Interview with featured photographer Larry Beard

Right now you’re in the middle of something your calling “Project 365” where you are taking a photo every day for an entire year. As of this interview you’re at day 120. Can you tell us a little bit more about why you started this project? Has the scope of the project changed since you started it?

The reason I started Project 365 was as a personal challenge. I wanted to see what would happen if I would just make myself available on a daily basis. I am primarily shooting nature which is very unpredictable. One of my favorite sayings is "I've never got a good photo from the couch." I have been blown away by the things I've seen so far this year. I don't know that the scope of my project has changed that much but I do know that it has shown me a bit about commitment. I have been wanting to do a book for years, and I think this is going to be a great opportunity to have this Project 365 put onto paper for not only myself but anyone who follows my work.

What are your go to lenses and camera settings for shooting your iconic wave images?

Like most water photographers I started out with a wide angle lens. The Tokina 10-17. Even by today's standards this is still a very good lens. Some of my favorite shots are looking out the barrel at a great sunrise or sunset. Typically a wide angle is best for that so you can get it wide open with the barrel framing the photo. Not an easy shot to get. The last few years I have really been forcing myself to use a little bit longer lenses in the water. Like the 70-200 and the 24-70 lenses. I think both of those lenses give you a unique perspective in comparison to the wide-angle lenses. You get a better sense of the lip, the spray and an overall feel of what's going on. I also have a Sigma 300-800. This is also a great lens to get unique photos with. Not a lot of photographers can commit to purchasing a big lens like this. So there are a lot less photographs out there utilizing the unique angles and perspectives you can get with this lens. I tried to mix it up with these three different lens types to keep an ever-changing look to the photos that I am capturing.

What’s one thing that you carry in your gear bag that we might not expect but that you use a ton?

My most recent unique tool in my bag of tricks is a pole for my camera. This is a 6 foot pole that extends to 12 foot. I rigged it with a ball-head on the end of the pole. This gives me the ability to tilt my camera and have it mounted securely. It is amazing how lifting your camera 12 feet in the air can give you such a different look to the photo. 

How did you get started in surf photography? What was your first published image and where was it published?

16 years ago I was working in marketing on catalogs for a friend's company. He was paying a photographer to do the shoots. At one of the photo shoots he asked me if I could take the photos. And that was it. I bought the first high-end digital DSLR. This was the Nikon D1X. A six megapixel camera that cost $5,500. Crazy right. So I cut my teeth in photography in fashion and commercial work. I was shooting the ocean and nature on the side for fun. Being a surfer the call the ocean was always there. A few years later I was the event photographer for most of the local surf events here in California. My first significant sale and published photo was of Kelly Slater. He had just won the Trestles event sponsored by Boost Mobile. Boost wanted to run a congratulatory ad for Kelly and decided to use my photo. It was a huge honor given the amount of images that are taken during events at Lowers.

So much of surf photography can look the same, but your images always seem to stand out – whether you’re playing with using the foreground or background or depth of field, you seem always keep it interesting. What’s your best advice for framing surfing images to ensure that you capture the best moments in visually compelling ways?

Wow, that is a tough question. I think a lot of it comes with experience and a willingness to try new things. By trying new things and being in different circumstances you build a catalog of options. In fashion before going into a photo shoot people would give you tear sheets to give you inspiration and ideas before you actually shoot. It’s the same with surf and nature photography, you can scour the Internet and save images that you love and inspire you. Not that you should copy these, it's just to give you inspiration that you can put your tweak on. The last thing I might say is be hard on yourself. Don't judge your work by the few friends you have around you, judge your work by the best in that field. I still do that to this day. If I'm not happy with something I won't use it. I will go out and shoot it again and again until I get something that I like.

Have you been experimenting with any of the new camera technology out there (like the mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses or even just shooting with your phone)? If so, what are you digging on?

Yes I have been. An important part of being a good photographer is staying ahead of the game. Fortunately with the internet we can do that fairly easily. I spend countless hours researching and looking at new equipment, reading reviews, and watching videos. I am playing with the Sony cameras a bit and I am really impressed. Being able to get the small camera body with a compact lens can really improve your mobility in challenging surf. It's crazy, my iPhone can do things that my high end Canon DSLR cannot. That blows my mind.

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