Meet surf photographer Hannah Edy. We caught up with Hannah to find out what a typical day looks like for an action sports photographer and how to get into the industry.
From the UK, Hannah spends half the year snapping surfers in sunny Portugal with The Surf Experience and the other half on the snowy slopes of southern Spain.
Hannah, how did you get into surf photography?
I enjoyed photography as a kid and found I had a natural eye for composition so after University I enrolled in a few evening classes in London to learn photoshop and digital photography. Following an early career in TV production, a period of travelling, my own property photography business in London and a successful stint of circus photography I wanted a lifestyle change, to get back to nature and move away from the city and all the pressures of city life. I eventually found myself in France, and saw an opportunity to take photos of surf lessons. I worked with surf camps and did slideshows at the end of each week offering surfers a chance to buy a CD with the photos on as a souvenir to take home. My equipment was really rubbish, I had a Microsoft notebook and had to buy a separate CD burner which took about half an hour to burn a CD. I didn’t make it rich that summer…but had a new business plan and Surf Souvenir was born.
Describe a normal working day for you?
I get up around 7.30am and do a quick walk before breakfast to wake up and have a bit of a stretch. I’m studying Spanish at the moment, so I try to listen to a daily lesson in the morning with my coffee and in the car on my way to work. I call the surf instructors to see which beach they have decided to go to that day as it changes depending on the surf conditions – if there’s a south swell and they go to Lagos it is only a 15 minute drive but other times it can be 40 minutes with off-road dirt tracks and potholes. As the group surf, I document as much as I can to get a good selection of photos of their day and experience and then I head to an internet cafe to edit and craft a little in photoshop in the afternoon. Once all the photos from the shoot are edited and prepared, I travel to the surf house in Lagos to do a slideshow presentation in the evening, usually when they have a paella or barbecue night.
What do you do during your days off?
On my days off, I’ll go for a cliff-top walk, surf, swim, or do some gardening. I live off-grid in my caravan in a secret spot half way between Lagos and Sagres and I’m growing lots of vegetables and cuttings from flowers and cactuses. If it’s really hot, I’ll go to Portimão for the day and head for the air conditioned shopping mall!
What’s the best part of your job?
I love working for myself and being my own boss. Sometimes I do have a fist pump in the air moment when I’m driving in to work on a Monday morning as the west coast of Portugal is just so stunning – that moment when you see the sea can be like being a child all over again. There is a real positive energy when I arrive at the beach, people are on holiday, they are about to take part in a sports activity, perhaps they have never done it before. It’s a good vibe, and the ocean itself just makes you feel good and energised. Whilst I’m shooting a surf group, I’m always looking out for those magic moments..when someone catches a wave for the first time, a high five, a wipe-out, even a thoughtful moment on the beach after a difficult session. There are always a lot of smiles…documenting all these things makes me happy.
What’s the toughest thing about your job?
Being exposed to the elements can be harsh. Shooting photos of surfers on a beach all day sounds pretty glamorous but the sun is very strong here. I can’t wear sunglasses when I’m shooting, so I also get a lot of glare from the sun reflecting on the sea which can increase the risk of damage to your eyes. I do also wonder what I’ll look like 10 years from now..probably like a dried prune.
Do you ever get FOMO being behind the lens?
Yes, all the time! I’m not a very good surfer so when the conditions are perfect for beginners, nice small green waves with a good time distance in between sets for you to gather yourself, that’s exactly when I want to be in the water.
Tell us a bit about your relationship with The Surf Experience?
I started working with various surf schools in Portugal in the summer of 2014 and then in 2016, a client that I had photographed skiing in Spain introduced me to The Surf Experience (www.surf-experience.com) founder Toby. Our first meeting was on the day the Brexit referendum results had just come in which was pretty memorable and from then on I started working in association with the company. At the same time, Toby introduced me to the legend Sophie Everard and I was hired as the official photographer for the first Mad to Live Retreats (www.madtoliveblog.com), a girls surf and fitness adventure week in collaboration with The Surf Experience. This is a great project and I am stoked to be a part of it. We just completed two weeks of retreats this June, and there are three more weeks booked beginning 16 Sep, so I’m looking forward to that.
Are you based full time in Portugal or do you head elsewhere for the winter?
In winter I live in Sierra Nevada, Spain where there is a ski resort. At first I couldn’t believe there was snow in the south of Spain so along with some friends we set off on a road trip to check it out. The three of us travelled across Portugal and Spain in my caravan and parked up in a car park 3000m above sea level in the middle of a snow storm..it was terrifying..and hilarious! Once there I found a British Ski School (www.britishskicenter.com), approached them and from there set up a photography business, ‘Snow Souvenir’ (www.snowsouvenir.com).
What advice would you give someone who was looking to get into action sports photography?
Don’t let people who have given up on their dreams talk you out of yours! As a young person today you can feel overwhelmed by social media, and people have always tried to tell me everyone’s a photographer these days, and you’ll never make a living. On the contrary, I find that now is a great time to be a photographer, there is such a hunger for quality social media content, and every business enterprise whether it’s a cafe, hotel, brand or even just an individual wanting to update their facebook profile, is an opportunity to collaborate and create images, and make them pay for your craft and skill…it’s not just high end fashion and models. There are so many niches, you just have to find yours.