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Fast Lens, Good Film Help Keep Up With Today's Surfers

September 09, 1989|ROBERT LACHMAN | Times Staff Writer and

Peter Brouillet does what most everyone would like to do when it's time to go to work--he heads for the beach.

Brouillet is a senior staff photographer for Surfing Magazine and photo editor of Body Boarding Magazine, both published by Western Empire Publications in San Clemente.

Brouillet, who was reared in Southern California, started surfing in the early 1960s when the sport was gaining in popularity. But he didn't get interested in photography until he needed two units of credit to graduate from Cal State Long Beach (where he had enrolled mainly because it offered a surfing class).

The class developed Brouillet's interest in photography, and he landed a job as a lab assistant at the surfing publication. Eventually, he worked his way up to staff photographer. He also returned to Cal State Long Beach, where he received his master's degree in photography.

"Today's surfers are faster, and the moves are much more radical," Brouillet, 40, of Huntington Beach, said. "It's been an evolution. The surfers are getting better, and their equipment has improved, so they can make tighter turns faster.

"It's also a different mentality. In the old days, we had the Endless Summer, where everyone was out looking for the perfect wave with their long boards. The kids today don't want to travel too much. They want to go out in their own back yard with boards which are so much more maneuverable."

The photography aspect has also changed. The standard for surfing photographers has become Kodachrome 64 film. A shutter speed of 1/500 and fast lens allows you to catch the peak moments of the ride. Of course, you still have to contend with the weather and tides.

Another major need is clear, clean water--difficult to find in Southern California. And if the sun isn't out, just pack up your gear and join the surfers.

Brouillet recently spent two weeks in Hawaii, and it rained every day.

"I didn't shoot one roll of film of surfing the whole time I was there," he said. "The magazine realizes it's just the nature of the game."

Professional surf photographers mostly use a 600-millimeter (f/4) or an 800-mm. (f/5.6) lens to get most of the action. Brouillet, however, says amateurs can get by with 200-mm. or 300-mm. lenses.

An understanding of the sport is also a must. He says magazines are always looking for personality and life-style shots even though most of the pictures are action oriented.

Brouillet does recommend some locations in Orange County to start your surfing picture collection:

* The south side of the Seal Beach pier. It has some of the best waves on the coast that break very close to the beach. You can shoot it from the beach with a 300-mm. lens or longer. The disadvantage is the runoff from the river on the north end of town. During the winter, the water is very muddy.

* The north side of the Huntington Beach pier. It was a photographer's paradise when the pier was open. There are usually good surfers in the water. When the pier reopens, lenses of 200-mm. and longer are advisable.

* Newport Beach at 54th or 56th streets. It's possible to shoot with shorter Telephoto lenses from the jetties. A lot of the photography is shot with a 300-mm. lens.

* The Wedge at Newport Beach. During the summer when the waves are big you can shoot body boarders at the Wedge. The beach is front-lit in the afternoons.

* Salt Creek by the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Dana Point. You need a 600-mm. or longer. This site is not recommended for the shooter with short Telephoto lenses.

* San Clemente north of the pier. A short Telephoto lens can do the trick here.

The Photography Column, which runs Saturdays in Orange County Life, is intended to help the serious amateur and weekend shooter. Questions and ideas are encouraged. Write to: Robert Lachman, Photography Department, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif., 92626.

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