10 minutes with Mark McInnis

Hey Mark, how are you? What have you been up to today?

Life is good. I’m down in San Diego hanging with some really good friends, shooting photos and surfing a bit.

Had any good waves down there?

Yeah, actually, I have. I’ve been lucky lately with favorable conditions and some good waves. I had my first real wave at Cardiff Reef the other day. I hadn’t ever surfed there before and happened to luck into a beauty from the peak to the beach without anybody dropping in on me. That was actually the most surprising part.

The calm between the storm at a slabby left on the Left Coast
The calm between the storm at a slabby left on the Left Coast

Let’s talk photography. Where do you do most of your work and what are the conditions generally like?

I live in the Northwest portion of the United States, but I shoot from Canada to California. If the conditions look good to the North or South and I have the time and money to go somewhere, I usually will. Conditions in my neck of the woods can be unpredictable, harsh and maddening, so it’s nice to have options. When it’s good at home, however, there is nowhere else I’d rather be.

What’s your favourite piece of kit?

That’s basically an impossible question to answer. Each lens – which is really the most important part of any photographer’s quiver – serves an exact purpose. So they are all my favorite pieces for different looks or feels. If I had to choose one though I’d have to take the 70-200. It’s very versatile: wide enough to shoot pulled back with enough zoom to focus on your subject. That lens is a staple in most lens collections.

Committed bottom turn. West Coast, 2012
Committed bottom turn. West Coast, 2012

Favourite photographers in the surfing world?

Oh my gosh. This is another question where multiple names start going through my head. There are so many good photographers right now. It’s insane. Chris Burkard and Jeremy Koreski come to mind first because they are both simply phenomenal lensmen that have really helped me in nearly ever aspect of my career. Having a personal relationship with people you admire is obviously going to weigh heavily when asked a question like that. So yeah, Burky and Jer for sure. They’re my favorites. With that said though, have you seen Sarah Lee’s underwater photos? It’s amazing work and she’s really doing some stylish, thoughtful stuff. I really dig it. Also, Steve Sherman’s portrait and candid lifestyle photography is great. He’s one of those photographers that seems to have an uncanny knack for capturing honest, natural moments. To me, that’s an amazing trait to have as a photographer. Also, people like Matt Lusk, Adam DeWolfe, Brian Nevins, Tom Carey, Grant Ellis, Al MacKinnon, Dean Azim, Nick LaVecchia, Peter Taras, Jim Russi, Ryan Craig, I mean honestly, the list is endless and I’m incredibly humbled to share pages and web features with some of these people.

Besides surfing do you enjoy or work in any other forms of photography?

Oh yeah, absolutely. Surf Photography is my favorite, but nailing any type of shot is rewarding. I’m a huge fan of German automobiles so I dabble in auto photography from time to time. That is a lot of fun. I fell in love with photography before the digital age so I have a penchant for film. It’s the most rewarding thing ever when you get an A+ shot that was taken on film. It rarely happens, but it’s rad when it does. Portraiture is incredible too. Challenging, but incredible nonetheless. I’d say it’s just as hard to get a good portrait as it is to get a good action shot. Maybe even harder.

Hawaiian waterman, Aaron Gold
Hawaiian waterman, Aaron Gold

Many people imagine being a surf photographer as a dream job. What are your favourite aspects and what are the challenges?

One of my favorite bands has a line that I have always identified with. It says, “I am a nomad, a wanderer. I have nowhere to lay my head down.” I always have a place to sleep whether it be at home or in my vehicle, but to me, being a surf photographer is all about leading a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle full of adventures into the unknown. But as often as I get to do ridiculously awesome things like ride on jet-skis out to huge waves in the middle of the ocean, or take boats to remote, ruler-edged, waves, I can’t forget that I have a business to run. Being a photographer – especially a surf photographer – has this glamorous allure that makes people ooh and ah, but the reality is that you are running a business and if you’re not on top of it, things will fall apart. So there is a ton of e-mailing, submitting, checking on submissions, and, my least favorite part about my job, hounding people for overdue checks. In short, I love the lifestyle and the act of shooting photos based around surfing, but running a business is hard and getting people to pay you in a timely manner is even harder.

A shapely shoulder goes unridden in the rain and cold
A shapely shoulder goes unridden in the rain and cold

If you could conjure up a dream surf session who would be out there, what’s the location… and where would you be?

Holy smokes. These are tough questions! Every sports photographer dreams of shooting the best athletes in his or her field. With surfing, there are infinite “dream crews” I could conjure up, but I like to photograph and hang with the people that are relaxed, respectful, honest and real. If someone has those qualities as a human and also slay on any type of surfing craft, well, those are the people I dream of spending time with and photographing. And Dane. I really want to have a session shooting Dane. As everybody knows, he’s just a nut job on a surfboard. The perfect location would be a remote, snow covered, point break with long, rippable, walls, and a longer hollow section thrown in for good measure. We’re dreaming here, right?

How can people buy your work or find out more?

People can check the site at www.markmcinnis.com, the blog at markomcinnis.tumblr.com, and can e-mail me with print inquiries at [email protected].