Beautiful South African coastline inspires the work of Graham Wiles
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 26 December, 2017 - A graphic designer by trade, Graham Wiles extends his interests to the quiet observation of his surroundings, taking photos in his free time.
Working as the Art Director for Airush Kiteboarding has allowed him the opportunity to take his camera with him on work trips and holidays, documenting his travels along the way, finding comfort behind the lens.
Having been gifted his first film camera in his mid-teens, it was only whilst wrapping up his tertiary education that he got back into taking photos, when he started shooting with a little more intention.
Where are you from and what do you shoot with?
Originally from the humid East Coast of Durban, I have been living and working in Cape Town, South Africa since 2012. I started taking photos with a Canon 450D and kit lenses about 5 or 6 years ago and only recently upgraded to a 7Dmkii. I have a 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and use my works 16-35mm and 100-400mm when I can. I’ve been shooting in the water with a Brother Housing, a locally manufactured unit. I still have my eyes on a 70-200mm, and a 600mm would be nice for shooting with from the beach.
How did surf photography start for you?
I’ve always loved getting sent photos of myself riding waves. So, when I started taking photos, it only felt right to pass on the favor by getting photos of others in the water, to share the stoke. My brothers had been taking photos too, we’d trade off waves passing the camera around, or have one of us sit out and shoot from the beach. I’ve been shooting from the beach since around 2011/2012, and only from in the water since 2015. I also ran a local bodyboarding ‘zine for a few years, which gave me something to do with my images, and helped connect other shooters and riders again once the long standing local magazine had started to slow down a bit. It was good fun while it lasted, but I needed to focus on work and getting into the water more, so decided to put that to rest.
Cape Town is beautiful. What do you like best about shooting around there?
It really is. There are so many world-class spots to shoot. If the wind is wrong on one side of the coast, you just head over to the other side. It doesn’t need to do much to look pretty; waters pretty clean, good vibes. I must admit though, I’ve gotten pretty lazy lately, where I’ve just been shooting and riding my local little break, 200m from where I’m living at the moment. I really need to take a drive or at least head further down the beach again soon.
Tell us something most people don’t know about surf photography?
I would say that it is pretty selfless, especially for an amateur. Hours spent in sharky water trying to catch someone else’s magic moment, organizing and editing images, sending them out. It’s quite a lot of admin, done mostly for the love. Also, for someone like myself who’s socially anxious and isn’t really comfortable talking to people or even making eye contact, you need to put yourself out there to try and connect with the rider at times. Even though shooting from the beach is considered a copout, that’s where I can go stand out of view and quietly sneak some shots, which I quite enjoy.
Share with us your heaviest experience in the surf or while travelling.
I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to deal with anything too heavy to date, maybe I play things a little too safe? I’ve only taken a few heavier beatings while riding waves, not shooting. One in particular was a chunky closeout with a long hold down that washed me back out to sea with the undercurrent. Dizzy and about to pass out, I landed up just past backline and had to navigate my way back in trying not to get smashed into the rocks. I was exhausted, but quite happy when I made it back to the beach.
Name one photographic image you saw that changed the way you approach photography.
I have a terrible memory, which is one of the reasons I like taking photos. I can’t name one in particular. Whether it’s technically great or just has a good energy, I love much looser surf lifestyle photography in particular. Nothing like some high-contrast black and white documentary photography to pull on the emotions though.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
I’m still quite a novice, so no especially proud moments to mention, just a bunch of special little ones as I go. I did shoot our local big wave spot, Dungeons, once from a boat. It wasn’t a proud moment, but really powerful spending some time with the ocean putting on a show. Raw energy. I’d really love to shoot some more big barreling waves.