Saltwater & Light
This installment of Saltwater & Light features San Diego County-based photographer, Ivana Cook. I always find it remarkable that people could surf the same spot for years and not run into other locals who surf the same place, caused solely by the fact that the surf sessions happened at different times of the day. Apparently, it works the same with surf photographers as Ivana and I have documented the same spots in Oceanside for quite a while and I still have never met her in person. Despite that small detail, I have been a fan of Ivana’s work for quite a while. Her images have a light and airy quality that feels as fresh as an uncrowded summer day at your favorite break. Her creative compositions and tight crops tell a story that goes far beyond the borders of the images themselves and they always prompt me to stop and imagine what extends past her selected framing. My favorite part of observing any photo is the personal reaction I have afterward and with Ivana’s images, I want to stop everything I’m doing, dive right into the scene and go surfing myself. After reading the interview and viewing a sample of her work, hop on over to Instagram for more…
JettyGirl: What was your first camera and how did it come into your possession?
Ivana Cook: Throughout my life I had always had a camera around the house, but none of them were actually mine. The first camera I started shooting with was my surf coach’s camera that he always brought to practices. I had been injured and decided to give it a go one evening. I received my first camera shortly after that, and never really stopped. Transitioning from land photos to water was one of the best things ever because I couldn’t stand just taking photos from the beach. It took a while to get to that point, but I definitely found my niche!
Do you have a favorite lens that you find yourself reaching for over and over again? What additional lens that you don’t already own interests you the most?
Yes! The lens that I use for all my water photography is a Canon 24-105mm lens. I love being able to have the option to zoom when shooting in the water and its overall just very reliable and versatile for my style. Eventually I would love to purchase a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 for more land shoots, and possibly get a new port for my housing to fit it as well.
We notice that you’ve put much of your effort into documenting longboarding. What attracted you to that part of surf culture and what makes it special to you?
I had shortboarded my entire life competing with school, and only longboarded during the contests because there weren’t any other girls but my sister and I so we had to compensate for both. I find it funny that now longboarding is my main focus and preferable board to surf. I am attracted to it because of its ability to be so expressive in a graceful way. I take photos of shortboarding occasionally, but with longboarding I feel as if I’m able to capture someone in unison with the wave, and it’s so peaceful to me. It’s a very relaxed culture as well and no matter what I always find myself having a good time—even if it’s super small out, everyone’s always smiling and catching something.
When and where did you learn to surf? Do you still get a chance to surf much yourself?
I learned how to surf in Oceanside when I was 9. Originally, it was because my dad had told me if I could stand up on my first wave he would buy my sister and I a guinea pig, so of course I did it. It wasn’t until 7th grade that I picked it back up when I moved from Fallbrook to Oceanside. My best friend and I went every single day, and it has stuck ever since then. I surf as often as possible, because I feel crazy if I don’t. When I first started shooting in the water it was tough to find a balance because I loved to take photos as well, but I think I have found my sweet spot now and really am never not around the ocean. Either way, I’m happy as long as I’m in the water.
If you could travel back in time to shoot for a few days in any decade in surf history, which would you choose and why?
In perspective of longboarding for shooting, I personally would love to shoot in the 60’s. Everyone was so lively and very creative when surfing. As well as out of the water, suits were bright and people always just seemed like they were on the search for spontaneity. That is something I would love to capture in and out of the water for sure!
Same question, but drop the surfing part—if you could go back in time and photograph an event, movement, location or person, which would you choose and why?
With my mom’s whole family living in Holland, I have spent a lot of time in museums, and being able to observe art, I am always fascinated by artists who did self portraits of themselves before cameras were invented. It’s so weird not really ever knowing what they really looked like, only by perception of whoever is painting them. Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters that I have seen in a gallery. However, being able to photograph someone like Van Gogh I think would bring the mystery out of their existence, which is something I enjoy. But it would definitely be interesting to photograph portraits of the painters far before our technology.
Are there any other photographers whose work inspires you?
So many photographers inspire me. From close friends, to people that I see on social media. I love simplicity in photos, and I am very attracted to soft and bright lighting so I tend to gravitate towards photographers in that realm. I really love Amber Mozo’s work as far as surfing photography goes, as well as Morgan Maassen and Woody Gooch.
What is your favorite place to shoot and why? If you could travel anywhere on a surf trip, where would you go?
I recently moved from Oceanside to Encinitas, but I will always love shooting in Oceanside. I feel so comfortable shooting at the pier or harbor, and I love knowing exactly where I need to be when I’m in the water shooting people surf, it just makes things a little easier. My dream destination is Moorea! That has been the place I have wanted to travel to since the 6th grade and really hope to have the opportunity to go soon!
Do you have an all-time favorite surf or lifestyle shoot? What makes it memorable?
One of my favorite shoots was over this past summer at the harbor in Oceanside. I had brought my camera, but I surfed instead. Once I paddled out we saw a bunch of our friends in the water which made me run out of the water to grab my camera. I was so glad that I did because it was one of the best sunsets I had seen in a while. The next evening I was so stoked from the night before that I got a bunch of people to go out at North Jetty. There were so many people out that I definitely had to dodge a few boards from the head, but there was no lack of joy or smiles that night, which made it so memorable being surrounded by so many of my favorite people.
If you were stuck on an island with one book, one album, and one meal, what would they be?
If I was stuck on an island my book of choice would be “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. I have a very large range for the kind of music I listen to. Anything from Fleetwood Mac, Santana, Slightly Stoopid, to Zac Brown Band and even the occasional Justin Bieber. I really have no idea what would be the only album I could listen to, so I might just need a really good mixed CD to be stoked. For food, I could probably live off of Thai food (vegan pad Thai and mango sticky rice) or just endless amounts of fruit with veggie spring rolls. And because I would be on an island I think that fruit would be the ideal meal.
My family and friends and the lovely people that allow me to take pictures of them in and out of the water.