He took a leap of faith and packed his bags, chasing the dream to work as a surf photographer. Doug Falter jumped on a plane from his home state of Ohio determined to make it to the North Shore of O’ahu, and at the age of 26 with nothing to lose and tons to gain, the young photog now finds himself in the impact zone of Pipeline risking smacking the reef and calling it “work,” producing incredible imagery seen in top surf magazines. Now internationally recognized for his water photography, surfers on the North Shore are happy he took that leap of faith… and so are we.
The Surf Channel met Dougie as he was paddling out to Sunset Beach on a foamie to snap shots of the big wave elite. We had to get the full scoop.
The mainland native doesn’t shy away from heavy surf, shooting both in and out of Hawai’i’s pumping lineup. In just his first winter season on the North Shore, Doug’s work was chosen as an editor’s pick for National Geographic and he later began traveling with the Big Wave World Tour athletes to score some amazing big wave, action imagery.
The Surf Channel: Favorite type of waves to shoot?
Doug Falter: Big surf. Shooting big waves have much more impact. Heavy, thick barrels on a clean glassy day always look amazing. My favorite place to shoot would definitely have to be Banzai Pipeline. The size of the barrels and the perfect form of Pipeline make it unbeatable.
What have you learned over the years about shooting from the water?
DF: When shooting big waves, you have to remember that something could go wrong at any second, and when it does, you have to remain calm. It never helps to panic in scary situations. Safety is my number one concern and you have to be experienced in the ocean to go out there when it’s big.
Have often do you get sucked over the falls?
DF: I have never gone over the falls while taking photos in big waves, but have definitely been in some scary situations. I have hit the reef a few times at Pipe and have taken some set waves on the head. My longest hold down was at Pipeline, and it was pretty gnarly.
Do you prefer to shoot in or out of the water?
DF: I prefer to shoot photos from the ocean. I feel that the impact an image has from the water is way better than from on land… because it really feels like you are there when you see the shot.
Favorite time of day to work?
DF: My favorite time of day to shoot photos would be early in the morning or during sunset. Catching a great sunset is probably one of my favorite things to do, especially in Hawai’i.
Photography accomplishment you’re most proud of?
DF: My greatest photography accomplishment would have to be learning more about the ocean. When I first started, I had no idea how to handle myself in the water. I learned really quick after taking on some heavy waves. Having 5 double-page spreads published my first winter season would have to be a good accomplishment, as well.
Advice to aspiring surf and ocean photographers?