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Photographer Profile: Tristan Cardew

From issue 96 • The Photo Annual

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When did you start shooting professionally? My first paid photography gig was when I was 18. I’d photographed a bunch of friends mountain biking and shared them on a mountain bike forum, which attracted the attention of an Australian mountain bike magazine’s editor. He asked if I’d like to have some photos published and then asked if I wanted to cover some mountain bike races. It was a dream scenario.

Who have been your photography influencers? The first photographer I admired was Australian automotive photographer Chris Benny, who I worked for as an assistant for 18 months. His understanding of remote flash and how to retouch commercial images was meticulous. Others include ocean photographer Eugene Tan, surf photographer John Respondek and cycling photographers Jered and Ashley Gruber.

When you shoot in the ocean, there must be an adrenaline rush like no other, right? When you’re at the mercy of the elements a lot of things need to align to get a decent photo. A set wave might break out and wash you into the wrong spot that takes you 20 minutes of swimming to recover from; the sun might dip behind a cloud right as the perfect wave comes; the wind might turn the wrong direction and ruffle the surface just as the light is getting good. I’ve shot more than 150,000 images while swimming in the ocean and still only have a handful of favorites. But when you get one, it makes the entire process so worthwhile.

Tristan Cardew ||| Girona, Spain

Has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the way you see the world? I count myself lucky as I don’t rely on professional sports to earn a living. Though I couldn’t shoot during lockdown—I was alone in my apartment for seven weeks—once we were allowed back outside I threw myself into work, creating content for The Service Course, enjoying the peace and quiet of being outside and being thankful for living in a place that inspires my photography.

Have your images changed since you first started shooting? My idea of what makes a nice image hasn’t changed, but my technical skill has improved. I’m able to better use the camera to create photos that say what I want to say.

What cameras and lenses do you love? I shoot on two Canon 5DMk3 bodies and an array of Canon lenses. My favorite focal length is definitely 50mm when I’m close enough to the subject. It’s the focal length our eyes see at, so the photos feel most natural. I find my 70–200mm f/2.8L also gets a good amount of use. In the ocean I use an Aquatech underwater housing with different lens ports.

Where is your favorite place to shoot? I don’t have a favorite place, but I have a favorite time of day: the first 30 minutes after sunrise and the last 30 minutes before sunset.

Name a sport that you haven’t shot that you would like to shoot and why? Big mountain skiing is up there. I love how stunning big mountains covered in snow are. And once you throw a skier among them, pulling some huge move, I think you’ve got all the elements to create incredible imagery.

Instagram: @tristantakephoto

From issue 96. Buy it here.