Last Sunday I had the chance to see a big surfing event near the city of Santander, my hometown, located in the north of Spain. La Vaca XXL ‘The XXL Cow’ is an invitation-only competition, classified as a big wave surfing event. Specific weather and sea conditions are needed for this wave to reach at least 5 meters (the competition can’t be held if the waves are less than this) and waves break about 500m away from the rocky shore.
I wasn’t expecting so many people, but the day was exceptional for a mid-December Sunday and the coast looked great with people scattered all over it. Everyone looking at the sea like meerkats. And the truth is that the view was really worth it. Waves at sea, regardless of their size, are always something aesthetically attractive to watch. But when they are ridden by these brave surfers the whole image gets even more interesting.
I had the 70-200mm Nikon lens with my D800E. I soon realised that lens wasn’t going to be enough. As I said before, this wave usually forms around half a kilometre away, so surfers looked tiny in the viewfinder of the camera, even at 200mm. That’s when the 36 Mpix help you when cropping the photo in the editing process.
All of these photos have been cropped out more than half of their size and they are still good. It would be really helpful to have a longer telephoto lens, like the new Nikon 200-500mm for example. But in photography you have to cope with the tools you have, and work overtime to make the most of them.
In events like this I always try to get people in the frame. They make the photo more interesting, although the surfer will look even smaller, like in the photo below. I needed to go 100 meters back inland in order to get a considerable amount of people from the crowd in the picture and I moved left and right until I got the surfers where I wanted them to be. I wanted to use the lens at 200mm so both layers -the people and the surfer on the wave- would look really close to one another. Because this is what a telephoto lens does, it compresses the distance so it will seem they are closer than they really are. This usually creates a nice effect as it makes both subjects important in the image because they both take up lot of space.
Out of the 32 invited these were the winners: 1. Alexander Zirke, 2. Tom Butler, 3. Adur Letamendia.