What is it they say about chance meetings and random events? I forget, not sure I really ever knew. I can tell you from my own learnings that, if you remain positive in life and give people the benefit of the doubt, you can accident across some of the most interesting and talented of humans.
On one such unspecial day I was lucky enough to be introduced to a photographer called Julia Ochs. She was a friend of a friend, who came via a friend from a long time ago work on snowy hills (you know who you are). My laboured point is that it was a random connection.
In my line of 'work' I meet quite a few surf and water photogs, or people who think they can be or are. The reality of the surf photography world at the moment is not a enchanting one. It is probably harder to be successful at than unicorn hunting. Thus, when one meets a talented and pleasant individual who seems to, firstly possess the drive and motivation, and secondly, is willing to put herself in very real harm's way to get the all important 'perspective', it makes us want to find out more.
We wanted to find out more about what drives Julia (who lives a long way from any ocean) to spend her own money, time and life on near injuries, freezing water, thankless clients, moody models and all in an industry that is harder to crack than a titanium nut.
SB: Hey Julia, thanks a lot for your time, where do you live and where is your favourite place?
Julia: Hey James, thanks to you for showing so much interest in my work.
Currently I live in Stuttgart, Germany.
My favourite place... that's a tough one. Pretty much everywhere where there is an ocean with waves. But if I had to choose, I'd say Portugal. I lived there for almost two years and it feels like coming home whenever I'm there.
SB: What makes you want to be a water photog, when did you realise you had the skills?
Julia: I realised it the moment I had my first sunset surf. You know, when the water turns golden, the sun sets behind you and you feel incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy this beautiful moment. Back then I knew: All I want is to capture this feeling with my camera.
That's how I got into surf photography but for years I only shot from the beach. Firstly, because I didn't own the right equipment to shoot in the water, and also because I didn't really think I'd be good enough. I didn't grow up next to the ocean, so I always felt quite intimidated by its power, I guess you could say I was afraid. Secondly, I've seen a lot of outstanding surf photography and I thought, why would the world need me as another water photographer? Still, I never quite let go of the thought, that maybe one day I will shoot in the water.
Just a few months ago, after living in landlocked in Germany for almost two years, I finally decided to make my dream come true. I went on a trip to Portugal and decided to rent a waterhousing for my DSLR and just gave it a try. When I got out of the water and had a look at some of the photos I was sure I had to take this next step, buy a waterhousing and start working as a water photographer.
I knew that I would probably never take the most epic action barrel shot in huge waves or earn lots of money but I didn't care. Because I never wanted to miss out on this exceptional feeling of being able to capture these precious moments in the ocean.
SB: We know photog is not your full time gig yet, what is your day job?
Julia: Yes! Unfortunately not. Like I said, I live in Germany now, away from the ocean but close to friends and family. In Stuttgart I work as a freelance photographer (portrait & lifestyle) but also in the field of marketing for some advertising agencies.
It's not as exciting, but I definitely appreciate my day job as well. I meet lots of interesting people, it's diverse, pays the bills and gives me the freedom to travel
SB: What keeps you coming back to the waves and the oceans, can you describe the feeling it gives you?
Julia: Being in the ocean makes me feel content and puts a smile on my face, every single time. I love how it increases my awareness when I'm out there, how it makes me focused and the way it calms me down at the same time. Whenever I'm in the sea, I forget everything around me, all the stress or troubles I might be dealing with on land at the time. In addition there is the physical challenge of being out in the water with only flippers and my camera, feeling exposed to Mother Nature. I love the feeling when you get back to shore after a couple of hours, feeling exhausted though incredibly present and happy.
SB: In an ideal world what would be your dream job?
My dream job is to work full-time as a water photographer, finding interesting textures, taking photos of waves, surfers and people who share the same love for the ocean. It would allow me to work anywhere in the world, to enjoy great adventures, explore new things, be challenged and spend time with amazing people. And of course, ideally it would give me lots of spare time to go surfing myself!
SB: For you what is the most important and enjoyable part of photography?
Julia: I love the feeling of being able to capture something remarkable and to preserve a moment forever. In today's fast paced life sometimes it's hard to live in the present and appreciate it. Photography is my way of saving all those precious moments life throws at you. I have grown to know myself as a person, who is very sensitive about the environment, absorbing various emotions and appreciating even the smallest treasures in life. With my photographs I aspire to transmit this perception of life to others.
I also really love the interaction with the people I take pictures of, to make them feel comfortable around me and my camera. And once you've had someone in front of your lens, it allows you to get to know someone on a whole other level.
SB: Who are your idols in the industry?
Julia: Sarah Lee – she takes incredible underwater shots with a unique style. In each of her photos you can really feel the powerful connection she has with the ocean.
Chris Burkhardt - He takes stunning shots across the areas of surf, outdoor, adventure and travel. It's so inspiring to see him travel to so many remote places all over the world, to create images that tell compelling stories of untamed Mother Nature.
Another one is Tim Nunn, who has a similar approach to his photography. Greatly enough I will be meeting Tim this year for a surf photography workshop in Iceland.
SB: If someone wanted to hire you for some surf photography is it expensive?
Julia: I guess, that depends on the perspective. I wouldn't say expensive, I'd say it's worth it! No seriously, it's difficult to name a number, because it depends on a lot of factors. But I'm always happy to make people individual offers, based on their certain needs and expectations.
SB: Some people are just born to be doing one thing in life and do it exceptionally well, but it's not always easy to know what it is. If you are like Julia and have found it, then our advice is to grab hold of it and hold on tight with both hands.
We were lucky enough to share some water time with Julia who is one of the most stoked humans on the planet to get amongst the waves. Later, we all agreed there was an air of stoked that was infectious and made you wonder if it would have been so much fun without Julia and her camera.
We hope she keeps doing what she was put here to do. To capture the moment whilst adding that sprinkle of stoke.