Hey I’m James, aka jsarasota. If you live in the Venice-Sarasota area, you’ve probably seen my photos before. It could have been on your friend’s VSCO, in a booklet about area wetlands, or reading the local news. I’ve shot everything from stereo-microscope zooms of invertebrates to landscapes, but I’m mostly known for my surf/skim, portrait, and sunset photography.
My photos have been viewed more than a million times online and shared thousands of times on Facebook, Instagram, VSCO, and Snap. I think that’s pretty cool, and I hope they’ve maxed your stoke.
“No, seriously, where have I seen your photos?”
Social media and/or web sites…
Follow me on Instagram to see what I’ve been shooting lately.
I get a lot of questions in DMs and in person. Here’s some info.
What camera/equipment do you use?
I’m all about mobility and compactness. I usually shoot with an Olympus Micro 4/3, using various prime portrait, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses.
Will you shoot me in a bikini / lingerie / nude?
Probably / not likely / I mean, are you going to surf naked?
Will you shoot my event?
It depends on my schedule and the location of the event. Hit me up on Instagram and tell me about your event and what you need.
I [insert thing you do here – skate, run, model, skim, kiteboard, etc]. Do you want to do a photoshoot?
Maybe. Hit me up on Instagram and tell me your idea.
Do you edit your photos?
Yes, within limits. I’m not a Faketographer – no fake skies, no color masks, no heavy editing. I like the photos to convey the feeling/vibe/look I experienced when I was there shooting, but I also have a one-minute rule. If it takes more than one-minute to edit a photograph, I’m probably going to hit delete.
Why “respectful re-use allowed with attribution”?
I think an attribution (shot by jsarasota or tagging me) is fair and simple to do.
I say “respectful” because I’ve had a few people re-use images in a disrespectful way. Once it was an attention-seeking teenager. Another time is was a creepy adult woman. Be respectful. It’s easy.
Any tips for shooting surf or skim?
Yes, plenty. It’s all about light and action-ready settings on your camera. See below.
Shooting Surf and Skim Photos
To reduce glare and illuminate the subject, I prefer to keep the sun mostly to my back, behind the lens. On our coast, this usually means shooting in the morning. Of course, you can’t always do that.
So let’s say it’s the warm-months here on the W(b)est coast of Florida (Naples, Venice, Siesta, Sarasota). In the afternoon, the sun will likely be to the NW. I will stand at the north end of the line of surfers and shoot SW, putting the sun on my right shoulder. The light is still harsh, but it’s manageable. When it gets late, about 30-50 minutes before sunset, I’ll start moving south, and try to capture the light penetrating the top of the waves. In the winter, it’s pretty much the opposite.
Also, I also usually shoot “up”. That is, I use the manual exposure settings to shoot up .3 to 1 stops. Whites should appear white.
You may want to check your white balance too. The water here is usually green, but sometimes shooting down the beach with a telephoto lens will cause the photos to be more blue than it appears to the naked eye.
A polarizer (CPF) can be a big help when there’s a lot of glare/reflection, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. However, it will impact your shutter speed or ISO (see below).
Ready for Action
The two priorities are ISO and shutter speed. For surf, I try to shoot at 1/800 or faster. For skim 1/1250 or faster. Of course, I want the lowest ISO, 100 or 200 preferable, but you have to manage that. It might be better to shoot bigger waves and a short board rider at 1/2000 and an ISO of 400 to get the best shot. With longboarders, you might be able to slow down to 1/600 and track them with your camera.
Once your ISO gets over 1200, the photos are going to look “meh”. To lower the ISO, you might want to consider a different lens, such as a prime lens that’s a little smaller.
I usually shoot on continuous auto focus, but I have a trick where I focus on the point where I want to get the photo (the light, background, whatever is just right). Then when the subject crosses this point, I get the shot.
Take a lot of photos.