Ben Hartley: Surf Photographer

Beyond The Frame

Welcome to another episode of Surf Bank's Beyond The Frame where we dive into the captivating world of surf and ocean photography, going beyond mesmerising captures exploring the backstory of many talented photographers. In this episode we will be hearing from Ben Hartley from Buckinghamshire now located in Falmouth, Cornwall. Beyond the frame aims to inspire and inform future surf photographers and ocean lovers being your backstage pass to detailed insights from the minds behind stunning surf shots.

Ben Hartley Gallery

What Did Your Childhood Look Like?

I grew up in Buckinghamshire as a wildlife photographer for around 10 years, surrounded by fields and woodlands. Not a lot of surfing or swimming whilst growing up, but I had interests in camping, mountain biking and photography. Then I went to university in Falmouth and found my passion for surf photography. This is where I ended up moving and staying for the last 4 years.

What Came First, Surfing or Photography?

The photography came first, I have been doing photography since I was 12. Surfing only really came when I started university and moved to Cornwall. I learnt to surf in freshers but stopped due to an injury and perused my surf photography. I aim to relearn surfing this year but currently I get the same buzz from the photography in water.

How Did You Get Into Surf Photography?

While I was at university I was planning on being a wildlife photographer for the rest of my life but, but lockdown then hit. While not being able to go on wildlife shoots, I discovered surf photography through my best mate, and started going on shoots with him and our other mates that surfed. I was only shooting from land for the first few months, but I then started to make money from it I decided to buy my first housing and turn it from a hobby to a profession. From there I ended up picking up a couple sponsors and upgrading my gear!

Favourite Surf Trip?

My favourite surf trip to date was Nazare 2022, where I got to go and shoot from ski with Andrew Cotton in 40ft swell. Also my recent trip to Morocco was my first trip alone and was a great success offering exciting new experiences and I was able shoot with some of the top surfers who were competing in the WSL.

Do You Work With Any Brands?

I've worked with Cskins for the past year and a half and am currently working with the British Longboard Union on competitions.

Where Do You Normally Shoot?

Mostly all over Cornwall, but in the winters I go to Portugal to shoot Nazare.

Photo By Ben Hartley

Where Do You Shoot? Water or Land?

In water mainly, but occasionally from land. I prefer bigger waves and sketchier spots to swim. I learnt to swim properly through surf photography as I didn't come from a swimming background.

What Makes The Perfect Image?

The timing with the surfer and the photographer has to be perfect, working with the same surfers a lot makes me trust how close I can sit to them when lining up a shot. Sunrise is the best time for light.

How Did You Become So Involved In The Surf Scene?

I got in as much as possible in my first year shooting, through my last couple years at university, my main aim had been to get a barrel shot with a surfer. I ended up getting that shot at the end of my second year with Adam Griffiths. The shot got taken up by carve and since then I have kept pushing for different angles from the water. I mainly enjoy shooting surf comps at the moment, especially for the British Longboard Union. Each comp is different and very cool to watch from the water.

Do You Have A Favourite Photographer That Has Inspired You?

Ben Thouard, his shots inspire me a great deal. However, the person who taught me a lot when first starting out was one of my good mates Will Frost (@wfrostphoto) so I have to give him a shoutout! Here is a longer list of photographers that inspire me: Caleb Giddens @calebgiddensmedia, Ross Taylor @_rtshots, Nick Pumphrey @nickpumphreyphoto, Johannes Hertel @johannes_hertel, Nathan Benham @dawnpatrolphotography, Jamie Burford @jamieburf, Laurie McCall @lauriemccallphoto.

What's Your Biggest Challenge To Overcome When Shooting?

Wipeouts on big days as well as lining up shots without getting runover!

Photo By Ben Hartley

Ben's Equipment List

Camera & Lenses

Ben normally works with the Nikon D500 system, using Nikkor 12-24mm F4 and Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8.

See Ben's Camera Here

Water Housing

When it comes to water housing, Ben's opts for his Liquid Eye Housing.

View Ben's Water Housing Here


When Ben is out shooting he choses between his Xcel drylock 5/4 westsuit or his Cskins rewired 3/2 depending on the temperate. He won't go without his Dafin X vissla fins. He also has the option to wear his Gath helmet.

Ben's Favourite Shot Taken

Photo By Ben Hartley

My favourite shot is from a session down south at the end of last winter. A very random session which involved 5 surfers and an hour of some of the best waves I have ever seen in Cornwall before suddenly stopping. Swimming alongside, Ben Skinner, Lukas Skinner, Dan Joel, Pete Mcnic and Peter Edkins on the SUP. We had a couple sets where everyone got a wave and got barrelled back to back. To finish the session I got a perfect line up with Dan Joel and the shot ended up being in Carve Mag as a double page spread. It was a sick day and really nice group in the water.

Ben's Future Plans

From this year I plan to push my skills and photography as a surf photographer. I am currently working and training on jetskis and pushing my breathing training for some trips in the works this winter. Also to rediscover my love of wildlife photography for out of season.

Follow @benhartleyphoto

You can keep up to date with ben's new projects and recent captures on his Instagram as well get in contact with him through direct message!

Do You Want To Be Involved In Beyond The Frame?

Are you a surf photographer wanting your story told? You may be our next Beyond The Frame feature! Please get in touch with us over email so we can get a conversation going:

Photo By Ben Hartley

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