Surfer Magazine staff photographer Todd Glaser treks the globe year-round to deliver us high quality, jaw-dropping imagery of the world’s best surfers in the world’s best locations. Check out our interview below for a little insight on what makes him tick as an artist, where he started and where he’s headed.
What kicked off your passion for surf photography?
I have always been into playing with cameras from a young age. When I was 15 I got my first camera, water housing, and fisheye. It was a Canon A2 with a 15mm fisheye. I was inspired by the waves that my friends and I were riding and the photos that I saw in the magazines. Early on, I was heavily influenced by guys like Ross McBride, Andre Botha, and Scott Aichner. As I learned more about photography and photographers I was introduced to a whole new world of work by guys like Anton Corbijn, Art Brewer, Michael Halsband, Steve Sherman, Dustin Humphrey, Patrick Trefz, Larry Moore, Thomas Campbell, among many others.
What equipment did you start shooting with? What was your learning curve like?
It was a Canon A2 with a Canon 15mm fisheye and Dale Kobetich water housing. I still have the camera and lens, although sold the housing for a different one. For the first 4 years of shooting photos I didn’t know anything about photography. I was told that on a sunny day, you use Velvia 50, push it 2/3 of a stop (had no idea what that meant) and shoot at 1/1000 of a second at 4.5 when it’s backlit and 750 4.5 when it’s front lit. That was my formula for 4 years. Only shoot in good light and only shoot with those settings.
Do you surf?
I surf as much as I can; when I am home, that is just about every day. I don’t always get to surf when I am on the road, although shooting from the water - in my opinion - gives me the same rush and excitement as riding a wave.
When did you know you were meant to be a career surf photographer?
After taking two years off after school I was fortunate enough to attend the Brooks Institute of Photography and study photography full time. At school, my knowledge of photography grew to more than I could have ever imagined. My degree is in commercial photography, although I was constantly using the tools I learned in school and applying them to the ocean. As much as I wanted to move to a different part of the states or world, I couldn’t pull myself away from the ocean.
Tell me about a photo you will never forget taking.
This will sound funny, but a lot of times when I am shooting I am so focused on what is going on at the moment, the memory doesn’t exist. There’s so much that goes into a photo that can’t be seen in a photo. The days of traveling it takes to get there, the rip currents, making sure the batteries are charged, films loaded, setting up the housing with the right lens and settings for the session, no water drops on the port, etcetera. When the wave comes, it happens so fast, I usually have an idea of when it’s going to make for a nice image, but I never know until I see the film or the images on the computer later that day.
What would be the perfect shot for you right now? If you could shoot anyone anywhere.
A selfie of me surfing inside of a 20 footer at Pipeline! I don’t see that happening anytime soon though. It’s hard to say. Maybe the image that Kelly Slater and I shot together that was featured for his 10th world title is one of the more memorable images I have made.
What are some things you love about your job? And on the flip side, what are some things that are hard?
I love the creativity my job allows me, the friends I have made, and the opportunities it has allowed me and my wife to have. The long trips away from my Wife can be difficult as well as finding time to surf good waves. Photographer’s hour is usually after the onshore winds have picked up. The traveling part of my job is amazing, although it seems like my bags get heavier and heavier, so finding a balance of having a minimal amount of gear, but still being prepared with backups is a fine line.
How has surf photography (and your photography) changed since you first got started?
When I first started it was all on film, digital didn’t exist. You had 36 frames to capture a great image, now that number is infinite. In a way it’s made getting a great shot easier due to the ample opportunity and less time spent swimming in and out changing rolls. I’m not complaining, but I loved going on trips and not knowing what we had until we got home and got the film back from the lab. At the same time, being halfway around the world and being able to look at the back of your camera or computer and know that you are coming home with some nice photos takes a lot of stress off.
What is the most incredible experience you have had in the water so far this year?
December 21, 2014. I saw some of the best waves I have ever seen at Pipeline with an incredible crew of guys riding them. I swam for 7 hours with my 85mm shooting from the water and loved every minute of it. It’s difficult to pinpoint just one experience, though. Every time you go in the ocean you are treated with an incredible experience. That’s what keeps us coming back for more.
Where is somewhere you would love to go to shoot but haven’t yet?
Ireland has been on my list of places to go for a long, long time. If I could go anywhere this year, that is where I would go.
Who inspires you?
Photography-wise, Anton Corbijn is my all time favorite.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
If you have a camera, you are already a photographer. Like anything, photography is a way to have fun, and a way to share your vision of the world with a push of a button. I never got into photography thinking it would be a career. I love photography, everything about it, it’s my passion, that I am fortunate enough to have turned into a career. Know the fundamental rules of photography, go out and break them, and learn them again. Most importantly, shoot! You’re not going to make images with the lens cap on.
See more of Todd’s work here: