Cape Hatteras Lighthouse · Surf Photography

Brotherhood of the First Jetty. Sunrise Session with Benny and the Jets on Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

On October 18th, ten days after Hurricane Matthew hit Hatteras Island.  I drove to the Old Lighthouse Beach to a parking lot full of local surfers at sunrise. I was following the Nichole swell on for a few days prior. I was happy to see Nichole made it to the island.

Surf photography is quite different from portrait or wedding photography. Timing and lighting are two elements of photography that are unpredictable when shooting surf. When I photograph family portraits and weddings, I choose the time of day I will shoot based on lighting. Having knowledge of lighting and shadows and other environmental factors, giving me more control of my session and the outcome of my images.

A few things I am learning while capturing the local surf culture: waves come when they want to, off camera flash is basically useless from the beach, waves are unpredictable, and surfers are unpredictable. The morning of the 18th after the sun had risen over the ocean. I was shooting from a tall dune near the Lighthouse. The sun was so bright with no clouds to help with over exposure. While shooting the surfers, the lighting was so unpredictable depending on how far left or right from the sun I was shooting. I was not using an off camera flash to fill the foreground silhouettes, due to the long distance between me and my subject in the water.

I never know what the surfer will be able to do with the wave they paddle into. I have a tendency to over shoot surf sessions to make sure I capture the epic moments. While photographing the surf, I am at the mercy of mother nature. The wave sets roll in when they roll in. I have spent hours playing the waiting game just to capture a day of swell.

Benny Crum, Joey Crum, Brett Barley and fellow local surfers are photographed below. I decided to call this wave series “Benny and the Jets.” Ironically as I was driving to the beach, I was listening to this song and happened to capture a few shots of Benny.

🎶🎶“Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight’s hitting something
That’s been known to change the weather
We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You’re gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
But they’re so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
Bennie and the Jets” ~ Elton John 🎶


On any given day of surf on Hatteras Island these local surfers are almost certain to be in the water, along with many others. There is a sense of unity,love, friendship and happiness, when the brotherhood of the first jetty get together for a surf session on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Please scroll down for a few frames of my sunrise session with Benny and the jets.




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