Portfolio: Nate Smith
I can remember when I was around seven being given a surfboard at a friend of my mum’s barbecue. I found this device strange yet appealing, and I knew right then that I had to figure it out somehow. I knew nothing about surfing or surfers. Little did I know of the adventures and life that surfboard would end up providing me.
I’m not a professional surfer, although back in the day after spending every waking moment learning to ride that thing, I ended up competing in a few contests – right up to WQS level, until one day in summer I injured myself and was dry-docked for five months. I had just previously won a contest, and the prize was a Sumatran boat trip to HT’s and all those places. I couldn’t use it, so I swapped it for a Canon EOS 630 and two lenses. So I began to take photos while I healed. I picked up the camera originally to kill time, but I was hooked instantly and I never competed again.
I can recall even when I was really young always being mesmerized by what my mates where doing on a wave as I’d paddle back out – sitting and watching them blow the tail or get barreled. I thought those little would make amazing photos. So there was my solution for the next few months. Fifteen odd years later and I’m still doing it. Funny, yet cool, how things work out.
My fist major photo that got run was of a mate I grew up surfing with – Drew Courtney. Not knowing what I was doing, I got lucky and landed myself a Tracks Magazine poster, and I thought that was an easy $300 dollars. I was stoked and basically, I have been shooting with Track ever since.
I been really fortunate over the years, and I have had some great opportunities to travel and shoot with some of the best surfers in the world. Along the way I’ve gotten to see some amazing places and meet some really cool people.
Surf photography is so much more than just someone on a wave. It’s all those other cool moments that add up to make me love what I do. I’m really influenced by all sorts of photographers for one reason or another – not just surf photographers, but usually people outside our industry. But guys like Jeff Hornbaker, Ted Grambeau, Chris Van Lennep are the names that really stood out for me early on, and they still do. I think these days even with digital well settled, Hornbaker’s and Ted’s work still outshines most. That just shows you how good they actually are.
There are a lot of new guys coming, and it’s exciting to see what comes out each month – or now each day with the online phenomenon, but at the end of the day I’m loving what I’m doing; it’s really as simple as that.
It’s an exciting time to be a photographer.