January 28, 2022

Parker Hansen

Catching up with Parker to talk about catching waves and creating a unique style.


Describe your journey with photography.

My journey into photography began in 2020 when I spent two weeks in quarantine with COVID. Forced to separate from my wife and infant son for their safety, I was left to isolate in a small room alone while sick. It was a harrowing experience, but what emerged was the opportunity to reflect on what direction I wanted my life to continue on in. I passed the time researching cameras and photography and it quickly became clear that I could combine two of the most creative forms of expression there are: surfing and photography.

Initially, I began shooting what I was living as a surfer; chasing a-frame and barreling waves, intense cutbacks from surfers and the perfect wave crashing at sunset. As a consumer of surf culture for over two decades, I recognized that my early shots followed the conventional pattern of surf photography. Instead of capturing predictable images, I pushed myself to capture out of the box angles and pictures. This perspective is what motivates me to embrace shots that embody a sense of oddity and bewilderment and look for the mysterious happenstances that take place in the ocean daily. It’s forced me to really step back from the norm, slow things down and find the smaller moments.

Chasing waves as a surfer is far different than chasing waves as a photographer – once captured by my camera, I get to relive that wave’s crisp details, colors, and perfect imperfections.

What have you learned along the way that you wish you knew earlier?

The biggest lesson I have I learned is when to prioritize lighting over good surf conditions. The eager surfer in me often jumped the gun to go when the tide, wind or swell period were at optimal conditions; but often that sacrificed ideal lighting conditions due to the time of day. I had to readjust my surfer mindset to prioritize better lighting for my shots. With that came the sense of adjusting my expectations of “the ideal shot.” I learned to quickly let go and embrace whatever the ocean revealed. When you get held under the water by a large wave, you must learn to surrender so your body can relax in those stressful moments to conserve oxygen. Through surrendering to my own expectations, I have been able to get some pretty fun shots that aren’t as commonplace in surf photography.

How has combining your lifelong hobby of surfing with photography worked for you?

The two are mutually exclusive so I have to give up surfing days for photography days and vice versa. Just like a surfer knows how to pick a beach to catch that day’s best swell, I use that same knowledge to pick the beach to capture the right conditions for the type of shot I’m chasing. A lot of time and precious light can be wasted if you don’t know the coastline and conditions well. But even when conditions are just right, there is still an element of luck and surprise every time I take my camera out.

Sometimes it leaves me feeling like I’m missing out on one or the other. Except for those rare days where I can start my water session surfing and end it with photography. That’s my perfect day.

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Post photograph by
Parker Hansen

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