Her Wave interviews Sydney based photographer, Ellie Gonzalez. Ellie specialises in both photography and videography mediums. She speaks about her travels and experiences as a surf photographer.
First of all, we would love to know what goes through your mind while shooting. What thoughts and observations lead you to capturing the story of your surroundings?
What goes through my mind. That’s a very good question. I guess what I see through the lens is exactly what goes through my mind. People tend to say that carrying a camera around and taking photos doesn’t allow you to enjoy the moment. While I think this may be the case sometimes, I also feel that when I am behind the lens I put all my focus on whatever I’m photographing to get the right shot. This allows me to be present and take in the moment even more. I started taking photos while travelling because I wanted to show my family back home “the world through my eyes”, so I guess this is something that I still think about a lot while shooting. I was born in Paraguay, a small country right in the middle of South America, the closest beach is 12 hours drive to us. Most of the things I’ve experienced since moving to Australia are unreal, especially those that involve the ocean. I love shooting even the smallest of moments, that we may sometimes take for granted, and keep making memories to share with them.
How did you learn?
In the beginning, I taught myself and learnt through trial and error until I decided to invest in courses/workshops and it was the best decision. Then also practise, practise, practise and assisting others in the industry.
Where do you spend most of your time shooting?
I currently spend most of my time shooting around the Manly/Freshie area as that’s where I live.
What are the challenges of shooting in the water for your surf photos? We imagine that it requires quite a lot of athletic finesse!
The biggest challenge is deciding whether to surf or shoot (laughs). But yes, it definitely requires fitness and practice. Knowing your limits and surroundings is key. You are not just trying to compose and capture an image but you are constantly adapting to the quick-changing conditions of a very unpredictable environment. Coming from a landlocked country the ocean is a very challenging place for me as it is. It’s my happiest place and also the place where I’m constantly facing my fears. But that’s what I love about it and why I have a lot of respect for it.
Do you have a favourite moment that your career as a filmmaker and photographer has led you to?
Yes, I got to live in Bali for a year just before Covid hit. I originally moved there to work as a social media manager for one of the resorts. I then went freelance and got to do photography/video work for a surf camp in Java and a womens retreat in Egypt later in the year. That year I travelled a lot, I surfed a lot and I took some of my favourite shots ever. I always say that for me, to be able to combine both my passions, photography and travel, is something I consider a highlight in itself as it can easily be taken for granted. I feel very grateful to have had those opportunities and will definitely continue to thrive for this in the future, as soon as we are allowed to travel again.
Where has been your favourite travel destination to photograph and surf?
That’s always a tough one to answer as I have so many favourites haha! Indonesia, Morocco, Curaçao, Peru, Sri Lanka, Galápagos are some of the best destinations I’ve been to based on the people, food, waves, landscapes and wildlife. Indonesia and Peru are definitely my favourite to surf. I didn’t surf back then when I visited Morocco but I’d love to go back as soon as the borders reopen. Curaçao is perfect for everything underwater. I’ve swam in some of the bluest water there and the people are so lovely and friendly. And Galápagos is a marvellous destination overall. The wildlife there is so comfortable and unbothered by humans, they get so close to people! The locals are very protective of it all and I loved that about the island!
What are some of your inspirations? And what keeps you motivated to keep creating?
I draw inspiration from nature itself, from the ocean and from travelling. I love meeting new people and experiencing new places, I feel like that’s what fuels my creativity the most. And as for the ocean, well it’s the source of life for our planet after all. I am always dreaming about it, day and night. I love shooting everything in and around it.
What personal projects can we look forward to from you next, what are you enjoying exploring at the moment?
I am really enjoying exploring more of the underwater world and would love to do a freediving course (as soon as it gets warmer. Underwater photography is one of my favourite types of photography and I would love to continue improving my skills within this niche.
Advice to aspiring female photographers?
Photography as well as videography are a never ending learning process and it can feel very overwhelming. While it’s true that trial-and-error is one of the most useful forms of learning, I think it’s a slow process and there are definitely faster ways. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people who are more experienced in the industry, be willing to assist them, invest in courses/education and never stop learning.
Dive into Ellie’s world further here: