We caught up with Jeffreys Bay-based surf and wave photographer Deon Lategan, who chatted to us about creating your own style, the perfect wave photograph and the benefits of always taking a camera along.
How did you start with your wave photography?
I suppose it was a natural progression. I’m a surfer, so I grew up peering over images in surf magazines, and surf photos were really my main reference into what sort of photography was being done. I surf, I take some photos, I live close to the beach and I walk my dogs twice a day on the beach, so it all came together like that.
You have managed to create your own mesmerizing style. What advice can you give others that are struggling to create their own style?
I’ve never consciously tried to establish a style but it’s important to have some sort of vision as to what you want to create with your images. Knowing what you like, I think, is super important. Have an idea of what you personally would enjoy seeing and then take photos you would like to see.
If my own images don’t interest me then I can’t expect other people to somehow like them. That’s my benchmark – would this image of mine excite me if I saw it somewhere?
How do you judge a good wave photograph?
There are many reasons why a wave photograph could be good. As a rule, I want that ‘Wow factor’ – whether it’s from the actual wave being incredible or some good lighting, mood, location, storytelling aspect, or a combination of these. I also like to see waves or situations that look super inviting from a surfing point of view, an ideal scenario so to speak.
Do you have a favourite image?
It’s tough to decide on only one. The one below was just one of those moments when the light and sky did something special and there were surfers standing at the perfect spot. Afterwards you’re just so happy you took your camera with you on that walk
Tell us about the gear you use.
My main body is a Fujifilm X-T20 with the 18-55mm, 55-200mm, 90mm f2, Pentax Takumar f1.4 and Samyang 12mm f2.
I also have a Fujifilm X70 which I think is incredible. It fits in my pocket, I always have it with me and it takes beautiful images. The X70 is wonderful for candid images and people don’t even know you’re taking photos half the time.
Additionally, I have the Fujifilm X100T which is also compact and brilliant as a second body with an amazing lens. I shoot a lot of low light images and love the Fujifilm sensors and files for this – the colours are incredible and have a huge dynamic range.
Photography on the beach is not the best for your equipment, especially with sand and spray from the waves. How do you keep your gear safe?
I’ve found a camera bag with a zip is essential. I like to be able to drop my bag on the beach if need be, but it’s also important to be able to access your camera without having to put your bag down.
I have a few camera bags – in fact I think I have a camera bag fetish. Having said that, I still don’t have the perfect bag, I’m still looking. The X70 just fits in a pocket with a wrist strap. I’ve found the cameras pretty robust. I do have to stay on top of sensor dirt though, since I tend to stop down quite often in order to lengthen shutter speeds.
J-Bay is perfect for the type of photography you do. Are there any other places you would like to capture?
Yes, Jeffreys Bay is, it definitely shaped the sort of work I do. Maybe a different challenge altogether would be good, like something in the arctic circle would be amazing.