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Behold, the world’s best surf photography!

Shortlisted images from Nikon’s Surf Photo of the Year contest will make your jaw drop…

With there’s one genre of image-making that stacks the odds of capturing amazing images against the photographer, it has to be surf photography. Huge crashing waves, fast moving subjects and, not to be forgotten, sharks and jellyfish, it’s surely a challenging job that would test even the best professionals.

Well, the best of the best have been recognised as the shortlisted images for the Nikon Surf Photo of the Year contest have just been announced. Now in its eighth year, the shortlist has been made by a panel of expert judges and there are some impressive prizes at stake, including Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 mirrorless cameras. Check out a selection of the 20 shortlisted images…

Gergo Rugli captured this epic frame, entitled; ‘Warrior’ that shows excellent use of motion blur as a surfer rides a large wave at Bronte Beach, Sydney as sunset falls.

Image by Gergo Rugli /Nikon Surf Photo of the Year

Great surf photography shows the bigger picture, just like Matt Dunbar’s image, entitled ‘Duck Dive’. Matt commented; ‘This is from my first trip to Tahiti I really wanted to walk away with a shot that was different. I was swimming with a big dome port to try and shoot “over unders”. The water clarity was a dream and I got lucky to shoot back as a surfer duck dived. Easily the favourite swim of my life.’

Image by Matt Dunbar/Nikon Surf Photo of the Year

Emotion,reaction and commitment also help to make a great frame, as illustrated in Travis Johnson’s spectacular image, entitled; ‘Froth Monster’. Travis commented; ‘I was shooting little Harry at a bit of a secret spot the groms love to frequent on the Gold Coast for shallow little drainers and close out barrels. As he took off I moved across the front of him and heard him yelling out as the barrel began to encase him, his eyes wide and looking up at the roof of the wave almost in awe. As I passed through the wave my only thought was “did he make it?” I surfaced on the other side I heard an ecstatic voice yell out “I made it! I made it!’

Image by Travis Johnson/Nikon Surf Photo of the Year

Successful surf photography makes a great deal of scale in the scene, as demonstrated with Peter Jovic’s image, entitled; ‘No Looking Back’. Peter commented; ‘Some heavy water during a solid Indian Ocean swell and an un-named local charger racing the gauntlet as the sun begins to set in the west. There’s no helicopters, no fan fare. Just an individual dealing with what mother nature has put in front of him…or behind him. The prospect is (apart from drowning) a long swim in waters that are very lively with large marine creatures.’

Image by Peter Jovic/ Nikon Surf Photo of the Year

While technically sports photography, many of the shortlisted images blur the lines and can be considered fine-art. One example is Tom Pearsall’s image, entitled ‘An unusual relationship’. Tom commented; ‘On a deadly wave where most would be in their most critical survival stance Matahi Drollet seems to be greeting an old friend. His face and posture shows no sign of fear or apprehension, just pure joy. A unique spiritual connection between a wave and a man. Shot with 70-200mm whilst swimming in the channel. What a sight to see.”

Image by Tom Pearsall/ Nikon Surf Photo of the Year

Outdoor photography is always at the mercy of Mother Nature and this can produce some epic lighting conditions, much like you can see in Paul Smith’s image, entitled; ‘Flume’. Paul commented; ‘Taken at Sunshine Beach on the Sunshine Coast while most people were still sleeping. It was one of those perfect swells, and all the elements lined-up wave size, an offshore wind, and just enough light to illuminate the sea spray.’

Image by Paul Smith/ Nikon Surf Photo of the Year

Simon Punch’s shortlisted entry, entitled ‘Breathing’ shows excellent composition. The shot shows surfer Scott ‘Whip’ Dennis and Simon explained the image; ‘A perspective from deep behind the surfer riding the barrel as the wave breathes back before spitting.’

Image by Simon Punch/ Nikon Surf Photo of the Year