Born and raised on Long Island, NY, Evan Conway grew up capturing photos in and of the water. While anyone who’s spent time on the beach here during the summer might think shooting photos in the sun is a choice hobby, they might have a more difficult understanding why someone would still be standing on the shore with their finger on the camera trigger, six months after the liveliness of summer has passed, in the dead of winter.
In trying to better understand why any human in their right mind might voluntarily submit their individual to frostbite-friendly beaches and swimming in 40 degree water for multiple hours, we figured we ask Evan—who seems to not only have an affinity for the cold, but a visible talent for capturing the unique interaction between his native shoreline and our hemisphere’s coldest months of the year.
Give us your personal definition of winter.
For me winter is the best time of year as we generally get some of our biggest swells from Nor’easters and it’s pretty easy to find empty lineups. One of my favorite things in the world is the beach during, or immediately after, a snowstorm because the snow adds this dramatic atmosphere that makes it feel like another planet. During the winter your typical ride to the beach can become a full on adventure in itself.
Favorite photo you’ve ever taken during this time of year?
This photograph represents that otherworldly atmosphere I mentioned before. I believe it allows you to see the enveloping silence you experience when it snows and because of that, it is probably my favorite if I had to pick one.
What has shooting the chilliest season of the year taught you?
Preparedness. The conditions can be very challenging in the winter; whether it’s dangerous driving on the road, gale force winds on the beach or sweeping currents in the ocean, you’ve got to be ready to deal with any or all of these aspects before you even get to shoot most of the time. On top of that its pretty much a given that it will be frigid and potentially wet so you really need to have all your gear dialed in and the logistics planned out if any driving is required.
There’s a lot that can go wrong (especially if your getting in the water to shoot) and the winter elements are much less forgiving, plus the days are shorter so having everything ready the night or even the day before helps reduce the risk of blowing it. Being prepared ultimately allows you more creative freedom and the ability to focus solely on shooting.
Can you recall the coldest you’ve ever been?
Definitely in the water in New York during the wintertime. I get cold a lot quicker while swimming in the ocean as opposed to surfing because I have to go underneath virtually everything. I get flushed pretty often and experience a constant flow of ice cream headaches. The worst part is when the fingers lock up, start burning and need to be peeled off the grip of my housing after shooting for a couple hours in 40 degree water.
One piece of advice to anyone looking to take on the elements and shoot this time of year?
Flexibility is important if you want to be on it. It might only get good for a couple hours each week, so you have to be there when it turns on.
Stay tuned for more profiles of our Winter Perspective series, dropping weekly through February and March. See more of Evan’s work on Instagram, @evanconwayphoto. You may also like: