Photographing surfers in Águilas (Spain) – April 2024

I learned that one of the most important needs to shoot surf photos is reach. All of the photos below were shot with the Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 lens with the TC-14EIII teleconverter, fully zoomed in (making it a 700 mm f/8). The camera was a 24 MP Nikon D780 and most of the photos were cropped by a factor of approximately 2.0. This still leaves photos that are 4000 px wide.

The shutter speed I settled on was mostly in the 1/500 to 1/1000 range which freezes the surfers and waves and droplets giving a sharp image. Shooting surf is not unlike shooting dance photos. After a while you learn the flow of the sport (wait for the wave, turn around, get up to speed rowing, stand up, ride the wave, try some tricks, fall spectacularly, all of which are similar to different sequences of a dance) and it is possible to prepare and anticipate the next shot.

The lens and teleconverter fit and work great together (both made by Nikon) and compared to some other TC’s I used they do feel made for each other, fitting very snug and tight. Both include rubber seals in their mounts which helps around salty water. That said, one thing I had to discover for myself is that the 3d tracking continuous autofocus (AF-C) stops working on the 200-500 f/5.6 when the teleconverter is mounted. This is probably due to the fact that the camera’s autofocus sensor struggles to detect contrast with small apertures (f/8 with the TC). This is reflected in the viewfinder where the focus point loses the small dot in the middle and stops moving around to track the subject. The AF keeps doing a good job in good light, but the loss of 3d tracking is good to keep in mind.