A surfer dives under a wave in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Sarah Lee)
Hawaii-based photographer Sarah Lee loves the “physical and creative ‘challenges’” of shooting in the ocean, where the weather conditions play a crucial role in her photography.
“High tide vs. low tide, high surf vs. flat, sunny vs. cloudy,” Lee explained over e-mail to Weather.com of the conditions she faces in any given day of shooting. “My favorite conditions are just after a rain storm – deep dark skies and stormy clouds still lingering on the horizon with sunrise or sunset light blasting into the water, no wind and maybe a rainbow or two. Those kinds of days are very special.”
Lee, who grew up on a coffee farm in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, explained that her passion for underwater and surf photography was born during her early years of competitive swimming and surfing as a teen.
“Having a competitive swimming background and spending hours on end in pools and in the ocean, I couldn’t help but want to capture what I was seeing underwater as humans interacted with the sea,” she said.
While shooting her subjects in the open water Lee is often times put in the hands of the ocean, but it is that aspect of shooting that excites her.
“I’m attracted to underwater photography in the ocean because of the lack of control I have in such a massive body of water and its constant state of change in the lighting, water clarity, currents, etc.,” she explained. “It’s somewhere where you have to be completely switched on and able to adapt to anything it throws at you.”
The ocean has thrown many obstacles at Lee, including swimming in a lineup with a shark, getting held under a double set of 20-foot waves, free diving with an endangered monk seal and many more. But, she remains unfazed – something she credits to her upbringing.
“My Hawai’i roots give me a light-hearted and carefree approach to photography – keeping things simple while magnifying the best in what surrounds me,” she said.