Russell Ord - Photographer

Russell Ord is the kind of guy who doesn´t go home with an average shot. He gets the dangerous one, the difficult one, the one that could have actually killed him. From the home town of Margaret River, Western Australia, Russell Ord chases the impossible with his camera. And he delivers. 

When did you get your first surfboard? 

I was 11yrs old. Back then we designed home made bike trailers and rode to the surf every weekend. It was a 25km round trip. We used to cook spaghetti on the beach while everyone warmed up around the fire. 

How did you first become a surf photographer? What were you doing before?

I injured my knee surfing and instead of sitting on the lounge for three months I picked up a camera to shoot some friends. I just ventured down the beach all day every day. That injury definitely transformed my life - I was completely hooked. From there the surfboard turned into a water-housing and everyday since its been a learning curve. Not too many rolls of slide film were working out to well in the earlier days though.

Before I became a professional photographer I was a full time fireman - which was also a great job. However, I had to choose between careers in order to spend more time with my family.

Who or what inspired you to do what you do?

I really go through stages of motivation. I have been trying to pursue certain photos in crazy waves the last few years. I really love the challenges and how my life revolves around that one photo in my head. The downside is when I have to shoot the so called “normal”, it’s just not as exciting! So I really have to remind myself to create new challenges for these type of days… I don’t have to look further than my family to find all the inspiration I need.

How did you get started shooting big waves? 

My whole life seems to revolve around attempting one great photo a year. I judge my own work in two ways: firstly, the “moment captured”. And more importantly to me, the “skill level required” to take the photo.

I put a lot of emphasis on the skill level, pushing the boundaries of capturing tough angles in crazy type of waves. 

I also put a lot of preparation into breath training so I am semi comfortable when swimming in waves of consequence. I have spent years working up to that type of level, however in the end it can be broken down simply: a camera in a waterproof housing (thanks Aquatech), a pair of swim fins and swimming out amongst the elements. It basically turned into this because I was getting bored - I was not pushing myself and also the waves were getting so packed with other photographers. So the only way to get space was to get out of the channel and into the elements.

What is that you love about your job?

I love the way my whole life revolves around the ocean - what an incredible office! Plus all the amazing people I have met along the way.

Do you travel a lot with your work?

I do roughly three magazine trips a year, two weeks each trip, along with my own personal work, chasing the bigger swells that rarely happen through out the year.  Last year I was only away for about 10 days chasing the swells and those types of conditions. All this is going to change at the end of 2016 when my family and I move onto a boat to travel through the Pacific. Not sure how we are going to make a living, but we should have fun exploring the Ocean and unknown possibilities.

What is your favourite place in the world? And the best location you have ever shot? 

My favourite place is certainly home, Margaret River. I love to shoot the remote south coast from home. I can spend weeks down there and never see another person. I love to explore and find new waves and locations.

What is the scariest moment of your career? 

For me it’s all about preparing to your best ability and reducing the dangers involved. I have certainly had a few close calls with sharks (cant really do much about those), and few wipeouts where I have hit the reef below. However in the scheme of things and how much time I have spent in the water, I have really been unscathed… Touch wood!

You also do some wedding photography, what do your clients expect from you?

I have been shooting weddings for the last 12 years. The season goes roughly from October to May so it’s certainly a welcomed change from dealing with the surf industry. It´s a great mix! I bring a super relaxed approach to the day. All of my wedding work comes from referrals, as I don’t advertise. That is a good sign that I am on the right track. 

What does the future hold for you/your photography? 

My main focus will be on personal work around the Pacific, including running workshops (a combination of breathe hold training and surf photography), I also want to focus on not-for profits and do whatever I can to help organisations that are providing amazing awareness regarding the ocean. I have also been working a lot on free dive imagery lately. It’s great to see what images can be taken on one breathe!

Any tips for people wanting to follow their dreams in the surf industry? 

I feel that people become instant photographers with out putting in the yards to learn the craft. They sort of get a camera, start a photography page and give images away for credits (free). I would recommend them to take their time. It doesn’t happen over night. Ask a lot of questions, like all other professions. It requires hours of applied practise to master your craft. I don’t see too many people buying $10,000 worth of tools and the next day becoming a mechanic.

Instant photographers will die off eventually when they realise what they are producing is not going to put food on the table or purchase more equipment. The one problem they leave behind is the standard business practises that companies try to exploit. The old “what, you won’t work for credit like our last guy?” I wonder where is that last guy today?

Where can we find you online? 

Instagram russellordphoto
Facebook Russell-Ord-Photography

Posted by: Marta Gallardo, on March 16, 2016
Categories: Interviews