For surfers and lensman, there sure is something enticing about cold water surfing. The action unfurling in empty, frosty folds, framed with snow-capped mountains make for dramatic contrasts.
And it's lensman Marcus Paladino, born on Vancouver Island, who's been documenting such sessions across Canada's fickle waters for the past few years. The frozen north offers tales of hardy, unsponsored chargers and for Marcus, it's about getting them the recognition they deserve.
Thick neoprene and training the lens with ice-block hands isn't for everyone. But, for Marcus, the fruits of labour far outweigh those moments, as evidenced below. We caught up with Mr Paladino to talk about Canada, its many nuances and how an industry newbie hopes to break into the fully saturated world of surf photography.
Let's go right from the beginning. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Nanaimo, on the east side of Vancouver Island, BC. I made the move to the west coast when I was 20, the small coastal village of Tofino has been my home for the last 6 or so years.
How did you get into shooting surf photography? And when did you realise that gig could, some day, pay the bills?
I had already fallen in love with shooting sports, action and movement by that point. When I started surfing myself, surf photography just fell into place. I was always dreaming that it could pay the bills some day, but I didn’t necessarily believe it. I knew it was possible because Jeremy Koreski had done it and I’d always really admired his work. By the time I realised, it was already happening.
Shooting in Canada – gotta be some finger numbing moments. How do you stay motivated?
My motivation is simple, it’s not about me. It’s about the surfers, somebody has to document (creatively) what they’re doing. They could land the biggest air of their lives but if no-one is there to capture that, it means nothing to their sponsors. It doesn’t matter how cold or tired I am, I just keep shooting.
Any war wounds?
I have two scars on my lower back from getting scrapped along some rocks. My tooth went through my lip from getting hit by a surfer. I had to get the back of my knee cut open and drained by a doctor from swimming too much. I got a really bad foot cramp from swimming once, that was more painful than the time I broke my leg skateboarding.
Do you have a local crew you rely on to let you know where they're going, or is it very much turn up and see what happens?
I shoot a lot with Pete Devries, Michael Darling and Noah Cohen when he’s in town. We always keep each other in the loop with what the beaches are doing and where/when they’re going to surf. Depending on what spot is best, we’ll either show up together or I just meet them out there. A simple text “suiting in 10, north side looks fun” is all I need to drop what I’m doing, I get just as excited to shoot as they do to surf.
With so many surf photographers around the globe, how do set about carving your own niche and capture an audience?
I try not to pay attention to what everyone else is doing, comparison is not good for progression. I’ve been told that I have a distinct style, but I couldn’t tell you what that is exactly. I want each image to be in the perspective of a surfer and be able to tell a story on its own.
What equipment are you using?
Canon 7D Mark 2, Aquatech Housing, 16-35mm, 50mm, 100-400mm.
Can you talk us through how shooting in Canada differs from anywhere else?
Our waves can be pretty fickle at times, the weather and the conditions change so quickly it can be hard to keep up. To get it at its best, you really have to live here. Besides the cold water there’s so much wind, rain and darkness in the winter that it takes a serious tole on the human spirit.
You mentioned patience in getting the right shot, in one of your images there's a surfer boosting between some hedges (or similar foliage) how long did that take to get that right?
Believe it or not, but only two minutes. The luckiest shot ever! I saw the gap in the hedges and lined up the angle, I wasn’t holding my breathe though. The waves were pumping and I didn’t want to miss out on a good set, so I told myself I’d try a couple times then move on. First wave, Pete killed it! When I showed him he was like “How the hell did you nailed that one?!” Luck can be a photographer's best friend sometimes.
What would your dream assignment be?
All expenses paid, a smaller group of free surfers, with talented filmer and pumping conditions in the middle of nowhere.
Do you think having a good relationship with the surfer you're shooting is important?
I think it’s really important to have good relationship, you spend so much time together that you have to enjoy each others company to be as productive as possible. Like any job you start out as co-workers, but eventually shift to friends.
Do you get to learn different surfers' nuances and learn where to sit?
When you spend so much time watching people surf, you understand their approach on waves you can predict their every move.
Talk us through the scenarios behind some of your favourite shots.
Josh Mulcoy: My display screen on the back of my camera broke a few days before, I swam out there blind not knowing if any of my shots were turning out. My manual focus has been set a few feet too close, so after a 3 hour hour swim this was the only image that came out sharp. Thankfully Josh was getting barrelled out of his mind the entire morning.
Noah Cohen: When I see a beautiful backdrop, I always imagine a surfer the foreground. It took a serious amount patience to finally line up the shot I had in my head, because the wave is breaking across the frame as oppose to towards me. Without even knowing it, Noah dropped his wallet right where I wanted him to. For more from Marcus, go HERE