Lara Waves: 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 talented surf photographer Lara Waves from Yorkshire, England known for her stunning in water shots. 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.

Lara Waves Gallery

What Did Your Childhood Look Like?

I grew up in Yorkshire, England with my mum, dad, sister & dog. Our family business is a small, traditional pub so although it was a lot of fun, there was unfortunately no ocean nearby. I always used my savings to travel and adventure, through scuba diving I fell in love with the ocean.

What Came First, Surfing or Photography?

As a teenager I always enjoyed taking photos, especially 35mm, but never found a subject that really hooked me so I didn't pursue it. Therefore, I guess I'd say surfing came first. During a summer holiday of university I felt the urge to learn to surf so worked in a surf camp for three months in Alentejo, Portugal. I fell in love with both surfing and Portugal and returned every summer until I graduated.

How Did You Get Into Surf Photography?

After I finished four years studying Oceanography at university I was more than ready to return to Portugal and surfing so that's what I did. I moved there for nine months until winter came around and work dried up. I took an opportunity to work for a non-profit in Sri Lanka dedicated to empowering local women and girls through free swim & surf lessons known as SeaSisters LK, check them out! For this adventure I decided it would be fun to take photos from the water so I bought a second hand compact Sony RX100 V and a water housing for it. I shot my friends for fun and the photos were coming out pretty nice and I loved it, a small seed was planted in my mind that maybe this could be the start of something. COVID came and blew up any big ideas for about two years but the seed remained and after the world began to settle down again I returned to Sri Lanka with the hope of selling my first photos. I quickly realised my problems wouldn't be with actually taking decent photos, it would be having the confidence to ask people for money. Almost two years later I'm still working full-time as an in-water surf photographer and trying to develop those business skills.

Photo By Lara Waves

Where Do You Normally Shoot?

So far I've been on the move. My journey started in the warm, relatively easy going waters of Sri Lanka. I then spent the summer working in Madeira, which was definitely colder but still pretty tame given the time of year. After Madeira I felt ready to get experience in more difficult conditions so I spent the winter season in Morocco. It was there I had my first taste of big waves, strong currents and a few barrels. I love the energy of the Atlantic and after spending the summer in Portugal I will return to Morocco this winter. Looking to next year I would love to try Indo and enjoy tropical water again whilst still feeling that energy.

Where Do You Shoot? Water or Land?

I almost always shoot from the water as I love the perspective and the intimacy it gives. Capturing the ocean from an angle most people don't get to see is such a privilege and there is always a surprise when you check the SD card later. Also, the challenge of navigating and meeting the characters of a line up is addictive. That said, when circumstances don't allow swimming out I'm still very happy to shoot from land, especially when there is an interesting landscape.

What Makes The Perfect Image?

For me there is no clear answer, and often the beauty can be in the imperfections. We are exposed to so many incredible images everyday through Instagram etc, it's special to find one that makes you stop and really look. The images I love most capture a raw emotion, interesting lighting and a unique setting.

Photo By Lara Waves

How Did You Become So Involved In The Surf Scene?

Without living longterm by a local break it can be challenging, however I can definitely say it is easier to get involved as a photographer than as a surfer. Unless you absolutely rip (I don't!) you're often just another face crowding the line up as a non-local surfer. With the camera, you're greeted with a big smile and plenty of respect. You meet people very quickly and this really helps to establish yourself.

Do You Have A Favourite Photographer That Has Inspired You?

I take inspiration from many sources but some of my favourite photographers include Rambo Estrada, his ocean landscapes are stunningly timeless and although I've never met him his online vibe feels very humble and easy going. Another inspiration, especially for being brave with creative edits is Serg Dady, he uses light to make beautiful edits that are unique yet still somehow feel true to the natural scene. I also enjoy shooting beach lifestyle, it's something I plan to do more of in the future and for this it's Tatjana Mair (@straightouttalens). She is creating some killer lifestyle images, staying true to herself and her style which I really respect.

What's Your Biggest Challenge To Overcome When Shooting?

My biggest challenge is overcoming self-doubt and also my lack of industry knowledge to create financially beneficial opportunities for myself. I'm still in the early stages of my career and I'm enjoying learning the ropes, sometimes I need to push myself to aim bigger.

Photo By Lara Waves

Lara's Equipment List

Camera & Lenses

Lara sticks with her Sony A7R III using the Sony 55mm F1.8 ZA, Tamron 28-75mm or the F2.8 VXD G2.

Lara's Favourite Shot Taken

It’s difficult to choose a favourite image but this one is definitely up there. It’s taken in Morocco during a sunset session with just myself and a friend. From the cliff the waves didn’t look that exciting but I went purely to play and enjoy using my camera without pressure after a brief slump of feeling unmotivated. A few days before I’d swam out at a fairly dangerous spot and captured some nice images but didn’t get the response I was hoping for and it left me feeling a bit deflated. Another lesson learnt though, try not take it personally which isn't always easy when your work is your passion! However this sunset session suddenly turned on and beautiful waves kept rolling through as the golden offshore spray hit us in the face. By the time we got out I was totally refreshed in the way only the ocean can do. When I see the colours and contrasts in this image I’m reminded how the most beautiful things are made from highs and lows. 

Favourite Shot By Lara Waves

Personal Message

Big thanks for all the great vibes so far, the surfing community is really a special one and I hope people keep that in their heart even as line ups get more crowded. We're all there to enjoy so stay cool & stay safe!

Lara's Future Plans

I've never been great at plans but I'll be in Morocco for winter and hopefully some tropical waters shortly after. I haven't worked out how yet, but my main plan is to put myself out there more to get on people's radars and be involved in some cool projects.


You can keep up to date with Lara's new projects and recent captures on her Instagram or view her site below:

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Photo By Lara Waves

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