A surfer waits in a golden evening light while waiting for a lull and paddling out at a north east river mouth surf break.

Without light…

We’re blessed in this country. We find ourselves somewhere between two weather systems, both engaged in a never ending battle for space. This clash of titans plays out over our heads every single day – and in most cases goes by unnoticed despite the our nations unhealthy obsession with all things weather.

An easterly swell tends to be accompanied by a shroud of low, gloomy cloud. Occasionally however, the sun, just sometimes, gets a little say in this spectacle and when the golden light of an autumn sunset combines with a crack in an otherwise seemingly relentless cloud base beautiful things can happen.

To me this image just sings of that wonderous period between a great summer of waves, friends and good times and the inevitable onslaught of winter.

A big wave wraps into the mouth of the River Tees at a fickle North East man made boulder reef.

This wave is a rare sight on these fickle shores so when the required charts start flashing it creates a buzz that draws in surfers from Newcastle to Scarborough. It commands respect at all times, especially at this size and in these conditions.

Knowing that the light levels were going to be at a premium, I decided to set myself a challenge; a single roll of film rated at 100 ISO. This left me with a base exposure of 1/60th @ f4, challenging conditions given the raging 20+ mph winds. A tripod an absolute necessity.

It’s strange, i’ve been off the radar of late, life seems to have taken over, family, work…the usual. This year i’ve decided to get back on it, sort my shit out and actually put life first. This monster swell is my first foray into shooting surf imagery in at least 12 months and I feel absolutely invigorated, a child-like excitement grows as I wait for the film to be developed – that exact feeling is what got me hooked on photography in the first place. I’ve missed it.

Two surfers walk through the snow covered sand dunes. North East, Redcar, UK.

Two surfers trundle through the snow covered sand dunes.

Surfing The Cove, Staithes, Yorkshire. One of the UK's premier reef breaks.

I was incredibly fortunate to have grown up surfing this wave. This image brings back those memories as a grom of been too deep and knowing that I won’t make the shoulder. Fuck.

North East surfer Karl Frampton floating at the cove, Staithes, Yorkshire, UK.

I love my Nikonos V. I have held off getting a digital housing for years because I really do believe that to get good at and truly understand water photography I need to go back to basics, this camera let’s me do that.

I assure you that the success rate for this role of film was barely 10%, i’m almost certain that had I had a digital camera with autofocus and all the gubbins that probably would have been closer to 50% – and here’s my point, pretty much every throw-away frame from this roll of film was wasted because of me – the lack of experience in the water as a photographer screams from the lightbox when the whole neg set is laid out – not been in position, mis-judging zone focus distances – all the things that would be masked by a modern SLR are shown in all there glory with film.

My personal aim is to get that success rate higher, if I can consistently swim away from a session with a 50% success rate I may just treat myself to that housing.

An unknown surfer powers round at The Cove, Yorkshire.

A hidden gem…re-discovered.

There is something wonderful about re-visiting old neg sheets and spotting images that you missed on the original edit. They lay hidden for years. Meanwhile your life goes on, your experiences broaden, your photography progresses, your knowledge deepens and ultimately your tastes change – to re-visit that dusty neg folder years later it’s just possible that an entirely different set of images will jump out at you. Progress.

A lone surfer flows through an arcing top turn at a fickle North East UK river mouth point break.

Cold, fickle and lonely.

Only now am I beginning to really appreciate how important it is to layer your images, each decision should be meticulously considered, tested and then reconsidered – all before you even press the shutter.

This image took me about 30 minutes to create, it is the first time that I have consciously composed an image layer by layer and ended up with a picture that, to me at least, has a real depth and encapsulates what surfing at this location is really like.