I was 12 when I stepped into an air conditioned theater in Imperial Beach, California with my Dad.
I had no idea I would be forever transformed.
The things I wanted out of life were shaped that day -- the places I wanted to go, the people I wanted to meet, the things I wanted to do.
It all revolved around one thing really. Surfing.
Someone showed me how it could look, what it would feel like and the adventures that were possible.
Watch this short video about how my life was influenced by this legend, Bruce Brown and my full circle moment in his last film.
There have been many obstacles for me in my life, but one thing never changed -- I never stopped dreaming. I never stopped trying.
I have Bruce Brown (and my Dad!) to thank for that.
~ Aaron Chang
Remember when you signed up for my email list, I told you you'd be the first to know about new things going on in my world?
Well I wanted to let you know (first!) that I'm working with a production team on a new travel documentary series called Capture.
I'm really excited about it and wanted your opinion on some ideas...
This is going to be a TV series about exotic trips around the world in search of the perfect shot. I want to show you the world through my lens. Not only the beauty of the place, but the culture and hardships of the people as well.
For example, a couple of years ago I went to Cambodia with World Vision to help bring awareness to human trafficking.
Amidst the difficulty of the subject, I found profound beauty in the people that were helping on the streets and the mysteries of the ancient ruins of Angkor Watt. Yes, I photographed the place, but I want to do more than that! I want to take you with me there to meet these people, see the temple that was lost in the jungle for centuries and talk with the unsung heroes that dedicate their lives to helping others.
One of the episode ideas is to pick up where I left off on a surf trip to Africa on the Skeleton coast of Namibia. Elephants and lions walk on the beach there! Many years ago, I drove with a group of surfers all the way out to this desolated part of the world, only to realize that we didn't have the resources (like fuel, food and water!) to stay and surf.
I've been haunted by that experience since...
So I want to ask you -- what places in the world would you like to see? Where can we combine beauty, adventure and help bring awareness to the way people live around the world?
I don't know if this TV show is going to happen or not, but I would love to hear your ideas and what interests you. Please comment below.
I promise to keep you posted every step of the way.
Last month my friend, Scott Hancock (from www.thecrstudio.com) invited me to go to Haiti and the Domincan Republic with him on a trip to help rebrand one of the firm's clients, Sundance Organics. The mission was to document the efforts of Sundance's philanthropic division, Plant With Purpose, whose objective is to help people in developing countries restore productivity to their land and reverse deforestation. (www.plantwithpurpose.org)
This image was shot in an orange orchard in the Dominican Republic high up in the lush part of the mountains.
Did you know that a tree can change a life? For rural families around the world, trees mean: Food, income, health, clean water, education and HOPE.
I love the raw potential of hope in this image. My kids said it reminded them of the little tree sprout in the movie, Wall E.
I call this shot Red Bucket. This is a woman in a stream bed in Haiti collecting water. Haiti is still so poor that they don't have clean, accessible water.
This sunrise is in the Dominican Republic. One thing that surprised me is that the mountains are over 5,000 feet high. I didn't expect to encounter this in the Caribbean.
This is one of my favorite shots of a girl on a scooter. It was shot in a courtyard in a little town in the Domincan Republic.
A local store in Dominican.
I like this picture for the color and movement. They joy of children in the most dire circumstances is something that never ceases to amaze me.
I love the dignity and pride on this boy's face! Also, the fact that he has a donkey made me happy for him.
This woman is a Haitian farmer that lives up in the mountains. She had a great spirit about her.
A lot of Haiti is very bleak. Way up in the mountains, where they've denuded the forest for firewood, I found this exotic flower blooming outside of someone's shack. The people in the village were laughing at me because I zoned in on their flower, but I thought it was really beautiful.
This scenic shot of the Haitian terrain shows you how the forest has been completely razed. There is nothing to constrain the water when it rains. There used to be a village on the side of the stream bed here in the middle of this photo, but in 2005 it rained hard enough to create a massive flood that wiped out 1000 people. Part of what Plant With Purpose does is to teach the farmers who live in the top part of the mountains to build retaining walls and plant trees to try to prevent these devastating floods.
This is a beautiful Haitian boy photographed on a farm.
I photographed this girl in the mountains in Haiti.
This boy was photographed right by the stream bed in the photo above.
This is a little mountain church in the hills of Haiti. We were quite a novelty. I don't think the kids have ever seen a photo-journalism tour before.
This is one of my favorite pictures of a little girl playing.
There are so many people in need in this world. I have witnessed crushing poverty and human suffering in many places. I think that as American's it's hard to know where to give and when to help. Having witnessed firsthand the effect that Plant With Purpose is having to alleviate suffering and give hope to families, I can wholeheartedly endorse them as a charity. They are good people who are making a difference in this world.
Also, as consumers, we have power to endorse companies whenever we buy their products. Our family will be supporting Sundance Organics whenever we see them in the stores. Their Buy 1/ Grow 1 program has a very tangible outcome that will help many needy people in developing countries.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me!
The first completed aerial to appear on the cover of Surfing Magazine was this photo of Martin Potter shot at Seaside Reef in 1984. I remember getting the call from the magazine that they wanted a cover of Pottz while we were both in California. I was very excited when I saw this photo because I had never seen anything like this before. Pottz went on to achieve legend status by revolutionizing surfing with a ground breaking style of both power and finesse in everything from 2 foot to 20 feet surf. One of my all time favorite surfers to hang with and photograph.
Martin with his very first shave ice. Photographed on his first trip to the northshore.
Huge Backdoor pit. This day was basically too big to surf. Every now and then one would come through that was rideable. I convinced Martin that if he could catch a wave I would get the shot. So we gave it a try. We both got creamed that day, but he did catch a wave and I did get the shot.
Rocky Point cutback. What is remarkable about this carve is the fact that Pottz is riding a twin fin and still, somehow, getting a thruster like drive out of his board. Very few surfers at the time could do this.
On Martin's first trip to Hawaii the big question on everyone's mind was, yeah but can he ride big waves. This wave caught during the Pipe Masters answered the question. I was very stoked for him this day.
This is one of my favorite award photos. Shot at the O'Neill Cold Water Classic with Jack O'Neill in the photo, it looks like I had planned the lighting in advance with a remote strobe. The truth is that I just got very lucky by managing to capture someone else's strobe being fired at the exact same instant as my shutter was open. 1/500th of a second lucky.
Taking the top off of Jeffery's Bay. This is one of the very best waves in the world and all I can say is that if you've never surfed Jeffery's do so. It's worth the effort.
In the 80's professional surfing was growing and events were popping up in unusual places. One summer we found ourselves in Atlantic City, New Jersey. We all wondered, "How did I get here?"
Potter's aerials were show stoppers. This one was popped during a free surf in Sydney, Australia, which was to become Martin's new home. South Africans were leaving their homeland in droves rather than live under Apartheid. On my first trip to J-Bay I wasn't allowed a room in the hotel because I wasn't considered to be white. I remember bombs going off in Durban, where Martin is from, on my second trip to South Africa.
Another encounter with the now world champ at Backdoor. This time on a more manageable day.
Pottz and I had quite a few great years traveling together. I have to say these were very good times. Although I haven't seen Martin in quite a few years I still consider him a good friend. I am still a fan of the boy from Durban that rocked the sport. I see his influence every day I surf and think about him whenever I see a surfer boost, which these days is very often!
This past week I spent with my family in Whistler, B.C. for the World's Ski & Snowboard Festival. This one week annual event has ski and snowboarding contests, live music, art shows, film festivals and a Pro-Photographer showdown. It's an awesome event with the perk of getting to ride Whistler/Blackcomb all week!
Last night, I was one of the judges in the Pro-Photographer Showdown. This contest brings together 5 of the best international action sports photographers to present their best work in 12 minute shows. The winner takes home $10,000.
This was the best show in the 16 year history of this event! All 5 shows were at a caliber I have never seen before. I want to congratulate ALL of the contestants this year: Oskar Enander, Bryan Ralph, Chris Burkard, Darcy Bacha and Andy Wright. Your work was excellent. You should all be proud!
Here are a few (funky) clips of the show and an interview with the winner. (My wife shot this while I was judging, so go easy on her!)
I hope you enjoy their work:
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