Behind The Lens With Sharpy

Hi Sharpy! For those reading, tell us a little about yourself...

I’m Roger Sharp. Originally from Somerset but now based in Newquay. I got in to taking photos at the end of university in the mid-nineties in Aberystwyth. Broke my collarbone in Hossegor on the third day of a three week trip post finals in ‘94 and those few months of not being able to get in the water were where the seeds were sewn. Since then I’ve been circling the globe on a shoestring budget. First shot was published in the bodyboard mag 360 in ‘95, then Carve shortly afterwards. Since then my work has appeared in Surfer, Surfing, Australia’s Surfing Life, Tracks, Stab, Zig Zag, Surf Session, Wavelength, Surfers Path, SurfEurope, Pit Pilot, the Times, the Observer, Express, Mail, Stormrider guides and a bunch of other books and mags around the world. Also had stuff on C4/BBC and worked for O’Neill, Animal, Billabong, Quiksilver, Monster and many other brands. I was Ed in Chief of SurfEurope for three years, did my own mag Slide for two and this is my seventh year as Editor at Carve.

Describe your photography in 5 words

Hopefully well timed and composed.

What are some of your passions that influence your photography style?

I don’t really have a style as such. I don’t consider myself an artist. More a technician. We’re camera operators not artists. It’s about capturing those moments that matter in a way that hopefully people enjoy. It’s ephemeral. Once you’ve missed the air or barrel of the day you don’t get another go. I just like going places with good people. And early on I figured out if folk would give me money for taking nice pictures whilst at those places that was a good deal. It’s always been one step forward two back but making a career as a photographer in any field is really bloody hard.

Where is your favourite place to shoot?

I love Scotland and Ireland. Good people, great waves and decent beer. I’m at home in the cold.  Hossegor is always fun, I lived there for three years so it still feels a bit like home. I like going anywhere with decent waves that’s not too sweaty.

Have you any trips or exciting projects coming up?

Hopefully a few interesting trips in the pipeline but I like to keep things on the down low until they’ve actually happened and we’ve scored. But hopefully a few really cold trips and some nice hot ones so I can actually wear my much neglected boardies.

What is your preferred equipment to shoot on? 

Been shooting with Canon gear for 20 years, on film until 2005, but have been shooting with mirrorless Sony A series the last few years. Stunning little cameras. Especially seeing as you can use dirt cheap old manual lenses with them. Manual focus makes life interesting and takes me back to the first few years of my career.

What would you like viewers to take away from your work? 

I hope people get inspired to go out and find their own adventures.

Who are some photographers that you admire and respect? 

Strongest early influence was Ted Grambeau, a legend in surf photography, shooting everything well was his deal. Give editors a whole package to work with and it makes everyone’s life easier. Him and Lee Pegus, the photo-ed at ASL in the ‘90s, were really kind and shared a lot of knowledge with a pommie grom. As did Chris Power at Carve. Dean Wilmot was a massive help on the business side early on as well. I really admire the guys I came up with: Jeff Flindt, Andrew Shield, Bill Morris and Timo Jarvinen. Those early years on the North Shore getting to know the crew were amazing times. One of the wonderful things about surf photography is you get to meet your heroes and they can become friends. Modern times I adore Mickey Smith, such a talented human; music’s gain is surfing’s loss. Burkard is amazing, there are so many guys doing great work but increasingly fewer places to get paid for it which is a huge worry.

What tips or advice would you give to someone wanting to get into photography?

Never stop learning. I’ve been at it 20 years and I’m still discovering stuff. Don’t expect to make a living from the surf industry. Be open minded, find your niche and don’t be a dick. Especially to clients. And there’s more to life than Instagram.

If you could shoot with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

My career has spanned most of Kelly Slaters. Shooting him anywhere is always a joy and I’m honoured to have had that chance. I’m going to cheat and say I think Kelly and John John at maxing P-Pass would be my dream shoot.


Take a look at some of Sharpy's favourite photos and the story behind them...

Kelly Slater, Macaronis, Indonesia. I was in Indo on a boat trip with a Brit crew and we had Maccas to ourselves when we saw a huge boat come over the horizon with what looked like a helicopter on top. Turned out it was the Quik mob filming Young Guns 2. So we shared a session with Kelly, Dane, Freddy P, Craikey etc. Incredible day. I wasn’t shooting their guys because poaching another photog’s guys ain’t cool but after a couple of hours their water guy, Flindt, said he was done and didn’t mind me grabbing a few. And Kelly’s was the best frame.

Alan Stokes, Macaronis, Indonesia. Same spot a few years later. Just a perfect day with a bunch of the best people. I had Stoker, Sam, Reubs, Batty, Barters and Robyn and we did three weeks on the boat. One of my all time fave trips.

Oli Adams, Porthleven, Cornwall. Oli is the keenest surfer in Britain. He’s so on it. Dread to think the mileage he puts on his motor. But this makes him one of the best guys to shoot. And to achieve what he has while managing a chronic illness is incredible.

Micah Lester, Thurso, Scotland. One of those sessions where everything lines up perfectly. Dawn light, fun waves, Micah gets this first one. Boom. Nailed a decent one. Second wave he cracked a bone in his foot. Shooting fisheye anywhere is hard but at Thurso it’s tricky as it’s a big line up and you get worked a lot.

Ian Battrick, Ireland. An early digital shot. I was slow to convert over as didn’t really dig the early cameras and liked the way things were. A lot of pros resisted but the change was inevitable. The low light ability of digital, especially now, is a huge bonus.

Andy Irons, Hossegor, France. Probably my most famous shot. Andy in a thundering La Grav pit. Kelly was tamping that day trying to get a wave as good. And I think he has been ever since.

Oli Adams, Ireland. If you’re up in the dark then you’ve got the chance of doing something nuts at sunrise. And being Ireland there’s a breakfast baguette from the garage for your troubles when you’re done. This ain’t the biggest wave but the the light show is mad.

Ireland. A shot from the days of film from one of my favourite waves in the world.

Ian Battrick, Ireland. The G-Spot in Ireland is a sketchy wave. I was drifting around on a jetski fingers crossed it wouldn’t break down. It didn’t thank flip.

William Aliotti, Supertubos, Portugal. William is a great kid. One of the new generation of European pros that knows to make it means working really hard. He’d had a shocker of a day at maxing Supertubos, as had most, but he channelled his frustration in to taking off one of the biggest waves I’ve seen ridden there. He made the bottom turn and pulled in then got destroyed. But came up laughing. It’s capturing these moments for posterity that make it worth it.

Free ride

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