Equipment and Tips




Recent advances in digital video cameras and multi-media PCs make professional-level video production easier and more affordable then ever; you  can make your own version of Blue Crush!  Recommended equipment for surf videography include the Canon XL1s digital video camera, or the smaller, lighter and less expensive Canon GL2.  In both cases, a 2X tele-extender is also needed to provide the proper amount of telephoto power for surf videography.


We recommend the Bogen Geared Center Column Tripod (Triman) as a stable shooting platform suitable for travel.  For great buys on video cameras and tripods, visit



To achieve good results in surf video photography:

  • Make sure you have adequate telephoto power; 20X optical zoom is entry level, and 30-40X optical zoom is recommended.  Forget about digital zooms as they degrade the image quality far too much.

  • Make sure you have a great tripod; if it doesn't cost at least $200-$400, it probably isn't good enough. A really good tripod is essential for steady aim and smooth panning with the strong telephoto lenses that are necessary.

  • Elevate the camera as much as you can (i.e., shoot from as high a location as you can to be looking down on the surf as much as possible).  If given a choice in camera placement between being closer to the action or elevating the camera (e.g., between placement at the water's edge compared with on top of a cliff farther back from the water), always opt for elevating the camera.

  • Always shoot surfing action with automatic focus turned off.  This is because auto focus will often have difficulty with a moving surfer against the water background.

  • To achieve proper focus, zoom in to max telephoto and focus on the surfers in the lineup.  Then zoom out as required, while leaving the focus unchanged.

  • Because video cameras cannot handle a lot of contrast, the surfer in the scene is often too dark (i.e., under exposed) as the camera's aperture automatically adjusts to the brightness of the whitewater of the breaking wave.  This is particularly evident on bright sunny day.  To solve this problem, manually adjust the camera to open up the aperture 0.5 to 1.0 f-stops above the automatic setting.  This will tend to make the surfer properly exposed, at the expense of making the whitewater too bright (i.e., over exposed).  On some cameras, this is equivalent to using the backlight setting.

  • If necessary to do a white balance on the camera, do so on the whitewater of a breaking wave.

  • Always use a sky (UV) filter.  On days when sun glint and glare off the water are apparent, use a polarizing filter as well.  Experiment with rotating the polarizing filter until it minimizes the glare.

  • In post production, use a computer or digital video (DV) equipment if possible.  If using analog equipment (e.g., VHS, S-VHS, 8 or HI-8 edit VCRs), design your editing process to minimize the number of copies of copies required.  This is to limit the generation loss (i.e., degradation in video quality) inherent with each copy of a copy made in analog formats.  With the original tape defined as the first generation copy, a second generation VHS copy (i.e., copy of the original) is fine.  The third generation VHS copy is generally okay.  The fourth generation VHS copy begins to show definite degradation, and the fifth generation copy is considered unusable.  The high-band analog formats (S-VHS and HI-8) will exhibit less generation loss than VHS.  Digital editing with a computer or a DV format VCR will show no generation loss, which is a tremendous advantage in the editing process.

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