‘Those who live by the sea can hardly form a single thought of which the sea would not be part.’ – Hermann Broch’s words ring true for anyone with friends on the coast. The sea is intoxicating. Every morning Matt runs down to Bondi and dives into the waves, we’re still not sure who’s capturing who.


I’ve always found water photography mesmerising. The combination of technology and natural forces coming together to create snapshots of something so fleeting you couldn’t recreate it even if you tried. The unseen person behind the amazing photos you see in surf magazines. The need to be completely immersed in the environment, literally. When the opportunity came up to get a waterproof housing for my DLSR, it couldn’t happen quickly enough.

Before The Dawn

Most shoots start the night before. Checking conditions. Prepping the water housing. Waxing the lens port. Predicting the best spot to shoot. Once morning comes it’s a short run to the beach under the cover of darkness, before jumping into a rip current for a free ride out, aiming to be in place for the sunrise. The senses go into overdrive watching the horizon for the next set, logging where the surfers are sitting, composing against the distant cliffs, noticing the subtle textures of the wind on the surface.

Complete strangers slow their paddling for a quick chat on the way back out, ‘Did you get that one?’ None of the cold, steely stares I get when I’m out on a board as a fellow surfer. A camera gives you permission to be there. I won’t be taking anyone’s wave and if everything lines up, I might get a good shot to share with a new friend.

Reality Sets In

As the real world creeps back in I often realise that hours have passed. I should already be at the bus stop on the way to work. A quick shower and it’s off to the office and hours of waiting before I can get home and upload the memory card.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/1.8, 1/800s, ISO200 @50mm

A rare summer morning where high cloud over the beach and no low cloud to block the sunrise combined to create the most amazing colours. We usually see the best sunrises during autumn and winter on the East Coast, so shooting this in the middle of summer was great.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/4.0, 1/500s, ISO125 @50mm

The light a few minutes after sunrise is incredible. Everything is bathed in a golden glow and the haze from breaking waves makes the light scatter in all directions. No one was blaming these guys for letting a few waves slip by.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/9.0, 1/1250, ISO160 @50mm

Once the sun is up and the light show is over, attention turns to the surfers, trying to capture the critical positions they get into. This floater was over a fun, knee-deep sandbar.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/4.0, 1/1600, ISO100 @50mm

It’s not all about sunrises. Lots of beaches are bookended by towering cliffs that provide amazing backgrounds with textures and patterns framing the action below.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/5.0, 1/6400s, ISO320 @50mm

Longboarders always look so stylish and timeless. Gliding in early, scooping bottom turns and fancy footwork. When the waves are small they can still make a shot look interesting.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/1.8, 1/1000s, ISO125 @50mm

This wave was breaking on a sandbar only a foot deep at low tide – it created some amazing shapes as the wave tripped over itself.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography, moon

Camera settings: f/1.8, 1/1600s, ISO200 @50mm

A very special morning. A blazing orange sky stretched from one side of the bay to the other, while the moon quietly took its leave and started to set over the coast.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/1.8, 1/2500s, ISO320 @50mm

After a long day chained to a desk and a sweaty, hot commute home, nothing beats running straight into the ocean to recharge, de-stress and watch the sun set.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/3.5, 1/8000s, ISO320 @50mm

Being out beyond the breaking waves with such a low vantage point, it’s possible to get some new perspectives on things. An East Coast sunset hitting some prime real estate in North Bondi.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography, dolphin, animal

Camera settings: f/5.6, 1/2000s, ISO800 @50mm

You can’t help the rush of panic when a fin first appears on the surface. Even more so when there’s only one. Friend or foe? This one turned out to be a friend but it took an uncomfortably long time for it to surface for a breath and confirm it was a dolphin.

Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Camera settings: f/5.6, 1/8000s, ISO320 @50mm

Buildings and features you walk past every day on land can look totally different from out in the water. A rare coming together of light, architecture and surface textures one cold evening after work.

 

All images shot with a Nikon D7100 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens all in an Aquatech Elite/Compac waterhousing.

 


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