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Q & A with Todd Glaser
Recently, I had a chance to catch up with good friend and Surf Photographer Todd Glaser. It is always fun to hang with Todd and listen to the stories he tells over a few beers! Todd is currently working as a staff Photographer for Surfer Magazine and even though he is young in years, his talent and portfolio rivals even the most seasoned veterans! Every time I see his images, it makes me feel like I am there in the line-up and that is what I personally feel sets Todd’s work apart. His collection of photographs is amazing and I highly recommend browsing through his portfolio as I am sure you will be equally impressed! Please read through this recent Q&A with Todd Glaser and I hope you enjoy the images he included! Thanks, Jason.
Hey Todd! It has been way too long since we have had a chance to sit down and talk story! It sounds like you have been super busy jet setting around the globe and chasing swells. It must be nice to take a short break and recharge the batteries?
Hey Jason, yeah it’s been great to be home for a bit… I love traveling and being on the road, but it’s nice sometimes to sleep in your own bed and be around family.
Todd Glaser Photo: Jeff Flindt
When you are home do you like to cruise and shoot photos of friends and stuff or prefer to just surf and hang low?
It depends, sometimes I like to put the camera down and just surf. Because, a lot of the times when I am on the road or on a trip, I am too busy working, so when I’m home is when I surf the most. If the waves are really good though and a couple of the boys are in town, I get psyched to shoot too. I always have a camera with me, so if there is something I see that captures my attention I shoot it. I start to get a little weird if I haven’t shot a photo in awhile. It doesn’t have to be a surf photo, but anything. My girlfriend and I like to go on walks or go to the zoo. There is always something interesting to shoot there.
Knowing you for quite some time now, I have to credit you with having an amazing work ethic and commitment to your passion for surf photography. What seems to motivate you the most these days and what are some of your creative inspirations?
Thank you. I don’t know how to answer this because I truly just love what I do and am so fortunate to be given the opportunities that I have. I guess the reason I wake up early and keep shooting is to try and capture something new and different. Knowing that with every morning and sunrise there is something unique and new to photograph. Some days I’ll be up early and go surf, other times I shoot or even just drive down to the beach to get a clear head to start the day. In terms of being creative, I always love to look at photography books, magazines, and films. I’m a big fan of movies. I like to pause them during the most intense scenes and see how I would photograph that moment if I were there. Old Scorsese films are amazing for that. It’s also fun to think about the subject and see how we can create something that best suits their personality or style of surfing.
Over the years you have produced some incredible images of the J7 Team riders. Can you talk a little bit about what your favorite images were and why?
Without a doubt, Keoni Cuccia is the man. I have so much respect for him and the way he is as a human and a surfer. We went to mainland Mexico in 2007 and his surfing absolutely blew me away. He got more tubed than anyone else on the trip and did it with such style. During the last session of our trip and before we went to the airport, we went out and shot flash photos just before the sun came up. He pulled into one wave that I think to this day is the best flash/water photo I have ever taken. I was really excited when I got the film back on that one. While I lived in Santa Barbara, Tarik Khashoggi was always down to get up early and pack a couple. He’s got some power too. Pat Millin is one of my best buds and he surfs really well. He’s got power and one of the best work ethics out of anyone I’ve worked with. Yeah, the J7 team is always fun to hang with and shoot. You too Jason! It is always a pleasure to hang with you and thanks for letting me crash on the floor when I’m in town!
Do you have any advice for aspiring professional surfers as to what it takes to produce great shots when working with a photographer? Do you have any good examples?
WAKE UP EARLY! Don’t show up at 8 when the plan was to meet at 5. If you’re sponsored make sure you have stickers on your board. Remember that we love surfing too and waiting around for you to get your shit together doesn’t get us that stoked. Communication with the photographer is very important, if they are shooting with a fisheye, try your best to do your peak action maneuver within a couple feet of the camera. If the photographer is shooting rights, don’t go left. Save that for all the sessions where there isn’t someone shooting. Remember, it takes two to create a great image and just because the surfer rips doesn’t mean they are going to get the best images. The one who surfs well and works well with the photographer will always get the best photos. Know that the light at 7am is way better than at 9 or 11. Also, it is always about quality over quantity. Some of the best examples of guys who in my opinion are the easiest to work with are Rob Machado, Joel Tudor, Greg Long, Derek Dunfee and Chris Del Moro. Those guys are absolute legends! They’ve been doing it for a long time but still get amped to be up at dark when the waves are good. We discuss what lens I am shooting with and which one will be the best option for the waves that day. That way, when we shoot together, we are all on the same page. I value their input very highly when we shoot and if those guys are up at dark and willing to work when the waves are good, there is no reason that anyone else can’t do the same!
Your June 2009 Surfer Magazine cover shot of Greg Long. I know that a lot of people got their panties in a bunch trying to figure out where that photo was taken. What is your take and personal policies on wave locations and keeping secret or localized spots unexposed to the masses?
Part of what we do when shooting photos is bringing the viewer to what is going on at that very moment in time without giving away where it was taken. I am very conscious about what to show and what not to show. It all comes down to trust and respecting the location where we are. Greg and his brother Rusty founded that particular wave. They were kind enough to bring me there so the least I could do is conceal where it is.
Now, I am not sure how superstitious you are or anything and I completely understand if you don’t like talking about it, but do you have any juicy shark stories?
No, thankfully! But, a big Elephant seal did bump me a couple weeks ago. Scared the shit out of me!
Outside of surf photography, what are some of the other projects and cool things do you like to photograph?
Right now, I am currently working on building a commercial/editorial portfolio, which I can use to approach the world outside of the action surf. I would love to shoot snowboarding and also work on more portraits. But, I can see myself shooting surfing and the people in it for a long time. Surfer Magazine has been incredibly supportive of me since I finished school and I would love to continue working with them for a long time.
What are some of the highlights of your career so far? You know, Awards, Photo Exhibitions, Editorial achievements, etc…?
I think the biggest highlight of my career is just being able to do this for a living. There are a lot of great photographers and images out there. Being able to have my images published and work with some of the greatest surfers of our time is something I feel very fortunate to be a part of. In terms of projects that I’ve worked on, my first cover of Surfer with Greg Long is something I will never forget. That image was also voted the 2009 Photo of the Year. Last year I was hired to shoot the KS10 campaign from Quiksilver. Working with Kelly was a dream come true. He truly is the best Surfer this world has ever seen and seeing my images in Times Square and on buses in London was pretty cool too. It’s tough to put it all out on paper, but being able to travel with my friends and photograph our journey is something that I am so grateful for.
What is next for Todd Glaser? Do you have any big trips planned?
I have been home for a week and am leaving next week to go to Australia to work on the 2012 Dragon eyewear campaign. That is next on my list. After that, just waiting to see where the waves are and taking it day by day. I am really interested in doing a coldwater trip. Somewhere with waves and snow. Also, hopefully the South Pacific will start up and we’ll start getting some south swells too.
I have to say, your portfolio on your at www.tglaser.com is pretty darn impressive and that new Surfer Magazine cover of Alex Grey in Hawaii you shot is so sick! Congrats on that! What is the story behind that one?
Thanks! That was a lucky one. I was at Rocky point that morning shooting and the wind came up and blew the waves out. My girlfriend and I decided to go on a bike ride to get some food and when we were riding back, she suggested we check out Log Cabins. We took one look at it, saw the wind had just shifted offshore and it was pumping! We rode back to the Surfer house and I grabbed my gear. I was shooting mostly film since the light wasn’t the best and I also thought it would be a good time to shoot my Hasselblad. After shooting a couple rolls, I grabbed my digital and shot a handful of waves. That was one of them. The wave that Alex is riding was soooo heavy. That place scares me! Alex rode it perfectly though and the wave hit the reef just right. I was using a 70-200mm lens, which is slightly pulled back, but gives more of the story as to what was going on that day. When we got back to the Surfer house, I showed the photo to Grant Ellis, the Photo Editor of Surfer and he said, “cover” kind of kidding around. But, I didn’t believe him as those things can change so quickly. It wasn’t until about a month later when I was in his office and he said very casually, “oh by the way, you got the cover this month.” Than went on to refill his coffee. Kind of funny, but he was really calm about it and I was so stoked! So on this one I thank Grant and Alex for making it happen. My Girlfriend Jenna too, she stuck with me the whole time on the beach even though it was raining.
Man, it is so cool to see your hard work is paying off and it has been fun catching up with you! Keep up the great work Todd and thanks for sharing with us!
Thanks Jason! Can’t wait to come back up and hang again.