An Interview with Photographer Bryanna Bradley


Meet Bryanna Bradley, our exhibiting artist at this year’s festival in Rockaway Beach. She is based in Tofino, British Columbia, although can be found in tropical locations often. Inspired by the ocean and the beautiful community of cold water surfers in Tofino, We are excited to experience her show titled EMBRACE, a collection of Bryanna’s images from around the world to bring one a sense of the oceans embrace. Using her own artistic feminine flare to accentuate the women in her photos and the passion and freedom they experience as a result from embracing their time in water. She will be flying out to New York for the weekend of NY Women's Surf Film Festival. Her prints will be available for sale.

women's surf film festival bryanna bradley lava girl surf
women's surf film festival bryanna bradley lava girl surf

 How did you get started in photography? How old were you when you first started taking pictures?

As long as I can remember I was always using a disposable camera or my parents point and shoot to take photos that I would get excited about. It wasn’t until I graduated high school and enrolled in a college photojournalism program that I bought my first DSLR at the age of 18. 

 Once I started college and had my own big-girl-camera I lived, breathed, and dreamt, about photography and all the things and places I could shoot. I had a big break from photography from the ages of 20-24, but since starting to shoot surfing I am now more excited about photography than I have ever been before.

So, when did you get your first underwater housing? 

Four years ago I started with a GoPro on a girls surf trip in Mexico, I swam out to see if I could even do it and absolutely loved it, so much so that four months later I invested in an Aquatech Housing. I had spent a summer in Tofino and saw all the amazing male photographers shooting the males, but I wanted to get out there with all my girl friends.

Is there anyway to define what makes a great surfing photograph?

Personally, I don’t think so. Every photographers work speaks to different people in unique ways. I think that is why I love photography so much. 

 My perspective on photographs is constantly changing, depending on where I am at in my day or how I am feeling in general, will depict just how much I love a photo. That being said, there are two things that always stick out to me and that I always try to keep in mind when I am shooting - does it evoke emotion and how is the lighting? To me, these are aspects of photography that are vital. 

What do you think it is about the medium of photography that makes it special? 

It is a moment, a memory, a dream, it can mean so much and so little. It can bring people back to a happy place or to a place of desire. To me, photography has inspired so many aspects of my life, that is what I hope to evoke out of viewers when they look at my photographs. 

The cold water photos you make seem to have almost a different style from the warm water ones. Is this a conscious decision on your part? Do you think the environment affects the way photos are made and/or perceived by the viewer?

When it comes to my images, you can tell what mood I am in that day. Being the sensitive soul that I am, I am easily influenced in the water with how the vibe is and what is happening around me. When I am shooting at home in Tofino, it tends to be cold, crisp, blue, and rainy and this brings a different energy to the water. The silent and elegant feels in Canada are a big contrast to my experiences in tropical locations where I feel things are lighter, higher energy, warm, and brighter. Although I don’t consciously make this choice, I think it makes sense that I naturally end up with two different styles. 

women's surf film festival bryanna bradley lava girl surf

 Do you have a favorite spot to make photos?

 I love home, Tofino. There is an incredible female surf community at home and visually there is something so special about cold water surfing, totally unique to my experience in tropical locations. However, I have learned it is very important for me to travel to shoot new places and new people, I have noticed that new places always make me excited to shoot. I feel I get inspiration from shooting both cold and warm water, but it is important for me to keep mixing it up.

 You write that you began making photos to bring female cold water surfing in Canada to the global stage. Do you feel that representation of not only female surfers but female surfers braving the elements and freezing temperatures might have made a difference in the WSL requiring equal pay for men and women?

That is a great question, personally I am so proud to be associated with a sport that provides equal pay, I think this is just HUGE. There has been so much great female surf content in the form of images, films and art, coming out of every corner of this globe, from Iceland to India, I think the world has almost been forced to recognize that surfing is not just a male dominant sport anymore. Women have claimed it in their own way, with their own flare. It was only a matter of time until we were recognized equally. 

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Honestly, I hate to admit this but Instagram provides a lot of inspiration for me, there are SO MANY incredibly talented photographers and artists out there that are constantly inspiring me with their work and to constantly to be out there shooting as often as I can.

What equipment did you start out shooting with when you decided to transition into surf photography? 

I have always used a DSLR Nikon camera body, 24-70mm lens, and Aquatech Housing. I can’t imagine ever changing any of my gear anytime soon, I am really happy with my set up right now. 

women's surf film festival bryanna bradley lava girl surf
women's surf film festival bryanna bradley lava girl surf

How was it transitioning from photojournalism to surf photography? What were some of those challenges? 

I actually left journalism to travel and go back to school, and didn't do “photography” for a solid 3 or 4 years, so the transition was not as significant in my case. I actually found a lot of similarities with surf photography and photojournalism, and I think that is why I loved both things. 

 In journalism and surfing there is usually a level of chaos and uncertainty that keeps me on my toes while I am shooting, it is something I love and crave. 

 In the four years I have been shooting surfing I have seen drastic changes both at home and on a global stage, however the surf industry still tends to be very male dominant as was journalism. I became accustom to being the only female photographer for most of my photojournalism assignments, so going into the surf industry with my camera in hand I was not discouraged by the lack of women I was working with.

 Lastly, I love the diversity both jobs offer, from all the different subjects I get to shoot, the changing variables and unique locations - it keeps things extremely exciting. 

What equipment are you currently shooting with? What's on your photo-gear wish list?

I am currently shooting with a Nikon D850, which is my favorite camera I have ever owned. For my water housing I always use my 24-70 2.8 lens in an Aquatech housing. When I am shooting from land I have a 70-200mm and a 300mm. 

 Very soon I want to try shooting in the water with longer lenses, I love the depth of field of a telephoto and I would love to experiment with that in the water. 

I would also love to invest in a drone one of these days, however, I just know I am going to be a horrible drown operator. 

You recently were invited to cover the Mexi log Fest. How was it?

It was insane, in the best way possible. To be in the water with so many legends was overwhelming and endlessly inspiring, everyone was so stoked and equally as excited to be there. It was such a great celebration of long boarding and I can’t wait until next year to go back. 

Do you have a preference for shooting surfers on longboards or shortboards? And if so, why?  

I love shooting both.

 I will admit that I have more practice shooting long boarding because most of my friends here in Tofino are mostly long boarders. I am more inclined to get artistic when I am shooting long boarding because I am so use to it, but I am hoping I can get to that point with short boarding soon. 

What would your advice be to someone who wants to get into surf photography?

If you can’t afford a water housing it doesn’t mean you cant be a water photographer. Start with whatever you can get your hands whether it is a GoPro, water proof point, or waterproof disposable camera, see if you like it and get out there as much as possible. 

women's surf film festival bryanna bradley lava girl surf
women's surf film festival bryanna bradley lava girl surf

We are thrilled to have Bryanna exhibit her work as part of the 7th Annual NY Women's Surf Film Festival. You won't want to miss out on this exhibition. 

Friday August 9th  | Opening Reception 7 - 9 PM | Films Begin At Dusk

  • Opening Reception for the art exhibition by surf photographer Bryanna Bradley

  • Pre-festival event including a meet and greet with this year's filmmakers and notable surfers.

  • Screening of a variety of short films from around the world around 8:30PM.

For more information on Byranna you can go to her website or take a look at her Instagram account.