Megan describes herself as a happy soul. We say she’s a darn fine photographer.
Megan, where did you grow up and what was it like there?
I grew up in the middle of many, many fields in The Cotswolds, NOT NEAR ANY WAVES. However I loved it! Sport was everything to me, I used to swim competitively with my twin brother, training a few days a week. I also trained in ballet, modern dance, netball and other school sports. Staying active was by far the best thing about living in such a cut off location from the sea.
When did you get into surfing?
Since I was tiny, our family have been coming to Cornwall. So at every given opportunity whether it was during the summer holidays, Christmas holidays or a long weekend away my dad would always get me and my three brothers in the water. We loved it! And still do. Even now we are all living in Cornwall we still go to the same beach for a week in summer just to carry on tradition. I started like we all do on a classic yellow swell board and at around the age of 15 I got my first mini mal board. The thing is when you ask what got me into surfing it was never the actual sport of surfing, it was the images. I can remember always being to excited to go to Ann’s Cottage surf shop, just to see the Roxy advertisement images. NOT JOKING, I loved them! I used to watch all the brands new season promo videos online. Not once did I think id be able to create surf imagery, it was just this dream I thought was so cool.
How did you get involved in photography?
My dad taught me all there is to know prior to me studying photography at A Level where I then learnt and explored my style as a photographer. In 2013 summer holidays (studying my last year of photography at school) I took our families camera (Canon G12) into the water for a playground. Without knowing what effect the sunset had on the water I went in at Polzeath for a sunset swim and was blown away by the colours on the water. The thrill of being able to capture that special moment was so excingt to me. Since that day I have been obsessed with shooting at sunset. I then went onto study Fashion Photography at Falmouth University, during the three years I focussed and homed in on surf lifestyle photography.
What do you like about it and who inspires you?
I love the escape of shooting in the water, I’m cut off from everyone. I become my camera and just watch through the lens capturing moments I find special. I get inspired by artists and photographers that use light really cleverly in their work. Light is the key to a good image so I can spend hours analysing the use of light in a picture. I always play games to try and guess what time the image was taken in the day (sunrise sunset) and what angle was the sun to the subject, so that if I want to create that effect ill know how to achieve it. The photographer who inspires me the most is Ming Nomchong from Byron Bay. She has the most beautiful eye for simplicity. And I would do anything to reach the level of style she captures. Also emotions inspire me, I find positivity is something images lack these days. Surfing is “cool” but why are the smiles missing in a good 80% of surf imagery? After all we all enjoy the ocean so why not capture it? My biggest aim ever when I shoot is always to capture the enjoyment.
What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
Believing in your work enough to put a price to your time (so hard when shooting is the last thing on earth someone would have to pay me for! I know I will never stop shooting) however to be able to do it for a job, sadly money has to get involved. SUCH A KILLER! Also not being affected by competition, as a creative I think we all feel like a small fish in a overcrowded pond. However when you nail your style and stick to your thing, slowly people start to recognise you.
Where’s the best place you’ve photographed?
That would be Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii. I was assisting LA photographer Mike Miller on a shoot with Mahina Alexander and we were shooting in an infinity pool overlooking the sea. It was a super special day because I was learning so much from Mike and I shot one of my most treasured images to date. Working in the heat was a challenge but so worth it.
And the worst?
I don’t think there is such thing as a worst place, everywhere has such potential. But what makes a nightmare shoot is facing challenges like: inside low light locations, models getting cold when we have to make them look warm, stressing about the safety of equipment for example RAIN. Challenges are fun but certainly if not planned properly can make a nightmare shoot.
How easy or hard is it to be your own person e.g. self employed?
So the self employed part, it makes me work and connect with new people at 100 miles an hour which I totally love. However the pressure of always keeping up the work is hard, I can’t lie about that. There is competition left, right and centre this is when you have to hope your niche is enough to make you stand out. One thing self employed has taught me though is actually don’t force it, in time when you build good relations things always fall into place.
What are the top five things you focus on when you’re taking a photo?
I’ll answer this directly about my in water shooting:
- Is my model ok? How can I make the image as natural as possible.
- What settings, so I need to maximise image quality to the light available.
- Are the conditions safe for me to go in?
- Shoot a wide range of angles, close up, wide, under/over… and so on
- Does the model/surfer/athlete need a break?
If you could be a super power what would you be and why?
I would choose teleporting so I could shoot at any location at any time especially when the conditions are perfect for shooting in. Without the hassle of the airport! I hate wasting time traveling but it sadly has to be done.
Megan is running surf photography workshops suitable for both beginners and intermediates. She has also produced a super cool 2019 Calendar. To find out more get in contact with Megan. Go to www.meganhemsworth.com
Follow Megan @meganhemsworth