COTW is proud to present a collection of photos (and a short interview) with Australian surf photographer Nathan Smith.
What's your background, where are you from?
NS: I'm originally from the NSW Central Coast about an hours drive North of Sydney. I moved to Avalon around 14 years ago to persue a photography career that seems to be okay at the moment.
When did you first discover your love for surfing?
NS: I was first introduced to surfing by one of my mothers friends. I remember I was at a BBQ and there was this old beat up surfboard lying under the house. I was fascinated by it. I ended being given it and my late pop cleaned it up, fixed a few dings. I hassled my Nan and Pop almost everyday to take me to the beach so I could ride it… or try to!! I was around 7 I think.
NS: Now when I look back on this I see that I was always interested in photos and art form an early age. I did art at school and one of my teachers surfed and he always had these killer posters on the wall in the classroom that I continually stared at. I was always dreaming about how they did that. My late Uncle was into taking photos and I used to steal his camera when he wasn't using it and I'd play with it and not knowing even if there was film in push all the buttons and hear the click and wonder if it was working or not… pretty funny actually. My Uncle would get his prints back and there would be a few shots that made no sense at all or a couple that had half my head in them. He would ask me "have you been playing with my camera?" I'd sheepishly say "NO!!!". Then he would say "are you sure?" I'd just say "nope of course not"… then he would show the pics that I had taken… busted!!!
You once competed professionally at WQS level… right?
NS: Yeah I did chase that dream, I would call it for a while. I did fairly well in a few comps, travelled a heap, beat a few names that I now shoot time to time... but I soon realized that if I wasn't going to be making good coin from it, it was probably a smart thing to think about my future. I was basically just killing time avoiding the responsibility of growing up. I'm glad and very happy with my decision. I know it's hard for any sports person to let go of their dream and get on with things!!!
Your portfolio covers a wide range of subject matter, from surfing, water action shots, to fashion, to (very) hot girls… Do you have a favourite subject matter to photograph? Or do you generally prefer a greater diversity of work?
NS: Basically when I first started I was mostly in the water which is what I gained a name for I guess. I do love water shots the most, but I was always looking at the guys doing really well, who were the guys that could do it all. So I started to diverse in my subject matter and spent a lot of time shooting all sorts of things. Particularly girls and fashion shots. I assisted an Australian fashion photographer Adam Watson for a few years and learnt an incredible amount from him. He showed me how to get my own style and little things to look for when shooting girls of fashion. We are still the best of mates and he can spot my pics before he see's the pic credit, so that's good I think…
Digital or film?
NS: Well I was kinda late on changing from film to digital, basically because of that fear of the unknown, will it be better type deal. I did have a point and shoot digital before I had an SLR style digital so I had my head kinda around it… But now I can pretty much say I'll never shoot film again. Why would you really? I mean film has its own particular feel and style to it based on what type of film you are using, which is good. But with digital you can now create your own style. It's quicker, the images are sharper. You can still make it look like film but it's just a little different. I think film is good and I'm sure it has a time and place depending on what you want or a client wants, but digital is hard to go past now.
Where have been your favourite locations to travel/shoot/surf?
NS: Well there are so many places that I like to shoot. But recently its been OURS in Sydney. It's a thick slab that can throw out one hell of a barrel right onto rocks. I really don't think there are too many photogenic waves better than that. I do like Hawaii, but that's a joke now with all the crowds, Fiji and the Mentawais are also beautiful places to shoot.
Finally, for fans of your work, other than in the magazines, is it possible for people to purchase any of your photos from you or elsewhere…?
NS: Yeah I'm actually in the process of setting up a website (nathansmithimages.com) which I have been meaning to do for ages now. Usually it's word of mouth, someone will see an image in a magazine or online and contact me that way. I actually sell a few through my Facebook page which has a heap of my work on there!!