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TheKiteMag 49 Reflections Cabrinha Moona 1 1200x800 - Reflections: Behind the Lens

Reflections: Behind the Lens

What do you do when you need to get some top-drawer photos but Covid restrictions have scuppered your usual photoshoots? Hawaiian wave slayers Moona Whyte and Keahi de Aboitiz took matters into their own hands and got behind the camera as well as in front of it.

WORDS: Moona Whyte
TheKiteMag 49 Reflections Cabrinha Moona 5 - Reflections: Behind the Lens

We were probably in the best place in the world to live through the wavering time that was Covid. I say “live” because I’m pretty sure the best place to be was getting barreled in Indonesia with no other surfers around. But the best place to live in a somewhat normal way was Hawaii. Our lockdowns were not strict. We were never confined to a predetermined distance from our home – unless you count the edges of our 45-mile-wide island. No one dared tell Hawaiians not to surf. At our strictest (and silliest), we weren’t allowed to sit on the beach, only exercise on it or pass through on the way to the water. And so we did, lucky to have that freedom while also being in a pretty darn nice place to live no matter what the times are like. Still allowed to kite, our biggest inconveniences, then, were bans on travel and gathering, which made photo shooting – a huge part of our job description – difficult. Embracing the new stationary, contactless, do-it-yourself way of life, we took matters (a.k.a. cameras) into our own hands. Covid had us growing our own veggies, why not shoot our own photos too?

The idea came from a pre-Covid session on an attempt to shoot some new kites. Yeah, attempt… When you’re shooting with a water photographer, it can be tricky to line up a shot. You need to find the right part of the wave to do a turn (the waves are not perfectly peeling and barreling all the time like in Indo), be close enough but also avoid splashing them on the bottom turn, and then hope that the camera was in focus. This was one of those days where sun, wind, and waves just weren’t aligning. So Keahi decided to steal the camera from the photographer and kite one-handed, following me down the line while hitting the trigger at opportune moments. It worked, but water housings are heavy and he couldn’t hold it for too long, and I couldn’t at all. We gave up the idea for a while. Then when Covid came around, we decided to try switching our handy GoPro to the photo setting and cheat a little – ahem – I mean get creative. It’s a tricky thing to master because you have to be able to fly your kite with one hand and point the GoPro with the other, keep the lens free of water drops, and stay really close to your subject – something we’ve all learned to avoid while kiting. But with lots of close proximity practice under our belts already, we were able to get decent shots that (if you’re reading this) were even magazine worthy.

In a time when meetings were replaced by Zoom calls, waiters were replaced by iPads, and hair salons were replaced by your buddy and the kitchen shears, we simply followed suit with kite content creation. Thankfully not all of these swaps will survive post pandemic. In fact I’m positive GoPros won’t replace the technical, creative, demanding job of a water photographer, but it was a fun experiment and challenge. Hey, now that we have a little practice maybe we can adapt it to more critical waves and impossible-to-swim locations. Stay tuned for the next big photoshoot trip. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m rooting for Indo!

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