William Morris, of early middle age and from Bondi, has the hairless body of a tween, a bunny smile with long white buck teeth, and a skill set that makes him the go-to photographer for cover shoots. For, on the precipice of disaster he will scoop his photo from the flames (he’s also a fireman) and emerge triumphant. Twenty-five years as a published photographer will do that.
One month ago, William (and New Jersey-based photographer Ryan Miller) was chosen to catch Jordy Smith, mid-flight, with flames spitting from the tail of his surfboard. William chose to shoot with an 85mm prime lens, the 35mm equivalent of 110mm when attached to his Canon Mk IV. If these numbers don’t mean anything to you, let me explain: instead of shooting with the typical wide-angle lens from the water, as is the norm on such occasions, William decided to pull back a little, to paint the magazine reader a different picture, to provide an intimacy usually missing. Which is cute. But he nearly fucked himself.
William knows that we ain’t into throwaways so the cover was always going to be a stuck air. Half an hour into the dawn session on Sydney’s northern beaches, we had a dozen throwaways. This wave looked a little different, a buttery section, a determined surfer. This was the money shot.
As Jordy aimed for the section, William could feel the shoulder of the wave on top of him. He dived under one second before Jordy took flight. He came up, punched the shutter release button (10 frames a second) and hoped to hell that, a, the water on the port (the clear plastic of the waterhousing in front of the lens) had run off and that the auto-focus had held its nerve through the sequence.
It didn’t. And, as he dived underwater, his palm shifted the exposure compensation wheel overexposing the sequence by three stops. If this was eight years ago and he was shooting transparency film, it would’ve been all over (you can miss your exposures by three-quarters of a stop max). If this was four years ago and he was on his old Canon Mk II, the less sophisticated sensor wouldn’t have provided enough quality to resurrect the shots.
But, here, now, with the Mark IV, and with the skills of photo editor Peter Taras the in-focus photos (numbers four through six) were pulled back into relief, into the rich images you see here.
As for the gothic, slime-green face on the bottom, that was a piece drawn by Billy Bain, 18, from Avalon, and an excellent surfer in his own right. Also sponsored by O’Neill he spent five hours at Jordy’s Gold Coast rental during the Snapper event creating the painting with his Posca pens. The initials LJ stand for Jordy’s gal, Lyndall Jarvis, a baby doll from South Africa.
“Take me to the Moon,” was Jordy’s slogan for the shoot.