Photographing surfers in Cascais, Portugal

Photographing surfers in Cascais, Portugal

Photography lessons

Hello there from me, Neil. As mentioned on the main blog post Sintra to Lisbon via Cascais there were some relaxing times watching some of the locals indulging in their surfing passion. I have seen Point Break LOADS of times (still a great film) know, I surf! :p

Although I have tried surfing a few times and was pretty bad at it, it is still something that I have a big draw towards. Orla can sure testify to me wanting to try and learn properly as with every new summer season starts I proclaim “this year I am learning to surf”. As of yet, no lessons have been carried out so maybe I will just have to resign myself to try and photograph other people doing it and live vicariously through them.

While I have photographed people surfing before this time I was determined to sit and do it right and also to flex the autofocus/focus tacking on my Sony A7ii (spoiler alert, it's meh). That's what this blog post will be about, my experience photographing surfers for the first time (kinda).

Due to the way that we spent our day in the town we ended up twice watching the surfers in action. The first time the light was quite harsh but totally still workable and to be honest I didn't mind it so much as this was purely a training exercise. The first few images that you will see below are the first set before we returned. Just flicking through the images I have here in Lightroom I was sticking around F10, give or take a stop either side. I have the Sony 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens and while I do really like this lens after using it for a couple of years I have never used it to try and grab as fast a focus I needed for surfing. F10 I have found to be a little sweet spot for this lens. Shutter speed and ISO varied as I was shooting in Aperture priority mode (I will post exact setting under each image). Needless to say, I think it performed very well, if not a bit inconsistent. But you can be the judge of the final results. I have edited these images in Lightroom following my standard procedure (more possibly on that in a future post).

Surfing some sweet waves

The second time we sat down to watch the surfers we had some really beautiful light and I couldn't be happier with the images I was able to capture. My only regret was not being able to stay longer, and like Orla said in the main post we will for sure be going back. I had the camera set to continuous burst mode and using the different flexible spot tracking that the camera had. As I mentioned above it is only OK on the Sony A7ii and shooting 5 or 6 fps I really felt the limitations of the camera trying to capture these guys. The camera had a tendency to focus on the wave in front of the person but it would take a moment and then figure out what I would want it to focus on. I went through all of the different focus modes while shooting just to see which one would work the best in the situation I was in. It seemed to be that, when I knew one of the guys was going to ride a wave and I set the focus point on him before he got going that the focus tracked him well enough. With that I kept my finger on the button, a true definition of spray and pray! One great feature I found I used a few times was the ability to change the crop factor on the sensor, thus extending the reach of the lens. The loss of image quality I found to be negligible as none of these images will be printed as billboards (I don't think)

Again, I was at F10 in Aperture priority mode. Have a look below at some of the final images I was able to capture.

Sunset on the waves

Some final thoughts

On a final note I had such a great time photographing these guys surfing and I really look forward to getting a chance to do so again, and living in Ireland I have no doubt that I will. If anyone reads this and they have extra tips and tricks in relation to the A7ii do please leave them in the comments.




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