Shooting the South Hams with Jack Watson

Shooting the South Hams with Jack Watson

May 31 2018 Categories: Photos

While the surf photography scene in the South Hams, and in Devon moreover is hardly a saturated one, what the movement may lack in numbers it certainly makes up for in quality. These days at Bantham Beach you can almost guarantee that, if it’s on, there’s one of just a few familiar lenses pointing in your direction from the rocks, from a bobbing head in the lineup or even from the skies.

One such creative that you may or may not know of is Jack Watson, who dips into all elements of shooting the South Hams’ diverse local coastline. That’s why we decided to have a chat with Jack and make the necessary introductions, so next time you spot him on the sand, say hello and see if you’ve ended up in his reel.So, we’ll start with the basics. How did you get into surf photography?

Photography has been around me for my entire life. I didn’t really acknowledge it until was in my early teens when I started skating and capturing what we did day-to-day on our trips. From there I noticed that my parents are great photographers and that really fuelled the passion. Even though I wasn’t focusing on the same subjects originally, it was hard to stay away.

In terms of surf photography, I would say it is quite a new aim for me. The last few years I’ve been learning the techniques you need to capture great surf images. Living on the south coast of England and spending a lot of time on the beaches, seeing the guys and girls wearing full suits in the middle of January, overcoming the conditions and having a blast, it’s a great sight to see and capture.

Opening the first few shots of surfers ripping winter swells on my computer, I could feel the adrenaline they were feeling, along with posting them online and seeing the positive reaction they got. That’s what made me want to keep going out shooting more and keep improving.

Do you have any particular influences or favourite photographers? 

I would have to say my all-time favourite and most inspiring photographer would be Chris Burkard. Anyone familiar with his work will know what I mean. The adventures he experiences and the style of his shots are amazing – but I feel as a choice for my favourite photographer it’s a little obvious.

Jack Johns is a great British photographer I have followed on Instagram for a while. His moody style and shots of chilled, close quarters surf sessions are really unique. He never relies on sunny predictable conditions and also has a fantastic wide range of photography.

Let’s talk equipment, what camera got you started?

[Laughs] A Fujifilm Finepix S2000. A little more than a point and shoot, it could capture video and photos, perfect for skating adventures and mates but there came a time when it had to go.And what are you using now?

My ‘do it all’ camera is a Sony A7sII — a versatile, small, 4k DSLR. Capturing both video and photo it has everything I need over my shoulder to come with me around the world, shame the lenses are so big! [laughs]

One of the best purchases I have made though is my DJI Mavic Pro. Being able to get above the waves, close the action and see new angles of the surf, it really is one of the most powerful tools I have. I also shoot on a Canon 5D MKII which is great as its main purpose is photography and it conquers it.

What inspired you to start working with a drone instead of maybe taking up water photography?

I love the angles the drone can get; it’s very unique but very disconnected from the action and emotion on the water and for this reason I would really like to get in the water and get close to the action. I had the opportunity to be part of a surf shoot as a in water camera but sadly the opportunity was cancelled which made me want to get in and start shooting. Keep your eyes peeled for some shots coming soon…

Surfing yourself, how do you balance time in the water and time shooting? It’s got to be hard to stay out of the water if it’s pumping?

I’ve surfed a lot less than I would have liked for the last few years. I’ve been very busy working full seven-day weeks for the last few years but now the opportunity has arisen to be my own boss with my own hours and I have jumped on it and hope to get on my Bunty a lot this year!

Saying that, my job has taken me to some amazing places and I’ve been lucky enough to surf in San Diego, Mexico and the Hebrides, so there’s no complaining really.

All that travel, but you do have a favourite local spot or location to shoot? Without giving away any secrets of course…

I like to shoot spots that break close to shore, have a good left and right with an interesting back and foreground. Shooting in the same locations over and over, it’s hard to have a separation between each shot, so being able to shift angles and be really close to the action is important. There are many great spots around the South Hams but I have my favourite. Come and find me and say hello.

Best session or spot you’ve ever shot?

There was one weekend that was huge this winter just gone, it was pumping and attracted loads of great people to the water. The amount of great shots I got on that day was crazy, they’re still fuelling my feeds now.

There was also a day at Bantham I sent my drone up and had so much footage from 30 minutes of flying I could make a short film with it — ‘Above the Ocean’, that was a great day.

And let’s end with your favourite photo you’ve ever taken. 

‘My favourite’ is always a hard question to answer with any subject, but personally I like this one (above) of an anonymous surfer heading out. This was also taken on the big day mentioned above and while it’s not one of the action shots I love to capture, it really shows the emotion and thoughts going through an individuals’ head before they get in. The bold stance staring the huge walls of water firing towards them, you feel as if you are there in the water with them.

Keep scrolling for a little more of Jack’s work below or head on over to his Insta and sling him a follow – Jack Watson Instagram.

And for more updates on the state of surf in the South West, go give Triocean a follow, HERE.

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