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Introducing NZ based photographer: Ryan Isherwood

Introducing NZ based photographer: Ryan Isherwood

Posted on December 06 2018

Tell us a little about yourself, where are you based and how did you get into photography?

I'm based in Christchurch, which for those who don't know is basically central on the East coast of New Zealand's South Island.  I got into photography after years of filming clips with a camcorder. I always thought I would get into filming as oppose to taking stills. Whitey (Chris White) was my idol back then haha. I bought my first still setup 14 years ago. It was a Canon 300x film camera. I shot film for a few years before transitioning to digital and haven’t looked back since.

You have an incredible collection of lineups (of course they are all spot X) have you got a particular ocean image that means the most to you?

Gee that's a tough one! I wouldn't say I have one image that that specifically means more to me than others but I have certainly created images that I had to work hard for. Those types of images give me the greatest satisfaction. One evening, in particular, I was shooting a mate Sam Wells whom some may know as @samfrandisco or Dick Johansonson depending on which social media platform you follow. He would often surf solo while I snapped a few images between surfs and burst eardrums (Seven to be exact). We were at one of the river mouths we frequent and the mouth was flowing out on a 45-degree angle away from my vantage point. I could tell by all of Sam's hooting and hand gestures when he made it into the lineup that it was cooking off in the distance but I was at least 200m away with very little options. I knew I somehow needed to cross the river though in order to get a better angle and do the session justice. I waved Sam out of the lineup and he paddles back over to me asking what the fxxk I was doing interrupting his surf. I explained that I had a plan to get across but needed him to give me his bodyboard and fins. I had no housing for my camera gear, no wetsuit and had to cross 10-degree water flowing at a few hundred cubic metres per second without drowning my rig. I stripped down to my shorts, strapped on Sam's fins and jumped on his board with my camera handheld in the air to keep it dry as I paddled like a lunatic to get across. There is a very real risk of ending up way out to sea so I fxxkin pinned it, Sam close behind swimming. The second I arrived on the other side I stood up and watched a set unload and knew the risk was going to pay off. Cut a long story short the very first wave Sam caught once I was set up was a howler and the image was printed in New Zealand's most successful surf book 'The South Seas' That image for me is certainly a standout. (see header image)

Having spent time with you over a beer or two, I was amazed by all your solo missions for surf, any chilling moments out there in the wilderness?

Mate, the only chilling encounters I have experienced are my balls shrivelling up like a couple of prunes during winter sessions haha. I don't wear gloves, booties or hoods typically due to the restrictive feel and have smashed out a few winters with water temps as low as 6 degrees. In all seriousness though, I feel pretty comfortable at most places over here. I have seen a fin while shooting from the water in Kaikoura a few years back but I can't say I have any horror stories or close calls. There is certainly a healthy population of whites here in New Zealand but seldom do you hear of a sighting.

How often do you travel and your favourite place away from your local that you have photographed?

I'm lucky to get away once a year really. I'd love to have more freedom to travel but I'm somewhat restricted being a solo father to my 5-year-old son Kyer. In 2013, prior to solo parenting, I was lucky enough to travel to Antarctica for work. (Welding inspection is my 9-5 job) I was only there for 36 hours on that trip but returned later in the year and spent 2 weeks around McMurdo Station. That is by far the most amazing place I've ever photographed. From a surf point of view though, I can't go past South Australia earlier this year. I was battling PTSD and depression at the time and that was the perfect place to unwind and experience solitude in warmer climates.

What would you say is your most significant achievement to date?

My most significant achievement will always be raising my 3 stepsons and one of my own whom I now have full time. I recently just won the Aerial category of the New Zealand Geographic Photography Awards with a surf image. It was refreshing to have my image chosen in a country where surfing and ocean sports are not as cultural as places such as Australia and therefore relative images often don't appeal to an NZ audience.

What equipment do you shoot with currently?

I currently use - Canon 5DMKiii, Canon 70-200mm non IS f2.8, Canon 24-105mm f4, Canon 50mm f1.4, Canon 15mm f2.8 (fisheye) and Aquatech Elite housing.

What is the most challenging part about being a photographer for you?

In all honesty, the most challenging thing I find is the ignorance of others. I've had people make assumptions about my motives and they couldn't be further from the truth. I don't take images for profit or fame end of! If i did, I'd be homeless and starving to death haha. I enjoy expressing myself through imagery which appears to come at some sort of cost for a select few

If you could only take one camera and lens on your next job, what will be your go to set up to get the job done?

Well, I currently only have the 5DMKiii so I wouldn't have too much choice, haha but I would definitely take the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens. That thing is my dream lineup lens and versatile in many other situations.

Your dream project?

My dream project would be shooting lineups in an untapped location somewhere isolated and cold. That Aleutian Islands trip Burkard and co did a few years back is my kinda dream!

Your biggest inspirations?

I have drawn inspiration from many artists but I tend to lean towards people I get to know on a more personal level. Russ Ord, Phil Gallagher, Ray Collins, Luke Shadbolt are all people I have had the pleasure of spending time with and/or shooting with and each have a unique style. There are many others such as Ben Thouard, Trent Mitchell, Jem Cresswell mate I could go on and on. There are so many different aspects that grab my attention. In the world, we live in these days that alone is inspirational to me. Locally here in New Zealand I couldn't look past Rambo Estrada. In my eyes, he is setting the benchmark for surf photography in this country.

Best photography advice/tip that you have been given in the past?

The best advice I ever received was from Ray Collins many moons ago. I remember vividly chewing the fat with him in my lounge here in NZ during a trip he had done with Zion Wetsuits. I recall saying how lucky he was to have such amazing waves to shoot in Australia. His response was ' Mate I would kill to have the isolation and solitude you do over here. You are so lucky to live in NZ and the light is amazing. Its all about that light, embrace it'. From that point on that's exactly what I did. I harnessed what was on my back door. I love where I live and I'm blessed to have the conditions here that many will never experience.

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