As an internationally renowned photographer, Brian Bielmann has traveled extensively with many of the world’s best surfers like Andy Irons, Bruce Irons and Kelly Slater. With his images gracing more than 150 magazine covers, the pages of 30 books and appearing in iconic magazines like Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, National Geographic and SportsIllustrated, he is recognized worldwide to be a photographer at the very top of his field.
We sat down with Brian to talk all things surf, photography and his latest project Developing Legends.
Rad Season: Tell everyone about yourself
Brian: Well heck, Im really handsome and a fine specimen for 59 years old…. All joking aside, I’ve been around so long I don’t think anyone remembers a time when I was not shooting.
I like to tell stories and I probably talk louder than I should but I feel I always do an adequate job of making sure everyone is being entertained. I still love what I do after nearly 40 years of shooting. More than likely I get hired because I make sure I’m easy and fun to work with, that’s half the battle.
RS: How did you get into photography?
BB: At 21 years of age I couldn’t think of anything else I could do that would enable me to keep surfing more than being a surf photographer. I think it was a pretty wise choice for a 21 year old.
RS: Which surfers, photographers and other artists have been the biggest influence on your work?
BB: Love Danny Clinch who shoots portraits of musicians and the one persons job I’m envious of. Howard Schatz, Art Brewer and Jeff Divine on the surfing side. I could go on and on. I fan out on so many photographers, I just love being moved by other photographers work.
RS: You’ve been shooting all over the world, which country would you love to go back to and why?
BB: I love Tahiti and Indonesia the best. I have been going to Tahiti since the surfing world discovered it 20 years ago and I’ve been there probably 20 times and Indonesia since 1980 and probably 30 times. I’m going back to Indo for 5 weeks this May and June.
RS: Are there any particular surfing events that stand out if you had to pick a favorite?
BB: Yes, this years ‘In Memory of Eddie Aikau’ Quiksilver event at Waimea. It was the biggest and scariest time I have ever been in the water. Huge waves, bigger than I’ve ever been in. I actually had to outrun a 40 foot wave on a jet ski and got a photo by my friend Clark Little of it. Crazy scary….but I made it back.
RS: What’s your favorite surf town and what do you love about it?
BB: Well my home Hawaii and more specifically the north shore of Oahu. Where else do you have Waimea, Pipeline and Sunset beach not to mention about 20 more world class waves in between, all in a 2 mile radius. Plus the fact that Haleiwa is a rad town.
RS: What brought on the inspiration for the surf photography workshop?
BB: Honestly a friend of mine, Michael Clark, who is an incredible adventure photographer, has been doing them for awhile. He asked if I’d like to do a surfing photography workshop and the rest is history.
Mike is having surgery this year so I decided to create a workshop with a company called Developing Legends, which I started with Araby Patch and Chad Jackson from the mainland.
This year is more shooting and less technical computer work. I just love seeing people who have never shot surfing getting badass shots and leave totally stoked. I gotta admit I like to show people a good time and the big crazy waves on the north shore is the best place in the world to do a surfing workshop.
RS: Any major travel plans at the moment, where next?
BB: Well like I said Indonesia, maybe Iceland, and probably Tahiti again, I need to do some more underwater and that’s the place for that.
RS: What else would you still like to experience?
BB: Well I still have some places Ive never been to. This sounds funny, but I really want to go to burning man. I’ve seen the craziest photos from there. I want to go back and shoot Whales in Tonga. I got to do that a few months ago, loved it, and want to do it again.
RS: Any advice for those getting into photography for the first time and those that are seasoned photographers?
BB: Well there are a lot of people out there who want to make a living from it and that’s great. Its super competitive but its still possible. I think just enjoying it as a hobby is awesome too. It’s a great lifestyle thing. These days people are just stoked to go on trips and get insane photos. Technology is so good now, the cameras are just awesome.
These workshops are perfect for people who want to be surf photographers or just people who think it would be cool to go to Hawaii and get great surf photos and check it off the bucket list.
We have had people from every country and from all ages. We had an 80 year old couple come out last year and they had a blast. The best part is the waves are so close to the beach and its always a quick walk from the road where you park to the surf breaks.
RS: What’s next for surf photography? Where do you see things going in the next couple of years?
BB: I think drones are the coolest thing to come along in years, that’s the biggest thing now, be it remote photography and GoPros. GoPros have changed things now the athletes are getting shots that are mind blowing.
We go over lifestyle shooting, portraits, swimsuit modelling and of course shooting the surf from all angles its the whole surfing experience rolled up into 4 days and lots of cool free stuff. I hope to see some of the people reading this interview there!
Participants will shoot the world’s top pro-surfers as they prepare for competition on the world’s most legendary big-wave breaks.
– Photograph the world’s best surfers at infamous waves like Pipeline, Backdoor, Sunset and more
– Photo session with swimsuit models on the beach
– Photo reviews of your work from Brian Bielmann and other industry experts
– Demo telephoto lenses, underwater housings and other gear from Samy’s Camera
– Gift bag for all attendees ($300+ value)
– Special underwater demo/training session at the Turtle Bay pool
– Select photos from attendees will appear in a Stab Magazine exclusive gallery
– Discounted room rates at the world famous, Turtle Bay Resort
Want to win a trip to the North Shore and be part of the master class? Of course you do. Head on over to Stab for all the details on how to enter.
Photos by Brian BielmannLast updated on Jun 12, 2019
Have you subscribed to our Newsletter or Podcast? Listen to us on Apple Podcast and Spotify and follow us on Facebook, Instagram Twitter and YouTube.
Rad Season is providing you with rentals and hotels at the lowest prices available online. Book your stay near Haleiwa using the map below!
Rad Season's top 5 action sports, adventure, culture events and festivals in 2023