Ryan Struck goes between tropical and frozen extremes
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 20 December, 2015 - Few things can make Ryan Struck happier than shooting surf. Even when his shutter finger is frozen during a mid-winter New Jersey session or he’s dodging a massive Teahupoo bomb, the man is IN the moment.
And despite his carpe diem approach he also says the best part about being a water photographer is swimming back to the beach to dump the camera and kick back out for a bodysurf.
Where are you from and what do you shoot with?
I'm from New Jersey, born and raised. I caught the travel bug in my 20s and since then I can't seem to see enough places in the world. I'm shooting with Canon digital bodies mostly, some 35mm film as well with the Nikonos, and the occasional roll of 120mm. I do love digital though, it allows me the opportunity to shoot often and dabble in film making also.
You shoot in freezing east coast winter surf. How long can you last swimming in a 40 degree lineup?
The cold water is downright debilitating. The waves on the East Coast are always best in the winter so donning a 5mil, boots, gloves and hood are essential. My Xcel suit has been keeping me toasty the past few seasons, but what usually sends me back to the car with heat on full blast are my feet and hands. Once these start to get numb my session is usually done.
How did surf photography start for you?
In my heart, I'm a photographer first. When I first started surfing with my buddy Dan, I would watch him shred and I felt a tremendous pull to photograph the moment. If I'm out taking waves for myself then I could be missing the set of the day. The best part about being a water photographer is swimming to the beach to dump the camera and kicking back out for a bodysurf. Shooting fulfills my need to surf in such a way it's hard for me to explain. I'm immersed in the ocean, witness to nature's beauty and there isn't much more than can make me happier.
Share with us that most people don't know about surf photography.
A bit of wisdom I've learned about surf photography is that it's not a career. It's a love. There's very few people making a living shooting surf, there's plenty doing it but it's important to remember that surfing is "a sport of kings." I've kept surf photography in my life as an outlet for my creativity, it's the most beautiful thing I'm fortunate enough to photograph.
Tell us about that one time you almost died, on a surf trip or in the water.
I can't remember almost dying, so I've been lucky on that account, but I do remember having enough fear that I prayed to God to keep me safe. Mexico and Tahiti are the two heaviest places I've shot water at, two very different dynamics: beach break vs. reef. I've been caught inside both places and can't say one was worse than the other. I was at different places in my life when I traveled to each spot, I think that has a lot to do with how much you fear the ocean.
I remember swimming out to Backdoor on a smaller day and seeing Seth Stafford and Jeff Flindt. Dom Mosqueira and I weren't wearing helmets and Seth commented something to the effect of neither one of us having kids. That's always kind of stuck with me. Shooting surfing is dangerous, especially over reef and especially at a crowded break. Surf photography is something I love, but I have realized I don't want to risk my life for it. That being said, you can still get pretty hurt on a smaller four foot day. I'm always staying vigilant no matter the size or season.
Name one photographic image you saw that changed the way you approach photography.
Dang, there isn't one image that stands out of which I feel has changed my perspective. The work of Eddie Adams has and will always impact the way I feel about the world and photography. Strong portraiture and also documentary photography usually have a lasting impression upon me. And as funny as it may sound, advertising images can also impact me in such a way that I want to find out who shot the picture and how it was lit. I'd say I pull inspiration from everything I see and do. There's so many great photographers out there I'm constantly amazed at what I see.