Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stop and Smell the Ocean..(and shoot surfing in Hawaii)!

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." 

Albert Einstein, E=MC2

Pupukea, North Shore, Oahu

I am 'stoked' for the next posting I get to share with you.....

The last time I was in Hawaii was when I stopped to visit my Dad en route to my big Southeast Asian Adventure in '08! It was my second time shooting surfing at the North Shore and just fell deeper in love with the people, the culture and the sport. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know that I went on to shoot surfing in Bali at the end of that sojourn and returned the following spring for more and also shot in Rockaway Beach, NY in '09 and '10!

Legendary surf photographer, Art Brewer, held a workshop in Puerto Rico in 2011 and it killed me not to go (as it was during a 'not feeling well' phase). Michael Clark and Brian Bielmann also started a workshop on the North Shore of Oahu the year after that but I simply could not do it physically or financially.

Fast forward to now...I may not have a million dollahs, but I FEEL like a million dollahs (and had some Aeroplan Miles saved up)! And NOTHING was going to stop me from going this year! 

Luckily for me, my Dad is usually in Waikiki in February at the exact same time the surf workshop with Brian Bielmann and Michael Clark was on again - so off I went!

View from editing nook - Dad's in Waikiki 

I arrived in Waikiki a couple days before the workshop was to begin. I got to spend some quality time with my Dad, catch up with my cousin Barb who was vacay-ing there and sync myself up with the relaxed Hawaiian island vibe. A bit of a challenge for a Type A, but I think with more time there, I could really perfect this;)

Turtle Bay Resort - our classroom!
The 4 day workshop commenced on February 14th - a day to celebrate 2 of my greatest LOVES: surfing and photography! I leapt out of bed every morning well before 6 AM to make the beautiful sojourn to the North Shore from 'Town' (Waikiki) and didn't hit the sheets until well after midnight when all my edits were ready for the next day's critique. The exhilarating negative ions from the waves coupled with the excitement of shooting world class surfing made me forget ALL about any sleep deprivation I might have been having:)

Students hailed from Canada, Bermuda and all over the US. We all had very different background stories but each of us shared a burning passion to shoot surfing and learn from the best. Which brings me to our instructors...

Brian Bielmann, is a world renowned surf photographer with 20+ years experience shooting along Hawaii's North Shore. He has travelled with the likes of Kelly Slater, Andy Irons and many others to surf spots all over the world and is also well known for his prolific underwater images shot in place like Teahupo'o, Tahiti. His work has been published in National Geographic, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, not to mention every major surf publication you can name. He is a contract photographer for Transworld Surf and Volcom but also shoots for the likes of Red Bull, Billabong and Quiksilver. On top of this, he is a super swell guy with great energy and wicked stories! See more of Brian's work at www.brianbielmann.com

Photo: Brian Bielmann 

Michael Clark, is an internationally published outdoor photographer who specializes in adventure sports, travel and landscape photography. His imagery can be described as bold, dramatic and timeless. It's not hard to imagine that Michael used to be a physicist when you see not only the technical accuracy of his imagery but also browse through the various books he's written on subjects like digital workflow and location lighting. National Geographic, Red Bull, Sports Illustrated, Outside, Men's Journal and The New York Times are counted amongst his many clients as well as Apple, Adobe and Nikon. All this and one of the most well-meaning and thought-provoking people I have ever had the pleasure of conversing with. See more of Michael Clark's work at www.michaelclarkphoto.com.

Photo: Michael Clark
Needless to say, there's no two photographers I would want to learn from or shoot with on the North Shore of Hawaii!

When the light and swell were at their best, which was a LOT of the time, we were on the beach shooting and in between that, we were getting critiques on our work, learning the technical aspects of Lightroom from Michael (since he literally wrote a book on it), finding out what makes a good surf image or intently listening to stories about Brian's wild surf trips and the tales behind some of his epic shots.

Photo: Ben Reed
Brian let me borrow his 600mm lens for the duration of the workshop. The longest lens I had shot with there had been a 300mm on a cropped sensor. So this was an absolute dream and wouldn't have been able to get near the shots I did with my own gear. Here are a few selects!

See the full album here.

Do not be afraid of death. Be afraid of the half-lived life.  
- Laird Hamilton, Big Wave Surfer 

Photo: Brian Bielmann
Because the swell was so big, Michael and Brian decided that it was probably best to learn how to use the underwater housing in the pool at Turtle Bay Resort, where our classes were being held. Brian's daughter, Tea,  was our model and brought a couple mermaid tales to wear. Since there was an extra one just lying around, I got to be a mermaid for a wee bit too - another dream come true to cross off the list (and the perfect pic to use as a profile photo for my Hugger of Seas Etsy Shop)!   

We took over 2000 pics in the pool because we didn't switch from continuous mode back to single shot mode! This ended up being a very happy accident as I could make the material we created into a quasi stop motion vid. Seriously, this was the most FUN I've had in a long time, and will go down as one of the most EPIC days I've ever had!

Surf Photog Workshop Hawaii - Underwater Housing from Tracey Tomtene on Vimeo.

One late golden afternoon, we all had the pleasure of shooting Chelsea Yamase, a local Hawaiian model and surfer. She was AMAZING to photograph as it is pretty tough to get a bad shot of someone who looks like this! Photographing her made me want to go and do 100 squats STAT...why would be evident in the photos below! ;)

Surfer Chelsea Yamase
Clockwise: Michael Clark, Brian Bielmann, Marlon Carias, Bun Chan, Ben Reed
The last day of the workshop was stellar. We shot almost all day at Banzai Pipeline. The likes of John John and Nathan Florence were out in the water and the day finished with a SWEET North Shore sunset.

Pro Surfer John John Florence, North Shore, Oahu
Last Set, North Shore, Oahu
Whale Breaching, North Shore, Oahu
As always, after an amazing time with a great group of people, it was hard to say goodbye! But I was comforted by the fact that I would be back up in a few days when my friend Marj would be arriving from San Francisco!

L: Brian Bielmann C: Moi R: Michael Clark
I would not hesitate to recommend this workshop to anyone! It was the perfect mix of knowledge and fun. Michael and Brian went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that we got our money's worth and then some by packing each of our days with surf photography wisdom and goodness. I came away from it with new friends, mentors and fantastic memories from one of my favourite places on the planet.

More info can be obtained on the workshop by contacting Michael Clark.

After the workshop, Transworld Surf ran some of our images on their blog. They also posted this one on their Instagram feed, which garnered over 10.7k likes - eeeeeeeeeeeeeee:)

Later that week, Dad and I celebrated my birthday with our friend Karen at the Mai Tai! She is my 'Hawaiian Mama'! We met way back when I was visiting Dad on my 20th birthday in Hawaii...we all look the same now, non? ;)

1995 and 2013
1995 and 2013

Marj, who I met in Bali back in 2008, lives in San Francisco and flew over to spend the last 5 days there with me.

She was my surf sister in Bali for 2 months, so it was very fitting that we would meet again in Hawaii! Upon picking her up from the airport, we headed straight north!

Unfortunately, the weather went a little wonky for the time we were there so we didn't get much beach/surf time but on the bright side, we did get to meet Jack Johnson at a local fundraiser for the Elementary School in Hale'iwa, thanks to the Brian Bielmann connection!

Jack Johnson (left)!

We got to catch some waves, do some dancin', catch up on all our stories and have some chill time on the beach once we got back to Waikiki.

All in all, the trip oozed with goodness. Not only did I get to shoot surfing (which would be more than satisfying enough), I got to spend quality time with my Dad, my Hawaiian Mama, my cousin Barb and surf again (after a 4 year hiatus) with one of my long, lost best friends and surf sistas!


"The appearance of things change according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves. 

Kahlil Gibran, was a great artist, writer & poet

See the full Hawaii album here.

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Andrew James said...

Great shots Tracey! I especially like your first select. Hawaii is just as amazing as I remember. I was there last year for business and luckily I had time to spare to get good photos both on land and underwater. I'd definitely recommend it as a good underwater shoot location (as per my blog-http://www.saltlakecitystudio.com/underwater-shots-across-7-seas-refined-in-your-chosen-slc-film-studio/) as well.

Tracey Tomtene said...

Aloha Andrew:) Thanks for taking a read and posting the link - awesome info to have and great underwater shots on the blog! Hawaii IS amazing..can't wait to go back for more!

Kathleen said...

These are so fantastic, I just LOVE them all!!! You are sooo very talented my friend!!A

Tracey Tomtene said...

Oh Kathleen! Thanks so much:))) Right back at u!