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Photographers Spotlight Series: Behind The Slyde Lens - Chris Ortiz

5 min read

Photographers Spotlight Series: Behind The Slyde Lens - Chris Ortiz


The Photographer's Spotlight Series will be a running series that takes a look behind the lens of some of the best water photographers out there today.

Guys and Girls just like you who have a passion for the ocean and take it out in the form of beautiful breathtaking imagery. We dive in and get behind exactly what they use, where they go and what makes them tick and way more.

In our opening chapter of the Photographers series we take a closer look at the man behind the lens of Coastal vibes Photography,  Chris Ortiz aka @Bassknuckles or @coastalvibesphoto

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Hi, my name is Chris Ortiz. I am from Newport Beach, California. I am primarily a surf photographer but, love to shoot just about anything that inspires me around my beautiful home of Newport Beach. I am currently starting a small business with a little help from family and friends to show-case my work, Coastal Vibes Photography.

Tell us about your gear and set up

Camera Accessories: I started out using all sorts of gizmos and gadgets from home made PVC handles with go pro mounts to a "go pole" grenade grip with an old Body Glove body board leash in place of the stock leash.  As I progressed in my art, I replaced the "ghetto" with a sweet floating carbon fiber pole grip style with a floaty back door; I just recently sucked it up and bought a Knekt Trigger, which has made a world of difference in getting consistently good shots.

Cameras:  On top of using a Go Pro Hero 3 Silver, I am in the process of having a custom water housing built for my Sony A6000 locally by Chad Stickney at HCW Housings.

For the gear I wear:  I always reach for my trusty Da Fins for shooting in the water.I wear a Matuse Hoplite 2mm springsuit for cool Spring days and warm winter days. O'Neill Super-freak 4.3mm for the cold deep winter breaks, and like to wear a 1 or 2mm spring top with my trunks in the summer to help avoid the dreaded sand rash in shore break.

Other than surfing or taking photos, What do you do?

I enjoy backpacking, fishing and Cruising the beach on my bike.

Tell us a bit about your Photography: What inspires you to get up in the morning and out in the water?

It does not take much to get me out of the house and in the water. I've had some of the most magical and peaceful sunset swims, and also plenty of those long perfect days, with friends acting like frothing groms in the shorebreak, playing till the street lights come on and it's back to real life. The Ocean has truly given me some of the best days of my life, and that is why I admire and respect it so much.

What / who / when got you started in taking photos? 

I started shooting surf photography by total chance. My wife and I received a Go Pro Hero 3 Silver as an awesome wedding gift for our honeymoon to Jamaica. After playing with it for a week or so on our trip, I couldn't wait to get it out in the in the water back home in California

What is your favorite place and your dream wave to photograph and why?

My favorite type of wave to shoot is hollow shore break. I love the adrenaline rush from scanning the incoming sets from the beach and reading where you can place yourself at the very last moment to get that shot of chaos, frozen in time. I love shooting my local break which tends to be more non-traditional surf break, and frequently has that hollow beach break they I enjoy. Sandy Beach in Hawaii is a dream of mine to Photograph. It has such an incredible beauty, perfect blue water with the incredible green scenery as a perfect backdrop.

Tell us about a moment in the water that you will remember forever  

There was an amazing evening that I was out in the water alone and I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. I remember sitting there in the water and thinking, "I could stay in this moment forever", Pure beauty!  

What was your scariest moment in the water?

The Scariest moment in the water I have had was during the hurricane Marie swell that rolled through Southern California last year. I was just at the point where I felt comfortable enough to shoot the "Wedge" on a big day, that day It was peaking at 15 feet with the occasional clean up sets coming in at 20 feet.

After an hour in the water fighting crazy currents, walls of white wash and dodging surfboards and Bodyboarders, a huge set snuck in from out back. I managed to make it in just enough time to take a quick breath and dive as far down as I could go; I barely made it out the back. The Power of the wave had ripped one of my fins clean off and the other was just hanging on. Losing your Swim fins in those kinds of conditions can be a very dangerous.

I struggled for about 10 minutes, dodging mammoth sets and swimming around with only one fin on hoping, praying the other one would float to the surface. As this was happening, the current was dragging me fast into the impact zone. Thankfully, with the help of one of the surfers out there we saw my lone fin bobbing around and I managed to, very tiredly swim back into shore. Not an experience I want to repeat.

Tell us about your pre-session routine

  • I like to stretch and hydrate.
  • Double-check my gear; I learnt my lesson from the day at wedge.
  • I  check to make sure my camera housing sealed, nothing like seeing an expensive camera soaked in water.
  • Check fins and handboard straps and hard ware.
  • I also like to watch the surf conditions for a couple minutes.  Rips, direction of waves and wave consistencies
  • Last but not least I like to take note of the other people in the water close to me. It is good to look out for others and you never know if you will need help one day.

How do you keep fit and ready to be out in heavy conditions? 

Most of my training I do is in the water. This allows me  to stay comfortable and in shape for heavier conditions.

It also helps to test yourself and your abilities by pushing yourself. I try to learn new ways of staying safe and calm, Breathing control and breathe management could someday save your life.

 I practice breathing deeper and slower to control my heart rate and my oxygen burn rate. The last thing you want is to be out of breathe while trying to dive big heavy conditions.

When I am taking strain  I'll hang inside in the whitewash to catch my breath and recollect.  My friend and I like to call this  "the drunken tourist".

What is the biggest Conditions you have been out in 

That day at the Wedge in 2014 was the biggest many others and I have seen it.  It was a consistent 15 ft with some monsters coming through. I also shot Cylinders (break a little further north of the wedge) that day, it is a crazy beach break when it's working, it was probably 10-12 foot shore break. It was a Crazy day!!


The wedge with chris ortizCoastal vibes Photography Chris Ortiz Photography Coastal vibes

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