Surf Photography Series: Simon Jay

Ella
12th August 2020

The sea is both unpredictable and ever changing- and that's what makes it so magical. Surfers often describe this unique sport as an unrivalled experience and something that brings you closer to nature and the elements. The feeling of salt water on your skin, the nature of waves- it's a fickle environment to try and capture. And that's exactly why it creates such incredibly sensory images. Surf photography combines both the beauty of the ocean, and the skill and elegance of surfing. We spoke to three surf photographers who capture amazing moments on some of the UK's most beautiful beaches. 

Simon Jay is a photographer based in Cornwall specialising in drone and surf photography. 

Can you talk about your background and how you got into wave photography?

We moved to Cornwall 8 years ago from the South East. We wanted to live closer to the sea and have a more active and outdoor lifestyle with our two energetic young boys. We haven’t looked back really. It’s been the best move we made. I used to bodyboard a lot when I was younger and go on amazing surf trips with my friends and I hadn’t really done that since starting a family. Moving to Cornwall rekindled my interest in waves. In the autumn and winter you get some amazing swells down here and they are often way out of my league in terms of size, so I wanted to find another way to enjoy them and experience the thrill of looking at the forecast, getting my gear ready, turning up at the beach to see the swell rolling in. So I started taking photos of the waves and my passion grew from there. There are some amazing surf and wave photographers in Cornwall and I watched and learnt from them and I am hoping now I kind of have my own style. There’s nothing I love more than walking the cliffs of Cornwall on my own with my camera during a big autumn swell and howling winter storm. 

What is your creative process like, what camera do you use? 

I use a Sony A7 RIII and my favourite lens is the 24-105mm. I also have my eye on a zoom lens for this winter, we’ll see! I don’t really follow a particular creative process. I guess I am always trying to capture something different, shoot a spot from a new angle and since I’ve started using a drone, my photography has certainly become more abstract. I am really keen to explore abstract photography more - it’s something different and people seem to like it. 

Can you tell us about your drone photography? 

I just love the different perspective a drone gives you. You can see things that you wouldn’t normally see. One of my favourite places to shoot is an estuary close to my home. You can walk a long the estuary at low tide and see lots of mud and crevices, nothing particular exciting. But if I put my drone up I can see all these amazing textures, colours and tributaries that you can’t see from the ground. And then I can take these abstract shots and you are drawn to them because they are unique, I hope! In the winter the estuary and surrounding trees are bleak and bare and barren, in the summer they are abundant and colourful and alive - both seasons are great to photograph from up high. 

When shooting waves with my drone, especially big ones, the birds eye view gives you a real sense of the unrelenting power and movement of the sea. The way a wave folds over and explodes on the surface of the ocean, the spray coming off the back of the wave and the amazing textures they create. These are the wave shots I am striving for with my drone.  

Where do you draw inspiration from? 

Nature I guess - being out and about, whether by the sea or in a forest or up a mountain. There is so much natural beauty in Cornwall - we have barely explored it! So I am inspired to get out and discover more of Cornwall and more of the world too. My wife comes from Reunion Island, a French department out in the Indian Ocean. It’s an inspiring place and amazing to photograph, so I can’t wait to get back there. And I hope to travel a lot more with my family, to do a lot more exploring and discovering.

Do you have any tips for photographers who want to work commercially? 

I think getting your work out there for people to see is the best place to start. Whether that’s via instagram or a decent website. And you can learn so much from other photographers. Ask them questions or offer to assist on shoots. If you want to use a drone commercially you will need a Permissions for Commercial Operations - there are plenty of good courses around for this. 

Can you tell us how people can find out more about your work? 

My wave and drone photography is available at my online store www.simonjayphotography.com/ and you can see lots more photos on my instagram account www.instagram.com/simonjayphotos

I run a creative media agency too, where I use a lot of drone footage to produce marketing videos for clients - properties, small businesses and tourism at www.bangbangcreative.co.uk