artform but when Dylan did it, it was. Unfortunately, he passed away last October at the age of 28 but his legacy is firmly stamped on the skateboarding world and beyond. He had impeccable style, attitude, authenticity and integrity on and off a board. He had a profound influence on me for the last 5 years and will continue to do so. I wear an identical ring that Dylan owned and to me, it’s a subtle reminder that life is short and to make the most of it.
Morgan Maassen for his stills and motion – ultimately he was the reason I wanted to get into water photography, he taught me the importance of having your own style and how to stay motivated and how to work hard.
How do you want a viewer to feel when looking at your work?
I think if someone sees my photos and feels anything, it’s fulfilled my intent. I mean my ultimate goal is to do what other photographers have done for me, which is to inspire me to try my hand at something I previously knew nothing about. In 11 months I’ve come further than I thought I would have and I want others to know that if I can do it, so can they, not just water photography but anything they want to try. Anybody can learn anything with time and persistence.
Do you think you’ll ever shoot outside of the water?
Definitely, I’d like to learn different types of photography. Maybe more fashion and lifestyle. I’d like to be as well rounded as possible and not get comfortable in shooting one thing. I’ve had a few personal projects I’ve shot outside the water, including photographing a shaping bay, and its been super fun and challenging experience.
Why are you a photographer?
Because I love what a photograph is and what is does, which is a hundred things at once. It inspires, it encourages, it creates an escape, creates a feeling, captures a fleeting moment in time, it documents, and so much more. I can’t describe the impact that other photographers and their images have had on me. They have afforded me inspiration that I can’t possibly articulate. If my photos can have even a fraction of the impact that others have had on me, then I’ll consider my work a success.
View more of Jack's work here
Post by Annalee Porter