There is a certain beauty when you see a picture of a women surfing a wave. Not sure if it’s the grace, style and flow of a women but whatever it is, just watching a women surf a wave is a beautiful act. Luckily for us, fashion photographer turned surfer photographer, Ming Nomchong, is documenting the beauty of women’s surfing for us. Running the website The Drifter and traveling all around the world, her pictures show us the beauty of women’s surfing and their love of the ocean and world in which we live in.
Who are you and where are you currently right now?
Who am I? I’m still trying to figure that one out. I’ll get back to you!
I’m a Photographer living in Byron Bay, Australia. I’ve been shooting on and off for almost 9 years and I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I shoot surf, fashion and lifestyle imagery for a wide client base from Byron Bay to all over the world.
I’m addicted to the ocean and any activity that involves being on or in the ocean. I think that’s why I love photographing it so much!
Right now I’m at home in Byron Bay, editing some images I shot from last week. Sitting in my office while it’s pretty nice outside!
How did you first become involved with surfing?
I moved to the beach in 2007 it was a life long dream to learn to surf. So that was the perfect time to make it happen. The rest just evolved really naturally. I became obsessed with the ocean, which meant I wanted to be in it and photograph it too.
How did you get involved with photography and can you list some of the equipment you use?
My mum was a photographer and so was my grandfather so I’ve been around cameras pretty much my whole life. It was a natural progression for me and a creative outlet that has lead to become my career and has shaped who I am as a person today.
My photography background is a mishmash of assisting fashion and commercial photographers, working in portrait studios, watching, listening and learning and shooting anything and everything as much as I could until someone wanted to pay me for it.
I’m now lucky enough to be making a living of what I love. Grew up in Sydney, studied Fine Arts at COFA and then head out into the big wide world to explore what life had to offer. Travel is the best way to figure out your purpose in the world. Without it, I don’t think my photography would be where it is today. I use a Canon set up with a couple of 5D Mark 3’s, a wide range of L series lenses and a speedlite, an Aquatech Surf housing with domes and ports, Macbook Pro and a couple of medium format film cameras and light meter that I bring out on special occasions. When I’m at home I work off a desktop Mac but for travelling, my supped up laptop does the job fine.
I’m a massive fan of prime fixed focus lenses and would love to own many more than I do but I like to travel light and am constantly trying to compact as much as possible. I’ve found this set up gives me the most versatility without being too bulky (the film cameras usually stay at home and mind the fort). Airport luggage allowances these days are the pits. I’ve often had to stash lenses in jacket pockets to get through baggage weigh in.
I’m not a massive fan of shooting wide when I’m in the water, which is why you won’t see a fisheye in my kit. I’m just not into that look. I use my 16-35mm when I’m shooting underwater as the wider you are here, the clearer your images will be. Using the 16-35mm ensures limited distortion. When I shoot surf in the water I’ll usually stick to the 35mm or the 50mm. On land, depending on what I’m shooting I’ll use a variety of different lenses.
Some surf photographers only stick with shooting surfing, but you’ve managed to expand your portfolio with shooting fashion and lifestyle. How did that come about and how did you get into shooting fashion?
I learnt how to shoot fashion before surfing. Surf photography was a hobby that turned into a job luckily enough. But I love shooting fashion and lifestyle. And that’s what pays the bills. When people started to see my photographs, mostly through social media, it kind of just happened that I started to get asked to shoot look books and fashion stories for different labels.
As you shoot fashion, how would you describe your fashion style?
I guess I like to photograph in a really candid way. I try not to set people up in poses too much, I’d rather set up a situation and let stuff happen. I like capturing moments and that translates over into my fashion work too.
Who are some of the memorable people (surfers, models, etc.) that you have worked with in the past?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one because every person has a story and I love meeting new people and finding out a little about them when I shoot them. Humans are fascinating creatures.
If you could only choose one of the three: surfing, fashion and lifestyle, which one would be and why?
Oh gosh. I couldn’t! But if I had to I’m probably choose lifestyle as it blurs between the lines of all three.
You live in Bryon Bay, Australia. Can you tell me what makes Bryon Bay so special compared to the rest of Australia and why a lot of creative people seem to move there?
Byron is a pretty special place. You have these unbelievable surf breaks that break on just about any swell. It’s where the forest meets the sea. There’s so much beautiful countryside around Byron with waterfalls, rolling hills, creeks and lakes. There’s so much to explore and discover. And add a whole bunch of creative people to the mix and you have yourself a pretty awesome place to live. More and more people are moving here because you can leave the city life behind and still make a living being creative. Which is hard to do in a lot of places.
Most of your photograph subjects are woman. Why do you love to shoot women surfers?
Women are beautiful creatures. When you combine women and the ocean, a really special connection happens that I love to capture. There’s a beauty and magic in women’s surfing. Maybe it’s the soft lines of both a wave and the female form, or the certain grace and style that of women have when surfing a wave that’s enticing to look at and photograph.
here is slowly becoming more and more Taiwanese woman out in the line-up, any words of advice for them?
Have fun out there! Surfing is something that will change your life and connect you to nature on a profound level.
What would you like to see more in woman’s surfing today?
I’d like to see more women surfers in mainstream surf print media. There still seems to be a big divide between men and women in the major print surf publications and I’d love to see more content involving women and men together. In saying that, there are some great print media where this is happening already, but there are still some that still drive the old school male dominated surf culture which to me is outdated and boring.
You run an online website called The Drifter. How did that start out and can you explain more about the message you are trying to show from the site.
The Drifter started when I was working on a boat in Fiji. It was my creative outlet while at sea. I was surrounded by so much tropical awesomeness, I needed to have somewhere I could document it. I’d been travelling and working overseas, on and off for almost 5 years, so the name The Drifter seemed fitting. It also represents the surfing lifestyle that we coastal dwellers lead. Either drifting on the sea, or drifting over seas to new lands.
Can you list your current surfboard quiver and which board you have been recently riding.
I’m riding a McTavish 9’2 single fin Pinnacle and a 6’2 single fin McTavish Scooter.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Lots more surf and fashion shoots and exciting new content from a series of adventure travel campaigns called Chasing The Sun that I’m working on with surfer Lauren L. Hill.