Camera for surfing / beach photography?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Jedidiah Smith, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    It's been a long while, but I am finally in a position to consider purchasing a camera again and taking up photography ... and now I live right on the water- at the beach in SoCal.

    I was just going to get a Maxxum 7 again, as that was always my favorite back in Alaska. However, I just got to thinking...with the sand and the saltwater down here at the ocean, how important is a sealed all-metal pro type body, say more along the lines of a Maxxum 9 or Nikon F5 type body?

    Will it make any difference or even be worth the added cost of the body?
    Thanks for any thoughts on this one.
     
  2. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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  3. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  4. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Thanks guys. I will take a look at the Nikonos system. Would have to work for above water shots though too, for what I'm thinking. Also, those disposable ones don’t look too bad if I was willing to use 800ISO print film. Too bad I'm not, that route looks nice and cheap. :D
     
  5. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The guys I've seen who do this stuff in Hawai'i are usually using SLRs from the major manufacturers and big lenses. I love those classic B&W surf shots from the 1960s.
     
  6. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    A couple of things--

    1) Consider whether it makes sense to get in the water for these shots. Whether from the beach or pier you can get a better vantage point with a long lens.
    1b) If the surfers don't know you, you may not be welcome in the water like this. I grew up near Huntington. I wouldn't go into the better waves with a boogie board (considered a kiddie toy) much less a camera. These were not people who were into sharing. Heck, they were pretty aggressive with other surfers. Can you get out of their way if they catch a wave near you?

    2) Nikonos: great camera. Has some major limitations. The only two lenses which work in air are the 35mm and the 85mm (as I recall). Neither particularly long. The Nikonos is a viewfinder camera. It isn't even a rangefinder. You set the focus distance on the lens and aim with the viewfinder. No autofocus. No rangefinder. They are wonderful cameras and dirt cheap these days. But know the limitations.

    3) As to the lifetime of a camera by the beach: film bodies are cheap. You can get an N90s for next to nothing, and an F100 in bargain condition for <$150. (I'm putting things in Nikon framing because that's what I know). Depending on your means, consider the body disposable. You are taking a camera off the shelf and putting it to use. Glass might be a different matter. Consider whether you need autofocus. Are your subject essentially at infinity? If so, why worry about AF lenses. Could make for cheaper glass, and, again, the ability to consider the glass disposable.

    I don't know Maxim styles, but most of the bodies I see at KEH are dirt cheap. Top of the line is still under $200. Most of the glass (with a couple of notable exceptions) is under $200, and much cheaper than that. If this is the system you know, you could be in for cheap and, then, who cares if this is your beach camera? Save it from collecting dust. Run it into the ground. You'll probably get a few years at least.
     
  7. Jojje

    Jojje Member

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  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Way cool, I just bought one! :D There's more on eBay. :wink:
     
  9. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Thank you all for the good advice, especially Matt's detailed post there. Some very good things to think about. I only know two surfers personally - a guy and a gal. Everyone else would be "a stranger", so I was already thinking I'd have to make some friends doing this! :D Very good points about whether or not I could pull it off getting in the water. Maybe standing on shore or waist deep or something would be better for starters.

    I think I will stay with the Minolta gear because that is what I know ... I like the idea of just dedicating a beach body - that's probably the best way to handle it. Then when it gets all scratched up I won't cry. :whistling::laugh: hehe...

    I'll have to think about the lenses. Thing is, with Minolta it's either old, manual bodies and MF lenses; or newer AF bodies and AF lenses - there really is no "good" way to interchange the two systems.
    I shot old manual focus Minolta gear for a long time, and really loved some of the cameras. But the lack of a built-in spot meter really puts me off to getting into them again. Perhaps they would be best for this kind of thing, though? I just got spoiled when I owned Maxxum 9 and 7 bodies, that is for sure!

    Thanks for all the great advice, and please keep it coming if anyone has any more, because I'm just re-entering the hobby after a couple year break, and I'm going to have to buy cameras and glass again, so it's not like I'm dead set on anything...yet. :wink:
    Sincerely,
    Jed
     
  10. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    Canon WP-1
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    For an inexpensive waterproof camera, look at a Sea & Sea in addition to a Nikonos. In this case, I hate to say it but you may well be better off getting a digital. Olympus makes some very nice waterproof digisnappers with a reasonable zoom built in. The other option would be to look for a housing for an SLR with a dome port that can take a reasonably long zoom. That, however, will set you back some serious $$$$.
     
  12. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    "The other option would be to look for a housing for an SLR with a dome port that can take a reasonably long zoom"

    I've been looking for housings for film SLR's. I figured that most serious UW photographers (and a lot of gear hounds) would have moved to digital. I haven't been able to find housings for, say, N90 or F100 cameras. I don't know if they were remachined for digital bodies or what happened.

    Digital for UW makes a lot of sense. Use a big card and you don't have to open all day. Opening a Nikonos on a boat to change film is (a) a chance to get dirt/water into the camera and (b) a chance to get a leaky seal. Making it so you only have to open the camera at night, in your hotel or dive boat. would be an advantage.

    On the other hand, Nikonos cameras are so cheap that if I get back into it, I'll get a couple of extra bodies. Just swap out the body and strobe after each dive.

    Flooding a digital camera and lens (likely a couple of thousand bucks) is not a very attractive prospect. Flooding a $200 Nikonos, not so bad. There is flood insurance.

    I bring this aside up for a reason--dive cameras are mostly designed for diving. Not rolling around in the waves. Getting pounded by a big wave increases the risk of a small or large leak. At the surface you don't have hundreds of punds of pressure on your dome to help keep the seals tight.

    Standard practice is to get in the water and have someone hand you your camera. You don't jump in with it. Being on the surface with waves is inviting a leak.
     
  13. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    I had one of these. Lost it a long time back and was quite sad about it. A nice camera for a lot of uses. Probably pretty cheap now.

    Another in that line is the Hanimex Amphibian. Last I saw, they were about $20 or less.

    Great cameras for kayaking, skin diving, etc..

    Lenses are a bit on the wide angle side. Might not be the best for surf shots.

    Edit to add:

    Don't discount the Nikonos IV with the 35mm lens. Supposedly the 35mm is based on the Nikon 35mm rangefinder lens. It is a good piece of glass. The Nik IV has limitations in running manual (but so do the point-and-shoots). A Nik IV in Exc. condition is $56 at KEH. The 35mm lens in Bargain, $19. Wait for a bargain grade Nik IV and you could have a seriously cheap camera with good optics.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2011
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  15. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    "I only know two surfers personally - a guy and a gal. Everyone else would be "a stranger", so I was already thinking I'd have to make some friends doing this!"

    This would be a good start. They could give you much better information on how well you would be able to integrate into the water than I can. It has been...well...a long time since I was dragging my boogie board to the beach on the bus.

    Matt
     
  16. rphenning

    rphenning Member

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    eos-1n rs, dream film camera for shooting action because of the frame rate and the pellicle mirror. Actually it's just my dream 35mm SLR…but yeah, totally check that camera out. Compatible with all EF lenses which obviously are top notch. If you are looking to put a camera in a housing I would say steer clear of film, unfortunately. I've been there and it's a pain in the ass to get out every 36 frames when there are OTHER methods of modern photography that allow you to swim practically indefinitely.

    That being said I have had some stuff run recently that I made with my Mamiya 7 and 80 f/4. The 150 for the M7 would be sweet but not tight enough unless you're shooting shorebreak or beachbreak…

    Oh yeah, I am from Ventura too! If you see a scrubby looking guy at the beach with a mamiya 7 or olympus epic, say hi!
     
  17. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Rphenning - that is awesome to meet another member from Ventura! We are really enjoying our time here now. That Mamiya 7 is one sweet camera, I am jealous! :D hehehe...maybe I will run into you doing beach / surf photography someday? :smile:

    @everyone - thank you for all the suggestions, the waterproof cameras, Nikonos, etc. After looking at most of these this evening, I think they are just too wide angle for shots I'm envisioning. My mind is coming full circle to an SLR and a tele lens from either shore, the pier, a rock pile jetty, or if I'm real brave, maybe up to my knees or waist in the surf and holding my camera over my head when a big wave hits. Of course that last scenario is just asking for it, but had to throw it in there. :D

    If I get a dedicated "beach use SLR", do you think the longevity will be any different with a pro weather sealed body (Maxxum 9, Nikon F5 type) vs a regular amateur body (Maxxum 7, Nikon F100, etc)?
    I am not going to really baby it like I used to do with all my gear - I want to have some fun with this and enjoy it. :wink: Also, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between the brands at that level, so I'm thinking I'll just go with the Minolta since that's what I know, unless someone can give me a few relevant reasons to get a different brand?

    Lastly, does anyone have any idea on the glass - say 300mm or so, if that would be enough reach?
    Thanks everyone for the responses, it is giving me a lot to think about.
     
  18. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    Well, being both a photographer AND a surfer for more than 20+ years I feel I May be qualified to speak :smile:

    First off, yep, the Nikonos route is viable one, BUT, getting good to great shots depends highly on your own water ability. Getting into the best position for the best action is very demanding and will require a lot of practice, but this is quite fun since you're swimming around. In California the final section where the wave ends gives the surfer a good chance to do some sort of big move, and that position can be figured out fairly easily, and this often may be in knee to waist high water so it can be accessed easily as well. On larger days this zone can be in deeper water so that increases the difficulty. As for the gear, yes the 35 is an excellent lens, with practice the zone focussing required can give excellent results. The only caveat is that for dramatic water shots the 35mm perspective is a bit stale, most water photos are done at very close range with very wide lenses <24mm to give a more dramatic perspective of the surfer and wave together.
    As for the long lens route, at least a 300mm is needed, 400 is better and 500 and 600 is better still, but with a 300 and a willingness to get your feet wet you can do it, with morning light at your back getting a good shutter speed with a slower lens is not a problem, and with 400 speed color print film its not an issue, so finding a decent 300mm f4 or 5.6 is pretty easy ( I just saw a lovely 300mm 5.6 Minolta being practically given away at my local shop). 400 and above gets pricey quick but increases your chances for getting closer to the action, but sometimes showing more of the wave and the relationship of the surfer to the wave is pleasing and popular for the surfer, which leads me to the next point.

    All surfers are enamored of their own image, and even getting a half decent blurry shot of them on a decent wave will, without question, give them unimaginable joy looking at. I know this for a fact, being a professional photographer and a long time surfer, each and every frame I've ever had taken of me I treasure even if its pretty crappy. I've often asked other surfers, friends and family to shoot with my gear (after I set it up) just so I'd have Something, some image of me riding waves. SO, showing up a the beach with a camera can make you a very popular person! If you think you got something good, when they exit the water have them give you a name an number or email and by giving them a print or charging them 2-5$ for a print will find you more than a few friends! Over here in Hawaii (relocated 20+ years ago from California) there are a few shooters who post up a popular spots with digital gear and either a long lens or top notch water gear and they have big web sites listing when and where they were during good swells, and surfer's scan hundreds of images looking to see if the shooter got that one wave, and when they do they'll purchase either prints or digital files. Some shooters do very very well doing this BTW, the average surfer compared to the pro's hardly get a chance at a good shot so shooters charge some decent money per image for this.

    I'd also suggest looking at good surf photography to get a feel for what's out there. The mainstream magazines are pretty formulaic, but Surfer's Journal is an excellent one and they showcase innovative and often subtle photography that is shot with sometimes accessible gear, more of an overview of the wave like I mentioned.

    Above all, have fun and be safe especially doing the water images, let the surfers know if you are shooting with a not so wide angle if you do the Nikonos route, they often see a photographer and think they need to get really close for the shot (which is needed for <24mm) so will actually aim at you which can be dangerous at times. Working with surfers you know increased the comfort and trust level in this regards.
    Aloha!
     
  19. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    I would assume that the waterproof/weatherproof p&s cameras don't offer the lens flexibility you need.

    I agree with Matt with respect to "throwaway" bodies. Nikon 8008 bodies are extremely cheap. So are MF film bodies like the SRTs and equivalents. But the real issue are lenses, none are particularly inexpensive (except perhaps the "can't give them away" manual third party 80-200 type zooms).

    Will most/all shots be at infinity? If so, you could wrap the lens in some sort of plastic wrap for some protection. There's probably a more elegant commercial version of this.
     
  20. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    OK, so when you tear this thing open it's got a 135 canister inside, not an aps?
     
  21. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    I was happy using a 100-300 zoom with and without a 2x converter on a tripod. From shore, keeping the surfer in focus was pretty easy because most of the movement is sideways. But it didn't work so well from a pier.
     
  22. rphenning

    rphenning Member

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    A 300 from the beach is the minimum I would go for if you are looking to fill the frame. 75% of the breaks around here are beachies and don't require a lot of lens unless you want to get some angles. Places like pitas, rincon, and a few places down south probably would be better for something longer but that's where a 1.4 TC and some film with latitude could come in handy.

    dude, eos-1n RS! do it! :smile:
     
  23. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Yep 135.
     
  24. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    Haha! I did actually check out that camera - it looks pretty sweet. I've just never been a big Canon fan, I know that will make some people think I'm crazy, but it's just what it is...something about the ergonomics of the body don't quite fit my hand as good as Nikon and Minolta ones. But, honestly I've never held a EOS-1N RS, so you never know? :D

    As far as the lens - sounds like there are definitely 2 styles - in the water and way close up with 24-35mm (would need a housing / Nikonos for that) or from the shore and 300mm+ .
    I will see what I can find in that 300mm area in my price range.
     
  25. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    @ RidingWaves - thank you! That was such a detailed post, lots for me to consider and think about that. I really appreciate you sharing all that here.
    Sincerely,
    Jed
     
  26. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    Hey great! Give it a go, you never know what you will get. Check out that Surfer's Journal, the non-traditional images that they run are highly respected in the wave riding community, and you may just snag a decent shot or two to submit. Surf was excellent over here today BTW.