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Photographer Spotlight Series: Behind The Lens- Joe Nickerson

4 min read

Photographer Spotlight Series: Behind The Lens- Joe Nickerson

Today on the Photographers spotlight series we take a look at the ever talented Joe Nickerson. We as the hard questions and get some awesome answers

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, My name is Joe Nickerson and I am from Huntington Beach CA. I am fifteen years old and I go to Orange Lutheran High School. I am primarily a surf/wave photographer but I have also fallen in love with nature photography as well. To see more of my pictures, check out www.JoeNickersonPhotography.com, @joe_nickerson_photographyon Instagram, or my Surfline Local Pro gallery on Surfline.com.

Camera  Accessories?

I use a GoPro Hero 4 Black and a Canon Rebel t5i. For my GoPro, I use my SPL Dome port and pistol grip when shooting in the water. I use an SPL Waterhousing, pistol grip, and 18-55mm lens with my Canon when I'm shooting waves. I also use my flash that is mounted on top of my SPL Waterhousing for night shooting.

Gear I wear?

During the summer and winter, I always wear my 3'2 Quicksilver wetsuit to protect myself from the sand and rocks I land on when shooting shore-break. I use DaFin because they are super comfortable and flexible and I can wear them for hours without getting any blisters.

Other than surfing or taking photos?

I enjoy traveling and exploring and hanging out with the OC Crew.
I got into wave photography a few years ago when my buddy Dylan Biggerstaff urged me to try and take some wave pictures with him using our GoPros. When I got home and uploaded the pictures to my computer, a huge smile came across my face. I knew at that moment that I had found something I truly enjoyed.


Ever since I was young, I had always had a love for the ocean that I never really knew how to express, and when I was introduced to water photography, everything changed. Ever since I got my first barrel shot, I've been inspired to chase waves and capture the ocean's beauty. Every wave, sunrise, and sunset are different, so I get motivation to wake up super early or travel somewhere knowing that I will get to experience and capture something new each day.

Whats your Favorite wave to shoot?

My favorite type of wave to shoot is heavy shorebreak because of the pain and thrill involved with it. I love getting smashed into the sand and swept up the beach while having friends yell with excitement because they "got the shot". My dream is to shoot Sandy's, Keiki's, Pipeline, Teahupoo, Cloudbreak, and every spot in New Zealand. Basically I want to travel the world and shoot every wave.

Most unforgettable session?

On weekends, sleeping in is not an option for me when there are waves calling my name. I get up early, pack my camera gear, eat a healthy breakfast (including a banana to decrease the chances of cramping), and then set off for the beach. (During summer, I usually watch Come Hell or High Water a few times a week to increase my stoke level.)

I will always remember the one morning my buddy Dylan Biggerstaff and I got up before day break and set off to the beach before the sun had even risen. The waves were perfect and the sunrise was amazing. The shorebreak was really heavy and big and the waves kinda stacked up on each other, causing massive barrels to smash into the sand. That day was unforgettable.

Scariest moment?

The scariest moment in the water had to be May 5th, 2015. The Wedge was 15-18ft and I got caught on the inside while shooting during one of the biggest sets of the evening. I got smashed and pulled under and thrashed around and then I came up, took one breath, and got smashed again. I broke the surface, took two quick breaths and got pounded by another eighteen footer came that had come rolling through. At least I got a few good shots though.

Pre-session routine:

  • Stretch to prevent cramps
  • Watch and evaluate the conditions/crowds
  • Double check my gear is working properly

How do you stay in shape for heavy conditions:

I am a highly ranked competitive swimmer, so attending my grueling swim practices every day helps to keep me in shape for shooting and bodysurfing in heavy conditions. Other than swimming everyday, I maintain a healthy diet by making sure to eat a lot of protein, carbs, vegetables, fruit, and to drink LOTS of water.

In addition, I go running and biking frequently to strengthen my legs and get more cardio in. I used to practice holding my breath, but one time I passed out underwater and had to be resuscitated, so I stopped doing that. My near death experience has shown me that breath holding is actually very dangerous, and I highly recommend not doing it unless you're a swimmer or Navy SEAL or something.

Being a swimmer, I have to hold my breath in order to go faster, which has actually made me an even better breath-holder than I was before. Currently, I can hold my breath for a little over two minutes and thirty seconds. Instead of holding my breath, I just practice taking deeper, slower breaths to control my heart rate, control my oxygen burn rate, and expand my lung capacity.

Stretching is also a very important part of staying fit that I recommend doing every day. One of the most important things that I do to prepare myself for super heavy conditions is practicing to stay calm and not panic to ensure that I will remain calm during dangerous situations. Staying calm could save your life.

Biggest day you've been out in

The biggest I have been out in was on May 3rd 2015, when the wedge was 18-20ft. That day was super heavy and scary, but one of the best days of my life. There were only like ten people out there including me, so it was kinda sketchy being out there alone with no friends, but the guys out were really nice and friendly and I still keep in touch with a few of them. Great day with great people!

joe nickerson photography

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