Interview with Morgan Maassen: Water sports photographer

Feb 21, 2022 BY AWE365 Team

This interview with Morgan Maassen was originally conducted in 2014. One of our team spoke with the world famous water sports photographer, but for some reason the article did not get published. So we have decided to give it the airtime it deserves. Have a read and enjoy the stunning photos!

Interview with Morgan Maassen Water sports photographer photo by Morgan Maassen -1

Water sports photographer

When a wave is packed with photographers, it takes some special images to stand out. And Morgan Maassen‘s photos certainly do that! He took top honours at the prestigious Red Bull Illume photography competition in 2013. But what should you do if you’d like to emulate him and become a water sports photographer?

First up, read this interview with Morgan Maassen. There are insights about his inspiration etc. that might get your creative juices flowing.

Secondly, you need to get yourself in the water and practice, practice, and practice some more. Try experimenting with different techniques, angles and exposures. The more time you spend taking photos, the more you will learn and the more likely you are to capture that perfect shot.

Thirdly, invest in the right photography equipment, but remember you don’t need a top-of-the-range camera when starting out. Photography equipment is expensive and underwater cameras plus add-ons can stretch your budget even further. So, look at buying used cameras to save some money before you decide which area to focus on.

All the phots in the interview with Morgan Maassen are by the man himself. Please respect his copyright.

Interview with Morgan Maassen Water sports photographer photo by Morgan Maassen - 5

Interview with Morgan Maassen

We caught up with Morgan in Jan 2014 to find out what inspires his distinctive style:

What inspires you to grab your gear at dawn and hit the water?

I grew up in the ocean, surfing, boating, freediving… it’s only recently that I found photography, and to be able to do something so artistically gratifying in the sea, its a dream come true.

Your images are rarely the high-impact, cover shots we get hit with a lot. What makes an image work for you?

I try to capture what I find interesting about the world I live in. I’ve surfed and skateboarded my whole life, but that key moment of action is not as important to me as the oddities and surreal beauty of where we get to play. I guess I just try to capture what intrigues me.

Interview with Morgan Maassen Water sports photographer photo by Morgan Maassen -3

Lots of silhouettes, drama and abstract moments going on in your work. Which photographers/ artists inspire you?

I grew up studying art and later filmmaking, so that is where I gleam most of my inspiration from. Artists like Wassily Kandinsky, Jean Michel Basquiat, Ashley Bickerton really blew my mind.

In filmmaking it was Werner Herzog, Gaspar Noe, Darren Aronofsky, and Tarsem Singh. In photography, Elliot Erwitt was what really resonated with me.

Sometimes the wave seems packed with photographers – are they getting in the way?

Yes they do, but this is usually in crowded, industry-heavy places like California and Hawaii. Often the places I find myself are quite removed from the “circus”…

Interview with Morgan Maassen Water sports photographer photo by Morgan Maassen - 6

What do you think Leica brought to the Red Bull Illume photo comp?

Leica is quite possibly the most prestigious camera brand, maybe tied with Hasselblad. Their name and support for action & adventure photographers is amazing and their prizes a lovely bonus!

There’s a unifying spirit across the adventure sports – would you be tempted to take on snowboarding/ skiing shoots?

I would and I plan on doing it. I’ve been going on snowboarding holidays since my early teens, but considering I live on the coast I go quite infrequently, and rarely shoot it with anything more than the point-n-shoot stuffed in my jacket. I’m definitely making a conscious effort to shoot some snow work.

As a photographer, how do you balance ‘getting it out there’ and keeping some ownership of your images?

Interview with Morgan Maassen Water sports photographer photo by Morgan Maassen -4

Photography has been incredibly lucrative, but this question touches the incredibly bizarre factor of my occupation; that being that you can, and as a commercial business, feel inclined to, sell off as much of your work as possible.

I spend about 250 days a year shooting photos or video on contracts or jobs, but I am fortunate in that between my style and stubbornness, every photo I shoot is one that I would want to take.

So, it is really neat to see brands and magazines use work I am passionate about, but also a lot is held close to me, either being shot for fun, or being irrelevant to an employer’s interests.

Your Illume winning shot showed a side less seen of surfers – did you think at the time it also revealed their vulnerability, or did this thought come later?

I never really thought of it that way… I was just aiming to show their friendship, their community. It was a bunch of kids having a blast surfing in Fiji, alone in perfect surf.

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Technology is cramming all sorts of wizardry into our cameras – do you think it’ll all go 3-D?

I think about this often, and I truly hope 3-d is just a gimmick. I see the future of cameras drifting towards infinite capture, as in they are always recording video, and you pull stills from them. Beyond that, the size will shrink until one day, our contact lenses have the power of a Red Epic camera.

We hope that you found this interview with Morgan Maassen interesting and his photos inspirational. Check out Morgan’s website to buy prints or hire him for a project you have in mind:


Bodyboarding, Snorkelling, Surfing
photography, watersports

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