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June 29th, 2012

Follow the Light Foundation 2012 finalists announced

We’re delighted to announce that three COTW surf photographers: Sarah Lee, Shawn Parkin and Mike Smolowe, join Ryan Craig and Matt Kurvin as finalists for the prestigious 2012 Follow the Light Foundation photography award/grant!

The Follow the Light Foundation (FTLF) is a non-profit organization that continues to fuel the dreams of the world’s most talented young surf photographers. Founded after iconic photographer Larry "Flame" Moore’s passing to ensure that up-and-coming surf photographers continue to get the recognition and support they deserve. Flame — legendary Photo Editor of Surfing Magazine for more than three decades — made it a priority to teach and inspire anyone with a passion for photography. This grant helps keep that legacy alive.

Photo by Sarah Lee from Kona, Hawaii

Photo by Shawn Parkin from Dana Point, California

Photo by Mike Smolowe from San Clemente, California

The finalists

"This is the best collection of photos I’ve seen all year," said longtime Surfing Magazine Photo Editor Peter Taras. "It’s so inspiring to see the act of waveriding through fresh eyes."

Below are Peter’s notes from the judging night:

Sarah Lee: She brought a fresh look of surf minimalism to this year competition. Her photography is pure innocence. It’s really broken down into the simplest form which is super refreshing these days.

Ryan Craig: He’s shooting water photography at locations that a lot of people would feel really uncomfortable shooting. He also possesses the talent to showcase popular destinations in a whole new light, which is a very difficult thing to do. One of the most driven surf photographers out of this batch.

Mike Smolowe: Technically a very strong performance. His lifestyle images, landscapes, and scenic photography are his real strengths. One of the strongest in the focus and composition realm – he really uses it to his advantage. He hasn’t traveled as much as some of the other finalists, but here he really makes the most out of the surf that he gets to shoot. A very solid up and coming photographer.

Shawn Parkin: Shawn was a finalist a couple years ago. He took a year off work to travel the world and shoot photos. Some of his adventures are in this year’s slideshow. He shot a wide variety of surfing, not just shortboarding, and with angles and looks that have a completely virgin appeal.

Matt Kurvin: Most surf photographers are looking to chase waves. Matt chooses a very unique angle in chasing color. The spirit of his slideshow was probably the most thought out. A great choice of music, pacing and theme.

The winner will be announced…

The winner of the $5,000 grant will be announced during the US Open of Surfing at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach on Tuesday July 31st. The event is open to the public and free of charge. The reception begins at 7:00PM; The Shorebreak Hotel is located at 500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, California 92648. "We’re very excited about the talent level of this year’s finalists,” said legendary photographer and Judge Aaron Chang. "And to celebrate their skills around this year’s US Open will make it even more special."

FTLF sponsor Bob Hurley said, "Recognizing the world’s best up-and-coming surf photographers fits right in with the spirit of the US Open of Surfing. It’s so fun to see such an amazing showcase of young talent in one place – very inspiring."

Now in its seventh year, the FTLF awards ceremony is part of the world’s largest action sports festival. The US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach will reach all kinds of people, but there is no better place to showcase the best rising talent in the surf photography world. In years past, FTLF grant winners like Morgan Maassen, Chris Burkard, Matt Clark, Ray Collins, Duncan Macfarlane and Todd Glaser have continued to change the game in what is possible in surf imagery. This year, previous winners played a huge role in selecting the 2012 recipient.

Setting the standard…

"The Follow the Light Foundation has continued to set a standard for up and coming surf photographers, each year that bar is raised and the photographers keep stepping up there game", says former winner and Surfer Magazine senior staff photographer Chris Burkard. "This year, the submissions came from far and wide, and it seemed like each style of work was well represented, I know that I will be seeing so many of these names grace the credits of magazines for years to come. You can always tell the work is good when it inspires you to work harder."

Founding board member and Judge Sam Olson said: "Every year there is so much new talent submitted to FTLF. And each and every year I go away from the judging inspired to build on my own photography."

Surfline Photo Editor, Jeremiah Klein added, "With all the talent this year we had to look at the slideshows a few times over to narrow it down to our top ten. The final five was even more difficult to choose but in the end we found a winner that is most deserving."