Coming from a family that would spend the winter season in dry, hot, landlocked Riverside and summer in the paradise of Laguna Beach, Tim grew up with a love and deep appreciation for the ocean. Riverside supplied Tim with an endless longing for wanting to be in the salt water, while Laguna fulfilled his need for the ocean and so much more. Having that constant need to be in the ocean led Tim to his love of surfing and the culture that was associated with it. He would look through magazines like Surfer and Transworld Surf and become captivated by the imagery of surfing and the exotic places shown. Child Tim knew that he wanted to become a surf photographer. Now, he is.
Hey Tim, how is life over in California?
Hey! I am great. Life in California is good. I’m just waiting for summer to get here along with the WSL tour to make its way through.
Who was the first pro surfer you took a picture of?
The first pro surfer I got a good photo of was Carissa Moore. It was a few years ago at the US Open. She was stretching out on the sand and kind of meditating before one of her heats. I kneeled down next to her, took a few photos and wished her good luck in the heat.
How do you succeed in gaining acceptance from the surfers?
Honestly, all I do is be a nice, normal person and act like myself. It doesn’t matter how good someone is at photography. If you get the job done and you are a great person to hang around, then you will get chosen every time over the photographer who isn’t a pleasant person to be around.
You are truly gifted to capturing precious moment of the female pro surfers. How did you end up photographing girls? and why the girls?
Thank you! That means a lot. While I was in school, I didn’t know if I wanted to do lifestyle/fashion or action photography within the surf industry. Then I realized you can easily do both within the women’s surf scene. Shooting new board short campaigns for guys is just taking photos of them surfing with the board shorts on, and that seems boring to me. With girls, when you shoot a new campaign, it is a full on adventure. That is what got me interested.
Before I started shooting with the girls, I had an idea that they would be nice and cool to hang out with. Until I started hanging out with them, I didn’t realize how cool they actually were. Instant friendships are formed and that is the main reason why I love to shoot girls.
Malia Manuel, Sally Fitz, Justine Dupont, Johanne Defay, Leila Hurst and many others. What a list! You are probably such an inspiration to many photographers who wanna shoot them. What advice do you have to someone who wants to approach them?
The advice I would have on approaching a pro surfer is this: Make sure you have a great portfolio that you can show them. Have your friends, mentors and even some pro photographers you look up to look over your work. They will give you the advice and input you need to help improve your photography. Once you have a solid portfolio the rest is just reaching out. The main tool I used to reach out to pros was social media. I would shoot them a direct message or comment on a few of their photos to grab their attention and the rest was history. Sure, it takes a lot of work and a lot of the time they might not get back to you. Don’t take it personally, they just have a big following and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Eventually though, with the right portfolio and the right timing it will all work out.
You’re often hanging out with girls on tour, do you have any fun stories to tell us?
Probably the most fun I have ever had was during the end of the year party with all of the girls. I was just hanging out at a table taking in the scene, and the next thing I know Bianca and Johanne appear out of nowhere and drag me out to the dance floor. For the rest of the night it was non stop laughs and dancing with all of the girls on tour and it was incredible.
Beautiful surfers on your camera, how many times did you fall in love?
Oh man… every single time. It’s hard not to, they are all beautiful and have personalities to die for.
When you are shooting in the water, is everything prepared beforehand? Or do you just shoot all that you can?
It is a little bit of both. I’ll talk to the girls and ask where they are going to sit and what they plan on doing. Other than that, it’s just shooting whatever I can.
Do you ever need to give the girls advice while you are shooting? Or is it always natural?
It depends on what we are shooting for. Most of the time the advice I give is for them to act natural and to pay no attention to me.
What was one of your best experiences with one of the girls and why?
One of my best experiences shooting was during the US Open that Johanne won. It was the best because I was able to capture every moment that happened from when the contest first started, to Johanne being handed the award, to the after party where friends and family got to celebrate with her. Being able to watch the whole thing while having a camera in my hand was awesome. It was a dream.
You shoot a lot out in the water. Have you ever had a bad experience or a wipeout while shooting?
Oh yes. My first time shooting on Maui I had a nice wipeout. The wind shifted directions so a lot of the girls headed to a beach called Ho’okipa. The waves were pumping and it was pretty shallow out there. I was shooting Bianca as she rode the first wave of a set. I wasn’t paying attention to the next wave coming in and got thrown over the falls onto the reef. It was pretty humbling to say the least.
What is the one achievement that you are most proud of?
I’m not sure if it is an achievement or not but I am happy to call a lot of the girls friends. I went into the whole surf photography world just trying to make a name for myself and to get my work out there. Instead, I got lifelong friendships and experiences out of it that I never expected. It has definitely changed my view on how to approach everything in terms of shooting.
What is your favorite spot to shoot at and why?
My favorite place to shoot will always be Laguna Beach. It’s home and it is my favorite place in the world.
In your opinion, what is your best/most favorite picture you have taken?
If I had to choose a favorite, it would be between when Johanne was being chaired up the beach after winning the US Open, or the photo I got of Carissa as she found out that she won the world title. Each photo has it’s own story behind it and that is what makes it difficult to choose a favorite.
Thank you so much Tim ! Can’t wait to see the next stories you’ll shared on your photos.
More of his work here and on instagram @t_kothlow
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