Student Success Stephen Krawiec
NYIP student Stephen Krawiec is a budding surfing photographer whose first published photograph appeared in Eastern Surf Magazine. We thought our students and website visitors would enjoy learning more about what it takes to do this kind of photography.
How did you get interested in Surf photography?
Growing up in New Jersey, it’s a given that you’re down at the beach come summer. It’s a place for me that has always had an atmosphere about it like no other. Small town communities, sharing the beautiful coastline and beaches we have. Memories of being in the water and walking the boardwalks has always been a favorite summer past time. I’ve always been drawn to the ocean and that feeling of freedom while in the water. Body surfing is one of my passions and it wasn’t until recently that I started to photograph surfing. For me, I’ve always loved landscapes and always want to incorporate a landscape into my shots and surfing seemed to be the purest form that always lets me to do that. Seeing some of these beautiful places and incorporating the surfer into the natural elements can leave a strong feeling that many can relate to.
What particular challenges do you face in getting surfing pictures?
There are many challenges when trying to come up with a good surf photograph. Many things are happening at once, from focusing on the surfer, to thinking of where your positioning is for the shot. The conditions are ever changing from the weather, to the lighting, so being adaptable is a huge key to success. I strongly believe having the ability to bring something new to the table every time can play a huge part of whether you’re successful or simply not getting the shot you want. Once you get into the water everything changes and it’s a whole different field to master. You’re always faced with dealing with all different elements at once, so when you get that one shot you can really appreciate it.
What kind of equipment do you use for this kind of photography and what is the most invaluable gear that you use?
As far as equipment goes, there are all different types that I use. As of now, I’m setup with my Nikon D7000 and a variety of lenses. The two most handy lenses for me would have to be the 70-200 vrii and one of my wide angle lenses. Apart from the camera gear, one essential item is my Patagonia wetsuit. That keeps me plenty warm when facing freezing temperatures during the winter months. Fins help me stay mobile while out in the water. However, the most invaluable piece of equipment would by far be my Aquatech Water Housing, which always keeps my gear dry while out shooting in the water. In my opinion the best water housings out there.
How did the published photo in Eastern Surf Magazine come about?
Having the photo published was a pretty exciting thing. It was my first actual publication. I started to send work to the editor. Every time he’d give me some pretty good advice and critiques on my work. That helped a bunch. After sending work and emails back and forth for about a good month or two, we had a decent swell come through and I was out working on some new techniques and fortunately I ended up with some pretty good shots and I knew they’d have a feature coming up for the month. I sent a bunch of the photos in and finally he liked what he saw and really like the one shot and they went ahead and used it. Eastern Surf Magazine is just the beginning and I’ll always remember my first publication for sure.
Do you have any tips for someone interested in surfing photography?
If there’s any advice that I could give, it’s definitely go after it. You’ll face a lot of critiques and a lot of people not interested in your work at first, but as long as you can bring something different to the table and have a unique style, you’ll have success. Take your time and invest in a good water housing as the shots from in the water will grab a lot of attention as well.
You mentioned that you’re looking to pursue a career in the surf industry. Does that mean surf photography exclusively and if so, how do you plan on building the business?
Yes, right now I’m just really working on my portfolio and reaching out to many people within the industry. My goals are to land a staff job with one of the magazines while building my own studio/gallery for my work. Social media is a huge tool to success these days. From Facebook, and Twitter to Instagram, it allows me to get my work out there and seen by hundreds of people and has definitely brought opportunities to me as well. Being able to have the knowledge of the business side is a big plus, something that I’m still new to and learning. It’s made a difference for sure. As far as just surf photography, that’s where my background is in, but I plan on trying to shoot some of my other passions as well - adventure photography, hiking, camping, and just exploring new places and opportunities.
What other types of photography do you like to do?
For me I’ve always been drawn to landscapes. Ansel Adams is by far a big inspiration for me. Any time I can get out and shoot landscapes and get lost in nature is a big plus. I definitely want to explore more with adventure photography like hiking, rock climbing, and backpacking. Those are some areas of interest as well.
Do you have any advice to photographers just starting out?
The most important thing that I’d tell any photographer just starting out is to definitely find your niche and come up with a style that’s yours. You don’t want to try to be just good at every aspect of photography. Pick your strong point and develop your style around that. When people look at many different photographs you want them to see yours and right away know that’s a photograph by you. That’s what is going to help with you being successful above others. Another good point is to be well rounded and be able to handle shooting photographs but also getting your work out there to be seen. The last point I’d like to make for photographers is definitely take a class on photography, it really does help.
How did you first become interested in photography?
Back in middle school, I grew up with my friends skateboarding and started out filming and making videos of them. Once I got to high school, I really found an interest with art itself. I just about took every art class I could. During spring break of my sophomore year, I borrowed my uncle’s old film camera, I think it was a Nikon. The first two rolls of film, all the photos weren’t exposed right or they were taken from the waist down - I was so used to filming skateboarding all the time. From that point on, I’ve been hooked and the rest is history
Why NYIP for your training?
The reason I decided to chose NYIP for my training is because I wanted to learn from a well-known school, but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to be out in the field learning as well. I took a year off after high school to really figure out what I wanted to do. Training through NYIP left me with the opportunity to go right out in the field and take what I learned and incorporate it to my work and work flow. NYIP has been a huge help. Right after the first unit I really began to see the difference and really see things in all aspects as a photographer. I’d recommend it to anyone.
What do you enjoy most about being a photographer?
Traveling, that’s the one thing I enjoy most. Getting to see new places and the beauty they hold is something that I will carry with me always. Seeing different places as well as new cultures - traveling is a way of learning and it’ll never stop teaching you something new. I’m truly grateful when I get to travel because of my photography. I’d also have to say the freedom of expression through photography and being able to get involved in the places I’m at and sharing the experiences through my work to others.
What are some of the more difficult challenges in your work?
One of the more difficult challenges within my work would be always looking for a new perspective that hasn’t been done already. I want to be able to paint a picture and tell a story. Be able to make the viewer feel as if they were there in that moment. A photograph can truly be an inspiring thing and if I can leave my viewers with a sense of inspiration to want to get out and explore these places or even places of their own, that’s what I want to portray through my work.
What other jobs/successes have you had in photography?
Just recently I teamed up with Carapace Wetsuits and we did a photo giveaway. I’m now a local pro on Surfline.com, had a few photos published on Thesurfersview.com, Saltybynature.com and with Epic Shirts, and I had a feature go up on TheInertia.com, an online surf community site. I was lucky to have the opportunity to do a friend’s wedding as well - what an experience that was. It was definitely a big learning experience and I know I learned a lot about myself and my work in such a high pressure situation. It’s been a crazy year for sure, but I’m thankful for all the opportunities that are starting to arise.
What’s your favorite photograph that you’ve taken and why?
Ah, there’s so many! I’d have to say this shot of my good friend Evan. We went out for an early morning session and the waves were pumping! In between sets, right as the sun started to rise over the horizon, he was paddling out and it was one of those magic moments. Right away, I knew it would be a photograph that many surfers can relate to. It’s a simple and magical moment that just all came together just right. It’s by far, one of my top shots that I’m really proud of.
How has your NYIP training helped you?
The training that I’ve received from NYIP has been a huge help. Right after the first few lessons I could see a change at how I looked at everything and the new perspective I could see and picture things. All the lessons to this point have been able to help me really find my style and how I want to photograph a scene. The photo lessons and being able to get my work critiqued by professional is a huge plus! They really allow you to take a step back, and see different ways and techniques that you could have done to make the overall photograph better. NYIP is my top recommendation for any aspiring photographer for sure.
What’s next for you and your photography?
What’s next? I look forward to do some more traveling soon. To be honest, I’m just really looking to hone my skills and my style. I’ve been working on really creating my own style, one that will stand out and help take my work to the next level. I’m looking forward to just shooting and taking any opportunity that comes my way. I’m working on landing a staff position with one of the top surf magazines- that’s a big goal of mine. This year, I’m planning to enter the Follow the Light photo contest, something that can really help set my career off. I don’t want to plan too far ahead, as I’m just looking to take in every moment along the journey, and just be able to do what I love.
Thank you NYIP for this interview, it’s been a pleasure!
You can follow me and my journey through many social networks!
- Instagram: @StephenKrawiec
- Twitter: @StephenKrawiec
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-Krawiec-Photography/352312804896551
Want to learn photography? Try an Online Photography Course from NYIP today!