Finding Art In The Ocean
My name is Ryan Marais from the Gold Coast in Australia. I’m an ocean photographer and recent graduate from the Bachelor of Digital Media at Griffith University. While ocean photography is my main hobby, I love bodyboarding and free diving. My aesthetic in surf and ocean photography is focused on light, colour and geometry.
My journey into surf photography started with a simple question – “How do I communicate and share my experience in the ocean with others?” This led me to pick up my first DSLR at 19, taking photos at Gold Coast and Northern NSW beaches.
My biggest inspiration is the ever changing and unpredictable nature of the ocean. Every day, the surf conditions are different, and you’ll never find two waves that form the same way. I seek to capture artistic moments by pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Because you’re taking photos in an environment that’s outside of your control, you need to continuously adapt to your surroundings.
Ocean and surf photography is now a lifelong passion of mine and I’m excited for what awaits.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in South Africa and was lucky to move to Australia when I was 2. I’ve been living on the Gold Coast for 20 years now. Growing up on the Gold Coast with the surf culture and connection to the ocean. The Goldie is such a wonderful, relaxed place and the surfing vibe down Coolangatta is awesome. I’ve never really been much of a surfer but always had an attraction towards the ocean. It seems to be the one place I can truly find tranquillity and let go of any negativity. It’s also a giant playground in which you can push your physical limits and excel in certain breaks.
How did you get into photography?
I stumbled upon photography by pure accident. For a university project in 2016, I had to create a website and fill it up with my own images. It wasn’t much of a leap but I decided to borrow a camera and take photographs around some of the more popular beaches here on the Coast. Within two weeks of shooting I fell in love with the art of the ocean and started an Instagram page (@surfedspots back then). I bought my own setup as soon as I could and went from there.
Favourite thing/places to shoot?
At this moment in my photography journey I focus on empty waves. It’s a form of art to me as I’m looking for unique geometry, light and colours in the ocean. For locations it’s usually reef breaks that form waves like no other (secret places of course).
How are you coping with the current Covid-19 pandemic?
Yeah… It’s quite a devastating time in life, for not only myself but essentially the entire world. I’ve seen the impact that it’s had on the surf industry in such a short time and so many creatives have lost their entire income. Scary stuff… For myself I’m much luckier than others. The only downside is my mental health. I’m in constant anxiety around my wellbeing because I suffer from asthma that is already difficult to manage. However, one positive side is that it’s forcing me isolate at home. This allows me to work on everything other than taking photos which might help a lot when this starts to blow over. During this time I’m attempting to transition into other areas of photography, with the goal to attract more income so I can continue my passion for ocean photography.
Do you have any favourite surf/ocean photographer/s?
There are so many… The amount of talent is beyond imaginable. I’ve always followed a certain group of photographers, including Warren Keelan, Philip Thurston, Ray Collins, Lloyd Meudell and Ryan Pernofski. Each of them are able to isolate waves and create some of the most magnificent ocean art I’ve ever seen. They’re all absolute legends.
Any advice for other up and coming photogs?
Find what works for you. Don’t allow yourself to be trapped into thinking that you can only photograph specific things because others like it. Be yourself, learn your equipment! Don’t follow others’ camera settings and find your own style. It may take some time but in the end you’ll never look back.
Many travel plans for this year? I guess everything is still up in the air with Covid...
At this point of time I’m unsure. I’ve had to cancel my first ever proper trip to drive down south and photograph the east coast of Australia. Otherwise Tahiti is on the list for next year (hopefully).