If your on 500px there is no doubt you would have come across Roger’s photos in the front pages. If your like me you would have come across his work well before 500px. This interview has been a long time coming as he has been on my radar for quite some time. Do you take surf photos i’m sure Roger would love to see some, I know I would, leave them in the comments below.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in the countryside near Bath; in the South West of England. Always loved playing in water so surfing was a natural choice. I’ve been sliding around in the sea for 30-years and been taking photos of it for 20.
What inspired you to get started in photography?
My family weren’t big on home photos so I was a bit of a late starter. My first SLR (Zenith 12XP lump of iron!) I purchased from a junk shop for $40 when I was 21. The intention was to take good photos of the places we were going surfing, it was purely a hobby, I never had any idea about making a career out of it then. It just developed organically and I went pro in 1999.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
Surf photography is about extremes. We use the longest and the widest lenses on a daily basis. My kit bag consist of a Canon 7D, Canon 300mm f2.8L, Canon 1.4x II convertor, Canon 85mm f1.8, Sigma 30mm f1.4, Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye zoom and an Aquatech Waterhousing. Oh and a Canon G12 compact… Favourite lens has to be the 300mm, so sharp, so fast, it’s a dream. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new Canon fisheye zoom.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
Social media hasn’t been that important to me marketing wise because I’ve been in the industry a long time. So made the connections with magazines and surf companies back when it was still slide film, drum scans and big Fedex bills!
That said it makes life so much easier to find the people you need to find and for new shooters to get their work seen.
When freelance my marketing mainly consists of emailing previews of the cream of my work to the mags and companies that would be interested. I’m working full time for the main UK surf magazine CARVE so I’m not chasing other work as much. Got to leave some pie for the freelancers!
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
A.I Forever by Roger Sharp
My favourite photo is of the late pro surfer Andy Irons, taken in Hossegor, France. I lived there for three years working at a magazine out there and it was taken the year after I’d left. It was a crazy year where I was on the road for nine months and work was flying in (this was before the big crash in 2008) and I got the shot of the biggest name in surfing at the time in one of the waves of the year; with loads of other photogs on the beach that all missed it. His main sponsor Billabong were stoked and used it worldwide, the buyout kept me travelling for a good few months. I’ve always loved it but since Andy’s untimely passing a year ago it means even more.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
Stoker Goes To Maccas by Roger Sharp
This was shot with a Canon 5D, the original 3-fps version, which is not really fast enough for sports photography. But the image quality was sensational and you could run a full frame fisheye with it.
This was shot in the Mentawai islands off Sumatra. We were living on a boat for three weeks on this photo trip and this was one of the best images from the trip. I’m just swimming around with my camera getting in the sweet spot and ‘click’. Obviously it takes years of experience to be able to put yourself in the right spot without getting hurt but when it all comes together it’s amazing.
Edit wise the RAWs from the 5D are mind-blowing so it was just a matter of correcting the levels, running the unsharp mask and pumping the saturation a little bit- good to go!
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post?
I believe in exposing correctly, but I would as I learnt in the era of film and you had to be spot on with slide film. There was no fixing in post if you’d blown the exposure. Photoshop is my main tool and I use it to make the image look as real as possible and prep it for printing. That said I am loving Snapseed on the iPad for quick fixes for online use.
Whats your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
My Aquatech waterhousing. Shooting in the surf is the funnest thing ever. It’s what I live for. Being around all that energy and shooting amongst the chaos of the ocean is addictive.
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
500px. I’ve only been using it a few months but the response to my shots has been amazing. It’s stuffed with so much inspirational and jaw-dropping imagery from everyone else as well. I check it daily just to check out what’s going on. I never got on with Flickr, I think 500px has it nailed.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
I’m at the mercy of the elements. If the surf is flat, or it’s raining then I can’t work. Really great surf is quite rare so we go to extreme lengths to find it. As long as there’s waves I will figure something out. I am firm believer in seeing a shot then working towards getting it as opposed to firing away hoping something good will turn up. You need to plan your gear, time of day, etc to achieve the best. Of course some shots drop in your lap but preparation is key.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
It would’ve been so nice to start in the digital age. I would be a hell of a lot richer! Film and processing used to cost thousands a year. As for doing anything different? I would’ve not stinted on equipment. The best is the best, especially with big lenses, I made a mistake of buying a non-Canon big lens. Big mistake. That cost me dear.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
Be humble. Let your work do the talking. Shoot RAW. Don’t poach the older guys. Learn everything you can from magazines, books, forums and other photogs. Create your own style. Don’t worry about photographic qualifications, they mean nothing in my industry. Shoot for the love, not the money, if you have what it takes then success will come.