Artificial Intelligence Creates Flawless Surfing Photo

How to Win a Surf Photography Contest

Surf photography is an art that encapsulates the beauty and intrigue of the ocean. It’s a highly challenging genre that requires skill, patience and an innate connection to the sea. Contests offer recognition and exposure, which can lead to new opportunities.

New Zealand’s Oscar Hetherington won this year’s Follow the Light Surf Photography Grant award in Laguna Beach. The award is named in memory of late SURFING Magazine photo editor Larry “Flame” Moore.


Capturing a stunning seascape is a fun challenge that calls for an expert eye. The iridescent membranes of marine life and the light-dappled surfaces of crashing waves provide endless possibilities for creative compositions.

In a premium video lesson, Outdoor Photography Guide’s Matt Bishop shares his tips for shooting beautiful seascape images. He explains how to capture water movement by using slow shutter speeds and a wide-angle lens with a polarizing filter.

In 2022, Carve Magazine awarded photographer Sean Pritchard with its Surf Photo of the Year prize for his breathtaking shot Shoot the Pier. The image shows a surfer riding a wave that dips beneath the stanchions of New Brighton Pier in Christchurch, New Zealand.


The pursuit of a great seascape or surfing lineup photograph is usually a matter of advanced planning, weather prediction and possibly getting on the road an hour or two before sunrise – not to mention a bit of blind luck. To capture these shots, most armature surf photographers utilize a zoom lens, water housing and a tripod or monopod.

Unlike many organized sports, surfing does not have officials present to call penalties or distribute turns. Instead, the coordination of order in the lineup occurs through nonverbal communication such as looks and body gestures. This phenomenon offers a natural opportunity to study the process of turn allocation and, ultimately, how surfers organize themselves without some imposition of rules from an outside authority. This is the focus of this year’s Follow the Light Surf Photography Contest, which is part of the 2023 Coast Film & Music Festival in memory of renowned surf photographer Larry “Flame” Moore. The winning photograph will receive a $7,500 grant, a top-of-the-line Fuji camera and lens and a paid working opportunity with A New Earth Project.


Surf photography requires both a technical eye and an innate connection with the ocean. It’s a challenging yet rewarding pursuit.

Capturing the thrill of a surfer taking off on a huge wave looks impressive. To make the shot more dramatic, find unique angles and boost impact by using a fast shutter speed. Also, experiment with black and white photos to highlight the power of the waves.

A good tip is to look for something on the beach to use as a foreground. That could be a beachgoer, a surfboard, stairs, a pier, the horizon, fishing boats, a jetty or even an old Christmas tree. This way you can add a visual dimension to the photograph and give scale perspective.

Most importantly, remember to have fun. It’s not worth the risk if you aren’t happy with what you’re shooting. And don’t forget to share your work—it’s the only way you can get feedback and find your audience.


Few sports can be as escapist and romantic as surfing. The thrill of catching a great wave requires little more than a surfboard and good waves, but it’s a sport that has evolved with the times, incorporating new materials, ideas and technology to constantly improve the experience.

Despite the countless surf photography contests in existence, it’s rare for one of the photos to be completely flawless — but that’s exactly what set this winner apart. The photo features a surfer in the perfect surf spot with the ideal lighting, composition, and color. But, as it turns out, the image wasn’t real. The picture was actually a fabricated piece of art created by an artificial intelligence (AI) program. The program used photos from a million stock images and an algorithm called Jan van Eyck, named after the 15th century painter who has been dubbed “the most stolen artist of all time,” to create the fake image.

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