Surf Photography. Do you ever look at a photo and think you can feel the textures? Does the photo make you think you are there? Does you mind start to convince you how warm and clear the water is? I look at surf photos a lot, I mean A LOT and there are some photographers that for some reason just stand out, that make you feel these things. How much can be taught and how much is just raw talent? Does it depend on the subject or just the perspective?
Without doubt there is a huge amount of talent, time and dedication that goes into this process and goodness me, when it all comes together the end result is simply stunning. A good surf photo is one that you can loose yourself in, can come back to again and again. Do these selfless artists get enough praise? Well I think not. Have you ever heard of an extremely talented lady called Ming Nomchong? Maybe not but I bet you have seen her hypnotic photos flying around on social media? If not now is your chance to broaden your visual horizons.
Ming has been kind enough to spare some time for you lucky people by answering a few of our questions.
SB: Hey Ming, thanks for your time, how have the waves been in Byron recently?
Ming: Hey James! No worries, any time. The waves have been super fun of late. The winter swells are here which means light offshore winds and and fun waves all around the cape.
SB: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Ming: I was born and grew up in Sydney Australia. I didn’t live right on the coast but I still got plenty of ocean time as a kid.
SB: So how did you first get started with photography and when did you realise that you have a gift for it?
Ming: My mum was a photographer so I grew up around it. It was a pretty natural progression for me to pick up a camera and start to use it. I didn’t really realise I had a gift but more that I loved it so much that i didn’t want to be doing anything else with my time. That was just after school and one failed attempt at university. I decided to go and enrol into a Fine Arts degree and I haven’t looked back.
SB: When and how did you start you relationship with the water photography, was it before or after you started surfing?
Ming: It was after I started surfing. I was a late bloomer to surfing. I think I was 26 when I decided to learn to surf. I was working in Fiji on a boat and my boyfriend at the time owned a water housing. He’d let me borrow it when he went surfing and it was then my addiction began. When I moved back to Byron in 2012 the first thing I bought was a water housing for my camera and started shooting anything and everything that moved in the ocean.
SB: What is you favourite subject? In your mind what creates the perfect shot in the water?
Ming: My favourite subjects are definitely female surfers. They have a strength and at the same time a softness to them that is really beautiful and translates so well in my imagery. Light is also a major factor for a perfect water shot. The waves come third as you don’t have to be surfing a perfect wave to create an image that makes you feel like you’re there in the water. My work is about transcending the spirit of surfing in an image, not necessarily shooting the most epic wave.
SB: How do you make a living out of photography? I understand it can be quite tough to get recognized?
Ming: It is definitely a tough gig when you’re starting out. And I still sometimes wonder if there will be work for me next month. Most of my paid work is in the fashion and lifestyle fields as well as a little bit of travel. My surfing imagery comes under the lifestyle tab, shooting predominantly for surf labels and brands. I don’t (although I do sometimes) shoot for surf mags as my bread and butter. It’s a well known fact that unfortunately there’s not much money in surf photography.
Social media is a powerful and wonderful tool if used correctly in self promoting your work. And most of my work these days comes from my imagery being recognised on social media.
SB: Is there sometimes a conflict of interest between surfing and taking photos? Do think I wish I had my board?
Ming: Always. But photography for me wins because as soon as I get on my board, there is a little person on my shoulder saying, “see that wave there, that would of been an epic shot”.
SB: Do you admire anyone in particular in the photography world?
Ming: SO many people in all different fields. In the surfing world I love Chris Burked, Woody Gooch, Luki O’Keeke & Andy Staley.
SB: Some of your water shots are simply stunning, how can I get my hands on them?
Ming: Just head over to the blog The Drifter - www.thedrifter.me and click on SHOP. If you can see the one you’re looking for, just email me and we’ll make it happen. I’m also about to revamp the shop with a whole new range of prints, artists collaborations, hangable art and home wares using my prints, so keep an eye out over the following weeks.
SB: Do you work closely with anyone in particular in the surfing world, pros or free surfers?
Ming: Yes I collaborate often with my good friend and Billabong free surfer Lauren L. Hill. Lauren is also a brilliant writer so we work together on a few different projects.
SB: Can you tell me how it made you feel the first time you caught a wave?
Ming: I’m pretty sure its the same feeling I get every time I catch a wave. Pure stoke. Like you’ve tapped into this other worldly state where everything is how it’s meant to be and you’ve found this amazing connection to the universe through being on that wave.
SB: Thanks a lot for your time Ming, we know it is precious, hope to see some more jaw dropping shots soon.
At the time of the Interview Ming was shooting off here and there on different trips, it seems to be a busy life and not an easy one either. We can perhaps just remain thankful that firstly there are those out there with this level of talent and secondly that they are determined to remain doing what they are good at in such a tough industry. A tip of the hat if I may to Ming.