Ryan Pernofski: Surf’s Up!
Amidst surf, sand and sunshine, Ryan Pernofski talks to Natasha Desai about staying inspired photographically and the thrill of shooting the ebb, flow, swells and crests of the ocean.
About Ryan Pernofski
He is a 24-year-old photographer who also runs a graphic design business. He does not enjoy reading too much, but he has read The Lord of the Rings series by J R R Tolkien, which ranks amongst his all-time favourite epics. Ryan provides tidbits of photography related information, his life and behind-the-scene shots from his shoots through his Snapchat stories (@ryanpernofski). You can fin him on his website, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Twitter.
The town of Ulladulla and its surroundings located on the south coast of Australia, boasts of golden sands, beautiful skies, amazing waves and residents who love to surf. For a kid who had just moved from a non-beach city of Brisbane to Ulladulla, however, it was perhaps not the best experience. “I was easily the worst swimmer in my class, and so surfing/swimming wasn’t something that came naturally to me. But, there wasn’t much else to do, so I just made myself learn. It was so much fun that I instantly fell in love with the water and have been doing it ever since!”
Waves on His Phone
Finding his spark of interest in surfing is what led Ryan to discover Movement, a magazine targetted at the young surfer, and subsequently, photography. “I would look at the photographs and think to myself, ‘I would love to shoot like that someday!’” Rather than pick up a camera to shoot his stunning surroundings, Ryan began photographing with his iPhone in 2010, the year that Instagram rolled out.
A Day in the Life of a Surf Photographer
Armed with Instagram as his platform and the cellphone as his medium, Ryan set out to carve his identity in photography. Today, a typical day sees him wake before sunrise, drive down to a location (whose weather he has checked the night before) and plunge right into the water, where he uses the Optrix underwater housing to shoot. “I just like the way waves look during sunrise. It’s so magical to be there in person and the best part pretty much only lasts 5–10 minutes. I like the challenge of lining up a wave shot in that short a time.”
Not Always an Easy Ride
As is the case with several nature and adventure photographers, Ryan prefers to shoot alone. “When you go alone, you don’t really talk, so you put all your energy into getting the best possible shot,” he says. “But, I tend to get into a few hairy situations by myself, so it’s probably not the best idea,” he adds with a half-shrug.
In the course of our conversation, Ryan narrated an incident, that reminded me of a line by Patrick Swayze’s character in the film Point Break. “Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.” Ryan’s incident goes something like this, “I really wanted to get the photo of a ship that involved me walking for more than two hours in knee-high water across uncomfortable reef, with no shoes, at 5am. When I got to the ship, about 10 looters came crawling out of the ship and were staring me down. This was quite far out from land and I was feeling pretty vulnerable, so I took a few photos and got out of there!”
“Cellphones make photography accessible to a lot more people. Therefore, as an art form, it has acquired the potential to progress faster.”
A Job Well Done
If you look at Ryan’s Instagram feed, initially there are photographs that were made as diferent series. But lately, I find Ryan’s imagery going towards creating a great single image. It is interesting to see this route he is on, as most of his photographic learning has been through observation and curiosity.
Ryan tends to find motivation in a variety of sources. “What often inspires me is anything done well, whether it’s a business, a plate of food, a motivated chef or a piece of music,” he says.
What is even more interesting, is the road that lies ahead for the young photographer. He has plans to revive a surfing magazine that stopped printing a while ago, along with a friend. “Being handed the keys to it, is pretty incredible,” he beams.
With his unique and fresh outlook coupled with an infectious enthusiasm to his work, the sky’s the limit for him!
Tips on Becoming a Better Cellphone Photographer
- Find Your Niche: There are a lot of things you can shoot with your cellphone. Play on your strengths and keep at it, until you get better.
- Be Curious: Immerse yourself in good imagery and even better conversations, as this is how you will obtain most of your learning.
- Keep it Simple: There are a ton of accessories you can add to your phone, but these can just be distracting. Use the bare bones of what you need and stick to it.