Whitewater Surfing Photography in the Idaho Wilds

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Last May I had the opportunity to travel to the Lochsa River drainage in Idaho and photograph a great group of whitewater surfers. Every year during spring runoff this location is sought out by adventure lovers for the large standing wave that develops and holds for weeks on end. Long days of travel, zero cell service for many miles in either direction, and many hours cold the water are the name of the game. The weather and water temperature make hoods, mitts, and thick wetsuits necessary a majority of the time.

With many hours to shoot and no outside interference via cell phone this was going to be the perfect time to try some different lighting setups and get them dialed in. The wave sits in a deep canyon that gets shade early in the afternoon if the sun shows up at all. Many of the times that I had been in this river drainage it had been cloudy and stormy all day. I hoped that this trend would make for some engaging new imagery. I had brought along the Quadra setup with the deep Octabox and 3 Speedlights as well loads of ziploc bags to protect from the almost constant drizzle. I had also brought a painters extension pole with a baby pin adapter in order to get the octabox much closer than I could have with any normal grip equipment.


I located the Quadra rig upstream of the wave. During daylight hours this allowed me to use it as a fill early in the day and then transition it to a key light after the sun disappeared. I would also add the speedlights downstream to provide a rim to the surfer and more depth to the scene as it got later in the evening.

Many thanks to the great crew from Strongwater in Missoula, MT and my pal Herb for being willing subjects on this fun project!

1/100 @f4.5 ISO100

1/50 @f3.5 ISO100

1/40 @ f4 ISO100

1/50 @ f5.6 ISO200




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