Billabong Pro Tahiti presented by Air Tahiti Nui

Kirstin Scholtz On Shooting The Best Surfers In The World & Her Tips For You



Kirstin ScholtzKirstin Scholtz is one of our esteemed judges for the 2018 International Surf Photographer Search presented by Braven. (Enter here now) If there is one career photographer in this world we recommend you look to for inspiration it’s her.

Kirsten graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism specialising in Photography before developing a deep love for the ocean and Africa’s wildlife and the outdoors. She was taken under the wing of one of the surf world’s first digital photographers, Pierre Tostee who introduced her into surf photography and the then, Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).

In 2008 she joined the Dream Tour with a dream job as a senior photographer for the ASP / World Surf League where she toured the world for 12 years. She shot visual journeys of some athletes whole careers as well as historic days, and some of the biggest and scariest waves on earth. She shot the iconic photo of Mick Fanning embracing after the infamous 2015 JBay attack (see below) amongst hundreds of other iconic moments in modern surfing that made the covers of newspapers and publications worldwide.

Since leaving the WSL, Kirstin is now working on a very special and important project that she uncovers in our chat as well as some tips for buddying girls of the sea who would love to progress their photography skills. 

THE MERMAID SOCIETY: What was one of the biggest highlights for you working as a senior photographer for the WSL, and how long were you there all up?
KIRSTIN SCHOLTZ: Being in Tahiti for the Code Red Swell at Teahupoo in 2011 was probably my career highlight. For year’s I’d been traveling to Tahiti for the event, but we had never scored any of those iconic swells you read about. I was beginning to think it would never happen!
That year was mind-blowing and terrifying at the same time. I remember being out on the boat fearing for my life as tsunami-like waves exploded on the reef and our camera boats scrambled for the shoulder! I don’t think anyone really understands the power of mother nature until you witness something like that.

Kelly Slater at Teahupo’o, Photo by Kirstin Scholtz





Billabong Pro Tahiti. Teahupo’o one of the world’s heaviest reef breaks. Photo by Kirstin Scholtz

What were some of the challenges of the job?
Having to shoot in poor conditions such as rain, fog and onshore winds when the waves are small and bad. That’s when the hours can feel like days!

Nothing beats traveling the world, visiting wave rich destinations, photographing the best surfers in the world and meeting all sorts of wonderful people along the way. Sweating it out in the hot sun all day, dragging heavy bags through airports, being away from loved ones – like anything in life, there are compromises and it’s not as glamorous as it looks but it sure beats sitting in an office all day!

Taking surf and ocean photography can be tricky, what are three key tips you’d give to our community of amateur surf photographers?
Keep practising; photography is like anything, the more you practice, the better you get! Watch you-tube tutorials, study images taken by your favourite photographers and try to pick up on composition and lighting.

Editing is important these days with digital media, but there’s a fine line between the natural look and going overboard. Any advice?
Editing is where you can make an image come alive and is where the art of photography lies in my opinion (so long as you have a strong image to start with of course). That said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so it’s hard to give blanket advice. I’ve seen heavily edited images that I love and others that I hate. In general, grossly oversaturated images are always ugly.

Laura Enever heading out at dawn, Photo by Kirstin Scholtz.

Nikki Van Dijk duckdiving at Cloudbreak

In your opinion, what is on the essential gear list for an ocean/surf photographer?
I’d recommend a camera body with a high frame rate, but it’s not essential. Then you will need some longer lenses; a 70-200mm is great for pulled back, or lineup shots and a 400mm is a great lens to capture some tighter action. Back in the day everyone had 600mm lenses, but that tight-cropped image is pretty dated, and the smaller lenses give you much more flexibility to move around and try different angles.

You’ve moved back onto land and are working on something pretty important. Tell us about WildArk and what part you play with the incredible movement?
WildArk is a registered non-for-profit with a vision to protect as much of the world’s biodiversity as possible and inspire people to reconnect with nature.

Our mission is to secure parts of identified green belts around the world to protect biodiversity as a way of conserving wildlife. We invest in scientific research to deliver actionable outcomes that lead to better understanding of biodiversity, as well as share positive and uplifting stories to connect people with nature and inspire each of us to protect the world’s wild places.

At WildArk, I am Head of Content, which means I work on all our online stories, run our social media accounts and photograph all of our trips.

What can people do to help and be involved?
Follow us on social media- Instagram: @wild.ark and Facebook: @wildarkglobal. We will also soon have a donate button where people can donate to our various projects. Follow our journey, enter our competitions and send us your stories from wild places!

Kirstin Scholtz

Julian Wilson and Mick Fanning embrace after Fanning’s terrifying shark attack in 2015. Kirstin said, “As photographers, we strive to tell the story and to evoke emotion through an image. It was very difficult to summarise what happened that day in July, in a single image. I was just lucky to be at the right place at the right time to be able to capture that moment.” Photo by Kirstin Scholtz

Bianca Buitendag during Round 3 of the JBay Open. Photo by Kirstin Scholtz.



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