There’s More To Surf Photography Than Pointing a Camera at Waves

Morgan shooting at Teahupoo, Tahiti. Photo Zak Noyle

In His Depth: Photographer Morgan Massen’s Focus Extends Way Beyond Water

Morgan Maassen left a career as a graphic artist to pursue filmmaking first and photography. Since then his work has appeared in National Geographic, Wired, Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside and Esquire, to name a few, and he has shot for Apple, Patagonia, Audi, Roxy, Hurley, and many others. So you could say that worked out OK. But maybe we first met him through his photos of Jack Johnson, or maybe it was one of his beautiful videos that popped up on our screen one day and we thought we had to get to know this guy better. Whatever the case, we’re glad do know him a bit better now and that he’s honored us by agreeing to be on the judging panel for the Whalebone Photo Contest, along with Walter Iooss and Danny Clinch.

Morgan brings a unique perspective to anything he shoots, but his work with water he may be best known for. “Growing up in and around the ocean has provided me with my favorite subject to photograph,” he says. “Subsequently, the majority of my work is water related and involving the oceanic lifestyle. I dream nothing more than visiting the next new country, capturing whatever beauty it may hold.”

Morgan Maassen has a way with water, and shares with us some of the things he thinks make for memorable photos

What are three elements in your personal view that make a memorable photo?
To me, a memorable photo is one that brings something new to the table, that captures a unique an exciting moment in time. Secondly, a composition that works in this moment’s favor, isolating a thing or feeling, allowing it to do the talking. Finally, the use (or lack there of) color is super important. If a photo can carry its weight in black and white, that is so special to me.

What’s one thing you wish you’d see photographers do more?
I love depth-of-field when used properly. I feel like (but totally don’t blame anyone!) a lot of photographers are quick to back off depth of field to make taking a photo easier. I just love coming across a photo with tons of DOF and it stands its ground.

Photo Morgan Maassen.

What do you wish you’d known about the craft of photography when you were starting out?
I remember being 18–19 and just getting into photography, and having all these goals of different lenses I needed to save up for to unlock levels of my own photography. Several years later, I was shooting 90% of my work on a 50mm f/1.4 and the rest on a 300mm f/4, and still do to this day. I wish I hadn’t wasted any time worrying about needing equipment or pinning that to artistic progress.

Can you tell us about a photo someone else took you are fond of or that has stuck with you for a long time? And what resonates with you about it?
This photo from Haiti after the earthquake by Zoriah has always really stuck with me. It’s so haunting and mysterious, like she captured a ghost.

Photo by Zoriah.

Who are a couple photographers you look up to or were role models ?
Trent Mitchell and Jon Frank. They are two Australian photographers who both enraptured me with their images of Australia, and their incredible eyes for textures and light.

What is one of your personal favorite photos you’ve ever taken and why?

Photo Morgan Maassen

I waited so long for this photo; I hunted it. For four days I watched this peak, waited for the wind to switch as the afternoon squalls would roll through, and finally got this lone perfect barrel, right before it was enveloped by the rain. A fleeting moment.