Australian-born Tim McKenna began his professional life as a surf photographer in the 1980s, and has since branched out into other action and adventure sports, as well as landscape and fashion photography.
The forty-one year-old won the Experimental category in the 2007 Red Bull Illume Image Quest with an underwater shot of surfer Manoa Drollet’s hand dragging through the water.
“(Drollet) grabbed the rail and put his hand and body in the face of the wave to slow himself down in order to go even deeper,” said McKenna of the shot, “I had just enough time to dive under, reposition myself, and click off a few shots while he zoomed past.
“His hand came within a few centimeters of the camera, as if he was waving to me from the other side of the wall of water.”
The photo was taken at the Teahupo’o wave in Tahiti and was one of many stunning images that made up a book McKenna published about the famous surf spot.
So, what have you been up to since winning the Experimental category at the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2007?
I released a book on the Teahupo’o wave in September 2007 and have continued to travel a lot around French Polynesia searching for new waves and new locations.
Lately I have been working on preparing a photo exhibition tour for 2010 and I am also working on two new book projects.
Did winning the prize change anything for you or your career?
I can't really say it changed my career but it sure was a fun event to participate in. The ceremony in Aspen was memorable and it was great to see our images nicely presented.
What have been your most memorable shoots in the past couple of years?
There have been too many shoots to single out one or two! It seems that something memorable always pops up when shooting around French Polynesia.
This October I did a photo shoot campaign for Nikon. They provided me with the latest cameras and lens and my job was to produce stunning images around French Polynesia.
This was pretty much the dream job as I had total freedom.
I was really lucky because during the two-week shoot I managed to score some rare images:
surf and wave action on the best day of the year at Teahupo’o; a humpback whale cruising with its baby between Tahiti and Moorea; some kite shots on Moorea and some aerial and night scenes on Bora Bora.
What is it about action and adventure sports that you particularly like to photograph or try to capture?
For me it's the incredible landscapes and rare light or weather conditions that make a photograph special. If the athlete can blend into those sceneries and perform at his best we have all the ingredients for a striking action sports image.
I like to photograph athletes pushing their limits in exotic, remote places.
What do you see as the future of surf photography - how is the industry changing?
The industry is changing rapidly. Freelance professional photography is becoming a real challenge.
The shift is towards constant fresh content often disregarding quality. With the volume and flow of images bombarding our eyes it's getting harder to stick out. I think surf photography will be more and more segmented to cover all aspects of the surfing world.
What interesting shoots or projects do you have coming up?
I have some film and commercial productions in the pipeline and I have also been working on some surf trip projects to some remote islands in the South Pacific.
You're also involved in fashion and landscape photography - what is it about this side of photography that you enjoy?
I can't stick to one sport or one subject. I need to constantly change environments to keep inspired and motivated by my photography. People expect you to be super specialized nowadays. I try to mix up my work as much as possible. Fashion and landscape photography is just as important for me. The beauty and the extremes of nature can also make for great fashion shots. Searching for those moments of beauty and perfection is fun and challenging.
Visit www.timmckennaphoto.com for more information.