The Big Sur coast was our destination and the premise of the trip was to find solitude: drive, surf, camp, repeat. There was little else to do. It was a quick five-day trip. There were no laptops or iPods present. Cell phones were useless and there was no Facebook or Twittering of events. Instead our coastal tour was defined by woodsmoke, morning dew on green campground grass, loud surf, birdsong, and the sweet, earthy scents of a seaside forest: fir, sap, moss, fungus, dusty poison oak, sagebrush, berries, earthen decay, and the dank woodiness of old trees. Bringing along surfers Crystal Thornburg and Belinda Baggs we drove into the wilderness of Big Sur in search of empty waves.
In winter the coast could also be defined by massive swells, wildfires, landslides, and strong onshores that plagued our entire visit. Even in the sheltered nooks, where the wind bent and blew offshore, it ripped the tops from waves and made catching them impossible. Early into a particularly wild session, Belinda Baggs retreated ashore and told me that she’d just ridden the windiest wave of her life. Wind deemed the surfable spots few, good waves far fewer. The coast was too climatically beaten to allow for reliable, refined surf. But we improvised and on this particular evening we stumbled upon something special.
The session that afternoon was backlit and serene, more a mood than anything, viscerally sewn to the theme of the trip: solitude. The women were longboarders of silky catlike precision, noseriding virtuosos, expertly tuned to the small rivermouth waves near our campsite. Mavens of grace, they were relaxing to watch. The moment was so timeless and when I approach shooting these types of scenes I look to portray that. I wanted to capture the grace and style of Crystal Thornburg as she made riding the wave look effortless. Her silhouette contrasted against the colors of the setting sun are really what create the timeless moment. I exposed the image to create that silhouette while using a fisheye to really capture the entire scene taking place. I stood in the water as high as I could lifting the housing above my head to give a unique perspective, almost as if you are riding the wave with her. – Chris Burkard
Equipment and settings: Nikon D300s, AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED lens – 1/800th at f/2.8 – ISO 200
This image is available as a print through request at Burkard’s online store here. Find Burhard’s portfolio at his website, www.burkardphoto.com, and on 500px. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr.