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Lone figure at Getty Museum © Robert Sommers 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Surf City


I took a much needed mental health break yesterday and drove to the beach. Tell me I'm crazy but it seems like I need a lot of mental health breaks lately, doesn't it? After a week of genuine hell and successive sleepless nights I figured I could allow myself a day to chill and hopefully get my shit together.


Hurricane Eugene in Baja has been delivering some big surf on the California coast, especially south facing beaches. It was double overhead at the Wedge on Tuesday and was supposed to be six to seven foot tall yesterday at Huntington so my friend Pete and I got in my van and drove up there together.

Pete is a long time Orange County surfer. He is having some health issues of his own and the doctor's won't let him have his car keys for a while so the trip would be good for both of us, we both really needed to be near the water.

And it would give me a chance to see how the new nikkor 400mm 2.8 fl lens would work for surf and action photography. I have learned one thing as I get older and I have said it before; even for a creative narcissist like me, you can't get good at anything without practice and mileage. I know that Bobby Clampett shot a 77 the first time he ever touched a golf club but he was a freak.

I'm no Mozart.

But I can and do get better, I'm a pretty fast learner.

The tip was slow and uneventful. We counted three major multiple car accidents on the way up, two on the way back down. In each one, no less than three cars were pretending to be accordions. I figure it has to be one of those braindeads I often see texting in the car, there can be no other explanation. Young whippersnappers with notions of immortality meet the hard wall and the Pauli exclusion principle, that mean old law of physics that says that two particles can't occupy the same space at the same time. Best to text when you get to your destination.

Shooting surf with the big lens was tricky. I got wore out lugging the tripod, heavy lens and Wimberly to the pier. I was shooting down on my subjects and I was too close to my subjects and never really found my sweet spot in terms of range.

When a person is flying by you on a fiberglass board they are also getting closer to you. Shooting with a prime lens of this focal length has its pluses and minuses. But it certainly has its utility and all the problems I encountered are easily fixed.

Not only did I not need the added range of the nikkor tc 14e II that Pete was holding for me in his pocket, I would have everything nearly exactly perfect if I had merely brought my full frame Nikon D810 camera rather than the 1.53 crop factor of the smaller sensored Nikon D7200.

Is that enough technical jargon for you? How about some pictures? Click on one...


The performance of the lens was perfect, what I expected, fast, sharp and spot on in terms of focus acquisition. Operator could use a little work. Lost a couple shots through a combination of sheer proximity and bad panning technique, cut off some hands. Next time I will nail it.

I can't wait for the Trestles Pro in September. I had such a great time shooting last year, with this new tool I think I can capture something tight and really special. We will see.

If not I will go back to the zoom, which certainly makes it easier to grab things moving towards you.

By the way, blog reader Jerry Hall was a college roommate of mine in Encinitas. He was a very fine surfer in his day, long and elegant, he dominated. Unfortunately he got into a car accident and had to give up the sport he loved the best. Tragic. I love Jerry, what a beautiful, nice person.



Big Mike called yesterday, crying about Buzz. I appreciate that so much Mike, he loved you too. I appreciate all of your good wishes. Pain is going around. Don Leichtling's wife Debbie died of cancer this weekend too. Blast love to her family. That disease is such a horrible beast.

Surf was pretty big but not a lot of barrels. North side of pier. Surfers had fun, we had fun.

Look forward to trying it again one day.



The blog is blowing up in Brazil. For some reason. Or it has been for the last two weeks anyway. My short story, A cup of Joe. Wrote it back in 2009. I wonder how it got virally disseminated? Wonder if they are reading in english or a translation and if the latter, how accurate is it?

My second viral wave in Brazil. Love it, the blast now rolling along in the many millions of hits. Google stopped letting me know after 14 million views or so, whatever that metric actually means... I have a Wainrober cousin in Brazil, a heart surgeon, a bunch of mom's family landed there.

Anyway I always liked that short story. Remember Feeler, my three part short story from years past? John Colombero always loved that one. I think I will finish it this year. Instead of scrambling around New Mexico I will hole up in a dirty motel in Albuquerque with a liter of vodka and finish the damn thing.

2 comments:

Jon Harwood said...

The 400 is working well and I think these images are better composed than the one's I've with the zoom. I don't know which will be best for you, zoom or prime. You have to think differently with each type of lens. If it was me it would be no contest. The prime lens would win. Almost all professionals use zooms mostly, so I will be interested in how your preferences work out.

Blue Heron said...

Thank you Jon, I agree. I can be capturing a dimension whose furrow is not so often plowed with the prime. And the speed and resolution is on another level. Just need to dial it in. Hopefully.