May 25, 2015
When we reached out to a customer of ours who had recently been testing some new equipment ahead of an upgrade what we heard back made us want to know more. We asked photographer Phil Thurston his thoughts on the new Elite 7D2 Sport Housing and P series lens ports and he was so happy we have combined his thoughts and some images to really showcase his experience with the new equipment. Phil grew up and still lives in a small coastal town. The ocean has always played a big part in his life. At times it was surfing with friends chasing uncrowded waves and now it’s that same adventure and determination directed into his photography.
It was about 20 years ago when my fascination for the ocean began, first as a frothing kid on a bodyboard which carried through my teens before I picked up my first camera at the age of 17 on my virgin voyage to Hawaii. It was on that big intimidating Island that my course began to change, I couldn’t for the life of me (which was at stake a few times) manage to get even one decent wave from the crowds, primarily due to my personality that actively avoided confrontation. So, I purchased a small 5MP Sony Cybershot and decided to document my trip from the safety of being behind a lens. I enjoyed it so much that upon returning home I began to build a housing out of perspex and silicon instead of studying for my HSC. My inventive streak produced a pretty shabby looking semi waterproof box that wrecked my camera and left me with the tenacity to invest in a 8MP Sony DSLR (can’t even remember the model) and I turned to my boat building Dad to help me build an upgraded Fibreglass housing. (2004) I succeeded to some degree and went on to establish a housing manufacturing business that lasted the next 5 years, which assisted my brothers passion for filming and taught me the essentials of operating a camera and surf photography/videography. After 150 or so rigs, my circumstance eventually came to a critical decision and I decided to close doors on that venture and pursue part time employment that would allow me to focus more on my own photography and passion for creating short films. Fast forward to the summer of 2012, I sat down with my brothers and made a clean simple logo for Thurston Photo to equip my growing passion with a professional edge that has now become the face of my business, passion and dream of becoming a professional ocean photographer. I really enjoy what I do and I think that makes a big difference with the result. I’m known to happily spend hours straight in the ocean in hope of capturing it in a new and exciting way. I hope you enjoy my work and follow along the journey with me as I continue to grow in fascination and love for ocean photography.
I’ve been using AquaTech housings for about 3 years now (DC5-V2 for my Canon 5D MKII and now the Elite 7D2) and wouldn’t look to another system to house my camera. I’ve experienced some heavy encounters with the ocean and never had the added worry of whether my gear is going to be in danger as well. The key advantages I have with my water photography using the Elite 7D2 housing would be the functionality of what they were designed to do and the peace of mind I have when entering the water with one. Having the ocean as a subject to shoot often involves dramatic lighting changes, unpredictable circumstances and spontaneous opportunities that all demand my attention and focus when I am out there, the security of having an AquaTech system frees up my thought space to focus on the subject without having to constantly check the housing and be worried about the security of the gear inside, and when things do get critical and intense situations do come, I am still able to focus on the shot knowing that my gear is going to be safe. With the oceans spontaneous environment, an opportunity for a shot can present itself within a spit second and disappear just as fast, and with the precision and sensitivity of the controls being so easily accessible and adjustable, I am more often than not, able to make the adjustments to compensate for shutter speed, aperture, ISO or whatever the subject demands, and capture the shot the best way possible. Even when it comes to focal length, the gearing system works fluently and conveniently. The last thing a water photographer wants to be doing is coming in and out of the water to make changes in settings, but with the 7D2 AquaTech system, the advantage is that the design has accommodated a system that enables me to get the shot while the shot’s there! I used the PD-75 dome port for the Canon 8-15mm f/4 and P-80 flat port for the Canon 50mm f/1.2 L for most of my work and the Pistol Grip trigger to help me shoot with my wide-angle work. Enjoy the following images and captions and hopefully this sheds some insight into these recent images and gives you some technical insight into my settings used.
As soon as I had acquired the Canon 50mm f/1.2 this was the shot I instantly set out to get. This particular wave being a favorite and renown for its triangular peaks, I wanted to capture a shot that reflected the nature of the place and for me this is it. My favorite part about this shot is the brilliant lighting on the face of the wave that inspired its name.
Behind every image is an effort, and for this image, great was that effort. The spot is particular wind and tide sensitive, not to mention the swell has to be big and clean and relatively mean, so good days here are few and far between. After a 2km paddle directly out to sea racing the rising sun, I found my position in the swirling currents and intimidating swell lines that were marching through. There is really only 10-15 minutes where the light is low enough to capture an image like this before the contrasts are blown and you can’t get close enough to the disgruntled creature to illuminate the colors of the lip. I had envisioned such a shot as I was paddling out and I’m stoked it all came together. After a few hours of adrenaline pumping moments, fighting raw open ocean currents and dodging 12ft clean up sets, it was a blissful relief to arrive back to land in one piece, especially with a little bit of gold in the pocket.
The power and beauty of the ocean has captivated man since time began, its intrinsic moods of violent anger to peaceful serenity gives it such characteristic and value as a subject for photographers. There really is so many faces to it, so many ways of capturing its qualities, that we can spend a lifetime in and around it and it would still surprise us each time we enter it. One particular quality that captivates me is uniqueness of particular waves, every now and then I’ll witness a wave that stands out among the rest, as if it was the commander of the swell, with an attitude and passion fixated on setting an example for the ranks behind it. From the way it wraps to the platform to the energy it unleashes into the reef is almost like it was alive and gave its all for its one purpose. These moments are like treasure for me as a surf photographer and the 50mm f/1.2 and Canon 7D2 is in my opinion the perfect weapon for documenting these occurrences. For this shot I dropped the aperture as low as possible, compensating with the high shutter speed so that the image would be sharp and my focus would be drawn to the lip.
I couldn’t even begin to recount the amount of special experiences I’ve had with these creatures. Constantly happy and always bringing the most positive energy to the line up, dolphins truly are heavenly creatures. More often than not I will see a pod cruise through the line up when I’m shooting and what I love about the 7D2 Elite housing is that it’s so quick and easy to make small adjustments to compensate for the lighting underwater. This was the only wave they caught this day so I didn’t have a second chance at this shot. With a quick bump up in ISO (as I wanted to keep my aperture around 6.3 to assist in pulling focus underwater) I dove to the bottom and pointed my camera at these speed bullets that shot over the top of me and unleashed the 10fps capacity with the AquaTech trigger system at the critical time. Stoked to have landed this shot, there are seven dolphins in it, which is my favorite number, which inspired the name.
I can’t explain the physics of this so I won’t try but I do know this ball of mass came at me at an incredible speed and force. Moments after this image I was picked up and thrown against the bottom and dragged violently along the platform, losing my fins and Go Pro that was snapped clean from the top of my housing (I was using a sticky adhesive mount at the time). Positioning is always key when shooting these types of images and sometimes you just have to take one on in order to get the shot. Good thing my Canon 7D2 and 8-15mm fisheye was secured safely inside my AquaTech rig, it’s never leaked a drop in some encounters that have rattled me to the core.
I love this image not only because of the composition of the seal, wave and sun but because it tells such a genuine story. I swam out this particular morning by myself before the sun had risen and the water was dark and the line up was pretty intimidating, there was a little feeding frenzy going on out the back too which got me nervous. A lot of dolphins and possible other creatures were feeding for about 15 minutes and before I was discouraged enough to head in, this little seal came and said hello, and just so happened to sit next to me in the line up for the next 3 hours. He sat and waited patiently for the three best waves that came through, catching each one as I shot photos and is in 90% of my shots that I took this day. I told him some stories and we had a good old time, a truly wild and playful encounter and one I’ll never forget.
If you would like to see more of Phil’s work check out the links below and be sure to follow him on social media for regular updates as he scouts the ocean for more memorable moments.