Capturing The Excitement Of Riding The Wave

Ron Niebrugge surfingSports photography, especially water sports seems to me to need a different kind of mind set than other kinds of photography. You need to consider all of the regular things that you would consider in every photo you take - composition, light angle shutter speed and so on, plus - you need to have a very quick eye (or camera) being able to capture the experience or the many experiences happening at the time.

Ron Niebrugge published several excellent images of surfers in action that demonstrate exactly what I am talking about here.
You can feel the weather, the thrill of watching, the excitement of riding the waves and the power and energy involved in each and every shot.

He photographed a 9 frame series of Brett Simpsons winning wave, that is quite incredible (only to bad they were published in the smaller version on the blog)

Click here to check them out.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.


  • john101477: from what i have seen, read, and heard through various sports photographers, you are contently shooting. If you watch Football, the photographers hardly ever have their fingers off the release button. Basketball would be the nightmare i think. it is such a fast paced game that it would be hard to stop for even a second.
  • Kimberly: I was also thinking that - shoot a lot and then weed out the best shots.
    The composition of this picture is perfect. So much going on and so much calm at the same time.
  • OrcaBob: Burst mode isn’t used constantly, just at the clutch moments. In basketball, you’d burst when someone’s going up for a shot or stealing the ball. No sense in wasting memory on a a few hundred shots of a guy dribbling downcourt when a shoto ro two will do. But when someone’s slamdunking, yes, you would burst to get THE best moment. Lots of opportunities in football (American), but the action is sporadic, so most of the time the photographer is focusing on one or two aspects per play, such as the QB evading the pass rush, then a receiver making the catch.
    To achieve that kind of efficiency, it helps immensely to know the sport you’re shooting so you can anticipate the key moments or locations. I’m sure Ron Niebrugge knows surfing, but even then he used burst mode to get THE shots. Notice the curves of water to the left of the board; the surfer is in the process of pivoting counterclockwise. A split-second before his face was likely turned away from the camera... and the best sports shots usually include the athlete’s face.
    Depending on the camera Niebrugge uses, that burst lasted 1.5 to 3 seconds, which can be plenty of time to capture THE shot in a sequence.
  • k8mia: Yes I agree with Bob, I have Photographed many Sports and I to used the Burst Mode. Great input Bob !
  • Randalama: I have yet to shoot a sporting event. I really want to, but just never have made it a priority. In reading this article, I totally want to give it a shot!
  • k8mia: Pick your favorite Sport and go for it Randalama !
  • Ron Niebrugge: Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it!
    The above photo was a single shot - I tried to anticipate when the surfer would snap their turn on the top of the wave, and would fire one, sometimes a quick burst of two images.
    Now if I anticipate a big jump or some other fancy move, I was shooting a longer burst, but like Bob said, it was usually less then 2 seconds like in the sequence linked to above.
    I spent a lot of time just following the surfer through the lens, while waiting for something good.
    Thanks again,
  • OrcaBob: Wow! Very cool to have the photographer himself stop by for a comment! I’m even more impressed now to hear that that shot was not part of even a short burst. That’s fantastic timing and instinct... and I’m guessing a solid knowledge of the sport?
  • OrcaBob: Randlama, probably the best sport for you to start with would be baseball. You have plenty of time between pitches to adjust your camera and select a subject. But even more useful: the action mostly happens at fixed locations that allow for prefocusing. And high school baseball is just around the corner. Track-and-field would also be a great sport to start with, for much the same reasons.
  • Kimberly: Ron - Thanks for commenting. As OrcaBob says - all the more impressive :-)

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