The Wedge, Newport Beach
Additional images can be viewed here.
It's hard to believe that this area is on the west side of the break water to Newport Harbor where mostly million dollar homes are located. Of course being so close to a densely populated city leads to a lot of people on the beach when larger surf arrives. It can get really congested and parking within a mile of the Wedge is difficult after 6:30 in the morning.
One of the unique features of the Wedge is that the surf breaks on the beach most of the time. Over the years, there have been a number of surfers who have broken bones as they hit the sand. During larger surf conditions, the waves break a few hundred feet further out. Actually, there are 3 different breaks during large surf conditions. First are the tall 20 foot, A-frames that come rolling straight in. Second are the tubes that are the result of swells bouncing off the break wall. Third are the much longer "more normal" waves coming in from the west. What's great, is that surfers will be riding all three waves at the same time. It's a circus and may only happen once or twice per year. As a photographer, I can easily rip off several thousand images in a couple hours.
The image above looks very casual but it happened in only a fraction of a second. What is the secret to capturing "peak" action? I've had a lot of photographers (with slow speed cameras) tell me that anticipation of peak action is the only real way. While some photographers may be good at anticipation and the camera shoots precisely when they want it to, I certainly cannot anticipate where a wave will crash or where a football running back may run. I'm not sure the football player knows where, in advance, he will run. The only solution is a DSLR body with a high frame rate and a large memory buffer to capture a stream of images. Some call "spray and pray".
So why is this an issue. High speed cameras have been around for 10 years or longer. The problem, is that both Canon and Nikon have moved into full frame sensor cameras and the cost of high speed, FF body is over $6,000. They have ignored upgrading the cropped frame cameras which normally run about $1,200. The older cropped frame cameras are OK but their sensors are outdated and their images require a lot of post processing. For high speed, I have moved to the Sony A-mount system but it is also losing its popularity as more photographers move to mirror less systems which are not optimized for sports. Since sales of DSLRs have been declining rapidly in the last 2 years, perhaps Canon and Nikon will reconsider their position on creating a modern, high speed cropped frame body.
The above image shot was taken with a cropped frame, 24 MP DSLT with 70-400 zoom lens on a carbon fiber tripod
with monoball head.