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Posted by on Jan 14, 2020 in Technique |

Windsurfing photos: How to take AMAZING pictures!

Being able to pull off amazing moves when windsurfing is one thing. But capturing those moves and turning them into amazing pictures can also be a challenge. From amateurs to pros, taking windsurfing photos involves good timing, quick reflexes and the right rider. But how else can you make your action snaps look their best? We’ve gathered tips from professional windsurfing photographers to help you improve!

1. Focus and f-stop

A common pain of windsurfing pictures is their random focus. Whether you’re using auto or manual focus, hitting that sweet-spot might prove really tricky. This is especially true with longer lenses. However, there’s a simple fix for that – stop down your lens! Changing the aperture affects how much of the image

Influence of f-stop (aperture) on depth of field.

This advice comes straight from Marek Brzozowski, the official photographer of the 2007 PWA event in Ibiraquera, Brazil. He advises for windsurfing photos to be taken with aperture set to no less than f/8 or f/6. This gives him enough of a window where the auto focus can catch up with the windsurfer’s face – arguably the most important element of a windsurfing photo.

Orjan Jensen during PWA Ibiraquera, Brazil, 2007

2. Shutter speed – windsurfing photos secret sauce

It will be no news to anyone familiar with the exposure triangle (ISO, shutter speed, aperture) that shutter speed will have a huge role in taking good windsurfing photos. However, it is not as simple as to just crank it all the way down to 1/5000 and call it a day. Yes, short shutter speed will be useful to freeze quick action in time, but it is not the only choice.

Slow and fast shutter speed in windsurfing photos
Compare the effects of fast (left) vs slow (right)
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If you compare the two pictures above taken with fast (left) and slow (right), you’ll see just how different the effect can be. By panning the camera with a fast moving rider, the author was able to achieve a ‘swish’ effect. Such a windsurfing photo definitely underlines the speed of the board. On the other hand, the dynamic front loop on the left was taken with super-short shutter. This allowed the photographer to capture the crisp droplets of water from the board.

The bottom line is that both long and short shutter can work, depending on the situation. However, if you want crisp looking water spray for that frozen in time effect – Shutter under 1/500 s is your friend! However, if its a cloudy, dull day and you need to go longer to expose properly – just roll with it and see what happens.

3. Lens choice for windsurfing photos

Another important aspect of windsurfing photography is the choice of an appropriate lens. More specifically, its a matter of choosing the appropriate focal length to how far away you are from the subject.

Choosing the right lens helps you achieve a better composition of your windsurfing photos!
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If you can get up close and personal to the windsurfers in a shallow spot, this makes things simple! As long as you can get within a couple of meters of the action, a lens between 30-50 mm will do the trick. However, this does come with some implications. A wide lens will capture a lot of the background around the rider as well which might not be what you want. A wide lens from up close will also distort the object in the foreground, stretching it and making it visually bigger.

The other end of the spectrum is trying to photograph from the shore – which in many places might be the only option. Because of the further distance, the barrel of your lens will have to be a lot longer – from compact zooms upwards of 200mm to ridiculously looking 5000mm cannons.

Massive lens to take windsurfing photos from land
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These will give you a completely different look that focuses solely on the windsurfer and not the environment.

4. Understand what you’re taking a photo of!

Whether you’re taking a picture of tricks, speed passes or carve gybes, it is important to position yourself to catch the best moments!

For high speed passes, try to get yourself up-wind of the flyby. That’s to prevent the great looking windsurfing photos to be ruined by the sail obscuring the view.

On the other hand, to get the classic carve gybe photo, position yourself slightly downwind, about halfway through the turn. This will let you capture the carving action of the board. This also extends to duck and lay-down gybes – as that is precisely when the magic happens

As for all the other possible tricks and moves in the windsurfing pallet… as you probably guessed it’s kinda hard to tell. However, whether you’re capturing low-wind freestyle, new-school or wave action, just give your position a second though. Experiment, but above all – stay safe!

5. Forget about rules… go with the feel for your pictures!

I know, I know… It’s ironic for a guide that starts with tech and specs to then tell you to forget about it all. But, at the same time, learning about the technical details to then forget about them in the moment is the key advice from many photographers and cinematographers.

What is the feel at a particular spot? What is the riders situation? Are they on a winning streak or is their lead on the line? Are the conditions pushing people to their limit or is it a fun and playful afternoon? All of those questions will affect how and when you’ll take your windsurfing photos. It’s one thing to make a cool looking photograph – it’s another to make it stand out among thousands of others.

So whatever camera you’re using and wherever you are, try new angles and methods to take pictures. For each trick there’s a million way to capture it – and you might be the one to find a new one.

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