surfing and the business of photography

Most of my blog posts are for announcements about publications and upcoming events that pertain to my business as an editorial or fine art photographer, but after taking some time off from work and spending that time surfing, I’ve had a few epiphanies about surfing as it relates to my career as a photographer.  In September of 2007, my husband and I visited Waikiki and he insisted that I take a lesson. (he’s been surfing for 50 years!)  On my first wave, I looked down and watched as the reef passed peacefully along below my board.  It was the first time I felt the quiet of riding a wave, being pushed along by the power of the ocean and it was remarkable.  I was hooked.  The learning curve in surfing is steep and long and never ends.  Since I grew up in Indiana, the notion of ever being able to swim in the ocean, much less surf, was at one point incomprehensible.  But so was a career in travel photography.  As I continue to pursue both, I find many similarities in their respective challenges and rewards.  Surfing has given me strength – both physical and mental, as photography has.  Being in the open ocean is exhilarating, but sometimes downright frightening and always challenging.  Where are the waves breaking?  How big are they?  Can I make the drop in?  Can I paddle over a growing swell?  How do I get out into position?  What’s the line-up like?  Is there a long enough break in between sets to rest?  If I wipe out, how deep is the water?  If I tombstone, can I get my leash off in time?  While I’m in the washing machine, how do I keep myself from panicking and hold my breath just a few moments longer before I pop up?  And then there’s paddling – right now, for me, it’s the what I spend most of  my time in the water doing.  Paddling into position.  Paddling over set waves that seem too big.  Paddling hard to make a wave that I don’t make.  Paddling hard for a wave that I drop into and have a smooth, long satisfying ride. All of these experiences and challenges mirror my career as a photographer, but if I want to make it at either, there’s one thing they both have in common: paddle harder.  It’s not a stretch to say that the learning curve in the business of photography is steep and long, particularly in these rapidly changing times.  I continue to push myself to learn the new technologies.  I continue to market myself using all available means including email campaigns, direct mail pieces, and face-to-face visits to clients or prospective clients.  It seems endless and exhausting at times, but when I land a fabulous job and get to go somewhere and continue following my childhood dream, all the work has paid off and I have that same feeling that I get in surfing – a lot of frenetic activity that sometimes seems endlessly challenging and fruitless, followed by that nice drop and the smooth ride.  Then it’s paddle back out time.

patience, fear, beauty

national geographic travel photographer Susan Seubert’s Barbados Story

Greetings!  It is again, with great pleasure, that I am able to announce that the story I shot for National Geographic Traveler about Barbados is now on the newsstands. This is the second major assignment I’ve shot in the Caribbean for National Geographic Traveler. The last story was about Unique Hotels of the Caribbean.  This time, I traveled to Barbados in August of 2010 to shoot the ten day assignment and it was another glorious adventure, despite the oppressive heat and outbursts of torrential rain.  The writer, Charlie Kulander, was wonderful to work with and I enjoyed reading his story and did my best to capture the essence of his experience… and mine.  I am looking forward to the opportunity to travel back to the island nation to visit the many people who helped make this story so fantastic.  The printed version is not available online, so I encourage all of you to go out and pick up a copy of National Geographic Traveler’s January/February 2011 issue.  Or, if you have an iPad, you can purchase a subscription through Zinio.  That version features more photos than both the web site and the magazine.  The opening spread, of which I am quite proud, is pictured below.  I am including a link here to my favorite images from the shoot, some of which were also published in the both the print and electronic versions of the magazine.


opening spread for, "It's a Wonderful Life," story by Charles Kulander, photographs by yours truly. Click here to be taken to a gallery of some of my other favorite photos from the shoot.

This was my first all digital shoot for this magazine.  Everything was shot on Canon 5D Mark II cameras and processed in Adobe’s Lightroom software.

editorial photographer Susan Seubert headed to Hawaii

As you may know, I divide my time between Portland, Oregon and Maui, Hawaii.  Starting on October 14, 2010, after a brief shoot in Oahu, I’ll be based in Maui.  If I don’t answer the phone, it’s probably because I’m here (see below:-).  Aloha!


Stand Up Paddling at sunrise


Portland commercial and editorial photographer Susan Seubert heading to Maui

Tomorrow we fly to Maui for six glorious weeks.  The humpback whales should still be around and the water temperature will exceed the average air temperature in Portland by at least 20 degrees.  With my Canon 5D Mark II cameras in hand, I’ll be fully equipped to shoot whatever assignments come my way.  Hopefully we’ll have time to surf, spend some time relaxing on Ka’anapali Beach and head to Merriman’s for the best seat in the house for a sunset drink.  Aloha!

A local jumps off the rocks at Ka'anapali Beach on Maui. In Hawaiian, this place is known as Pu'u Kaka'a which at one point in ancient times housed a heiau (temple) and is a sacred spot known as "ka leina a ka 'uhane," a place were a soul leaps into eternity. Most evenings a diver from the Sheraton Maui resort dives into the ocean from the rocks after lighting torches to honor the souls of the departed. This evening, in addition to the torch lighter, a group of locals enjoyed diving off the rocks into the beautiful evening sea.

Maui Photographer Susan Seubert, enjoying the whales

On mornings like this one, the surface of the ocean is glassy, the winds have died down and the sun is still behind the West Maui Mountains but is, from this vantage point on Ka’anapali Beach, lighting up the island of Lana’i in such a way that every valley on the windward side is placed in high relief.  On the horizon, an approaching storm front is gray and foreboding, but there’s a calm here at the ocean’s edge that betrays the oncoming weather.  The smooth waters reveal what appears to be holes in the ocean surface where whale spume appears like steam vents.  Just beyond the reef point, a mother humpback whale boosts her newborn calf out of the water, apparently teaching it how to breach.  This is the sort of morning that calms my heart and makes me so very grateful to be here, now.

maui morning

This photo was taken much later this morning, after the trade winds had picked up.  I took it from a stand up paddle board, about 50 yards off shore.  I was using a Canon Poweshot SD1000 Digital Elph in a water housing.  The combination of swell and wind didn’t allow for much picture taking, but I got a good view of a pod of breaching whales and a very nice run-in with a very large turtle. 🙂

Maui Vog Sunset

Last night was one of a series of glorious sunsets here on the leeward side of Maui.  We’ve taken to our normal habit of having a glass of wine and toasting to the end of another incredible day.  Last night, because of some light vog, we had a particularly colorful sunset.  Here are some photos of the beautiful evening.  Aloha!

The view of the island of Lana'i

The view of the island of Lana'i

Our front row seats for the beautiful display

Our front row seats for the beautiful display

Maui Sunset with Stand Up Paddler

Maui Sunset with Stand Up Paddler

The last throes of the evening

The last throes of the evening

The latest photos from Maui