Mike Harris Photo Profile

interview / nick kalionzes

We first discovered Mike via Instagram when we stumbled across his crazy GoPro shot of him standing tall in the roundest Wedge barrel we’ve ever seen. That shot has to one of the best GoPro tube shots of all time. After checking out his Instagram we discovered he’s not only a really good surfer but also takes some pretty good photos too and apparently he’s only been shooting surf for about a year. So we decided to give him a few pages in the mag to show off his work. Hope you enjoy!

Where are you from, and where do you currently reside?
I’m from Southern California, born, raised and bread in Huntington Beach and still there. I love living in Surf City USA.

So you’re pretty new to the surf photography game, what got you into it after being on the other side of the lens for so long?
Last summer I injured my wrist and couldn’t surf but wanted to be in the water, so I figured, I might as well get in the barrel with the camera. After a few sessions at the Wedge on some big days, my passion for photography reignited and I couldn’t get enough. After 40 years of surfing, all of a sudden I was experiencing the same stoke (in a different way) with a camera in my hand.

Are you ever tortured between what to do, surf or shoot?
Every time I pull up to the beach now and look at the surf I’m trying to figure out what to do, surf or shoot. I wouldn’t call it a curse, it’s just trying to choose between two things that bring me a lot of joy. I just go with what I’m feeling in the moment. If I’m feeling like surfing I ditch the camera and surf, but as of late I find myself grabbing the camera more than the board. Surfing is an amazing thing, but sometimes it’s just as fun watching a friend get the wave of the day or pulling into an insane barrel. The prize for me is getting the shot.

Would you rather be shooting from the water or from land? Where’s you’re favorite spot to shoot?
I defiinitely prefer shooting from the water. After being on swim teams, water polo teams, lifeguarding for years, and surfing my whole life, I’ve found that water photographer has come vary naturally. You need a lot of stamina, strength and confidence to put yourself in critical positions in order to get the shot you want. There’s a strange thing that happens when I’m behind the lens; the elements move to the back of my head, no matter how cold it is, or how long I have to wait, or how strong the current is to fight against, or how big it is, at that moment nothing else matters except getting the shot. The camera makes you forget you’re there because your so “focused”. I actually forget about fear when a camera is in my hand. Then the excitement of getting to my computer and downloading the images and seeing what was created is all part of the experience. I guess it all comes down to having a love for the ocean and wanting to be in the water as much as I can.

Who’s photography inspired you growing up as a surfer? Who’s photography inspires you now that you’re behind the lens?
Growing up I never really paid attention to the photographers taking the images. I was just a little surf rat that was frothing on every surf mag I could get my hands on. I would usually get two of the same mag, one to archive, and the other to rip apart in order to tape every picture I could to the walls in my room. After I ran out of wall space I would thumbtack surf poster to the ceiling. It wasn’t until I picked up a camera that I started to get inspired by those on the other side of the lens. Guys like Arron Chang, Jeff Divine, Brian Bielmann who set the pace in the 80’s and 90’s. Now days I’m always intrigued with those guys who are getting the different angels, like Zak Noyle, Todd Glaser and Brent Bielmann.

When it comes to local photographers here in the OC, I’m getting a lot of inspiration from the GoPro Guru Robbie Crawford, who has been doing amazing things with the GoPro Fusion, Craig Larson and Larry Beard’s wave art is also something to strive after. Honestly, there are too many great photographers now-a-days. I get inspired by all of them.

What’s the dream scenario for you when it comes to shooting these days?
Well, a boat trip in the Mentawaii Islands sounds pretty good. with some of my closest friends having a blast.

Who do you enjoy shooting the most?
Well, my favorite people to shoot are my three kids, simply because I love them more than life itself. When it comes to surf photography, I love to shoot some of the local rippers in HB like Teddy Navarro @shreddyhb , Tom Rezvan @rezzy76 , Keanu Igarashi @keanuigarashi Brett Simpson @brettsimpson   …. Just to name a few. I’ve heard it said that it’s more important to “click” with people then to click the shutter, I believe that’s true, you get better images all the way around..

Do you have a favorite all-time photo you’ve shot?
My favorite image is ever changing because every day is different, every wave is different, every situation is so different and beautiful in its own unique way. That’s what’s so exciting about waking up in the morning and jumping in the ocean, you’re guaranteed to be rewarded. Even if you don’t get the shot, there’s reward.

How many GoPros have you lost pulling into those bombs at Wedge?
I haven’t lost any GoPro’s yet because of my Kung fu death grip. I hold on tight because I don’t want to let go of my money to buy a new one. But now that I’ve said that, I’ve just jinxed myself, now I know I’m going to lose one….hahahaha

What’s your camera quiver look like? Are you often trying out new gear?
All that I’ve been using in the water this last year is a GoPro 5 Black. My theory is whatever you have in your hand is simply an extension of your passion and vision, so make it work. Obviously having a DSLR in a water housing with multiple ports for different lenses give you more options. But if all you got is a wide angel GoPro at 20 foot wedge, then go for it and get the best shot you can get. I also have Canon 5D Mark III, 100-400mm lens, 70-200mm 2.8 , 8-15mm Fisheye 1.4, 16-24mm, 85mm 1.2 , 24-70mm 2.8 and a few more.

Any good advice you’ve been given by a photographer you look up to?
Education first, gear second. Shoot for yourself, not everyone else. Find your niche, Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own. Have fun, and Practice, Practice, Practice!

What’s the plan for the future? 
My plan for the future is to keep shooting, keep learning, keep looking for new angels, get a water housing, and to remember that at the end of the day it’s not about being a great photographer. At the end of the day it’s all about being a good Dad, a loving Husband, a faithful friend and being a humble servant of my Lord Jesus Christ. If those things are on the top of the priority list, then everything else falls into place.