Chances are you’ll be catching waves this summer with your camera or phone. If you “zoom in” or use telephoto mode the distant waves will appear larger in your image. If you don’t have a telephoto mode you can always shoot from a cliff or pier to get closer to the wave. Ocean Beach Pier provides an excellent opportunity to be directly over the surfers. You can also crop your image to make the wave appear even larger. If you really want an upfront perspective, grab a waterproof camera and swim out to the waves. This is really only for the strong swimmer and one who doesn’t mind losing a camera now and then. Yes it happens.
Sunlight can help or hurt your images. Early morning or late afternoon light can shine through a wave and illuminate the water’s color making the image more interesting. Morning light can illuminate a surfer but often afternoon light can be blocked by a wave creating shadows. Showing a little of where the surfer came from and where they are going adds interest to the story. Showing a little of the foreground, like an earlier wave which is now closer, can help add depth to your image. If the ocean’s horizon is showing, then make sure it is horizontal when you capture the image or later in edit mode.
To get that freeze frame look you’ll need a shutter speed of roughly 1/400th of a second or faster. This is not too hard on sunny days because the camera will automatically decide to have a quick shutter time and at these speeds hand holding your camera should be fine. However, it is okay to have the fast moving parts of the wave be blurry as that conveys motion to the viewer. So grab your favorite camera device, zoom in, watch the direction of the sun, and compose your image to tell a story.