Surf Photography and the Super Telephoto

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A few of us have been discussing the declining economic validity of Surf Photography and ensuing demise in editorial based content for awhile now. Recently, changes to baggage rates by air carriers have added yet another challenge to those Photographers and Cinematographers whose content topics require super telephotos in the attainment of the rather high bar required in action sports imaging.

The image above was shot with the Canon 5DM2 and the 600F4 IS lens with 1.4x v2 teleconverter on a monopod. Add up the original equipment cost of these items (all recently serviced by CPS BTW) and you come up with a dollar total of approximately 10 K. The entire dimensional weight of the system makes it theoretically possible to place in a carry on bag for airline travel and thereby avoid the risk of check in baggage damage of using a heavy Pelican 5150 case and paying an extra 150-300 dollars for that bag each leg of your trip.

Here is where I am going. At today’s current market rate, that same kit will cost out at approx 16.5 K and due to the inept nature of TSA and increasing silliness in Customs, can create a massive boondoggle as one passes through those security checkpoints. One sage colleague of mine who has possibly logged more air miles than any of us, related a horrific episode at LAX Customs recently, when they searched his gear and threatened to confiscate it (think terrorist, not action sports or nature enthusiast).

So one recent tack and possible solution has arisen. The telephoto zoom. Here are two. The Canon 200-400 f4 IS, and the Sigma 120-300 F 2.8. The problems with telephoto zooms are largely compositional. (most of us know we need the 880 MM of a teleconverted 600 F4 frequently) The benefits are various. But the economic issue remains the same.  Approx 13k for a lens to create imagery that in an editorial market may not ever pencil out, at the approx $100.00 per page current buyout rate.

I will keep my 600 F4 IS V 1 and no way EVER purchase the V 2 as it makes no economic or real imaging sense. I will use it when budget and access requirements make sense.

No way will I purchase the  F 4 200-400 IS. Do I want it? Absolutely. Does it make any economic sense? None whatsoever. Then there is the look of F4 versus the look of F2.8.

I absolutely will purchase the Sigma  120-300 F2.8. Do I want it? Umm, not really, to be honest. It is a little heavy, likely not as technically on point as the Canon. But here is the deal for me. I like the look of F 2.8 especially for Fashion, and teleconverted on a crop factor body, like the new Panasonic GH3   or with the soon to be released Metabones speed adapter, the system is economically feasible, would have an outstanding look, and be able to create a realistic kit carry on for air travel that would be far less glaring to the potential jack ass working what we all laughingly refer to as “security”. It is a great compromise that makes sense in every way.

Accomplishing the goal of producing compelling high bar imagery on demand, any where in the world, in an economically feasible manner, has never been so challenging and so rewarding, as it is today. Rather than be under a black cloud about the downside, I am going to choose to focus on my own goals and have some fun with the shifting diorama within the Photography industry, where disconnection from market realities by Canon and Nikon and radically improved market focus from relatively small players and lesser knowns, is creating some fantastic opportunity for all of us as we move forward in this increasingly interconnected digital world.

Thanks to all of my remarkable colleagues for pushing the envelope in Photography and Cinematography in their own work, and in the generosity they display by always being willing to contribute to the ongoing discussions that define who we are: an independent creative group of freelance professionals, which will hopefully forever be at the core of authentic and high bar content creation, around the world in this crazy and fantastic, challenging, shifting diorama.

Below are a few more 88o MM images from this week.

Aloha oe. A hui ho.

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