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Searching for the perfect light with Bryanna Bradley

Have you ever wondered where are the girls in the surf industry?  

I sometimes find myself browsing through surf magazines, only seeing a few or almost none female contributors. If they had no talent, I could be alright with it, but the issue is that there are some gems out there. Being a surf photographer as a female is rare, scary and requires a lot of courage. The sea is a terrible beast that is ready to eat you alive, but going out and being brave while capturing the poetry the waves can make you feel is a magical thing. And when I talk about magic, I instantly think of Bryanna Bradley, and it is not because one of her favourite books is called Big Magic.

The fact that she started involving herself fully in surf photography last March leave me out of breath, but it is only one of the reasons she is so amazing to my eyes. She is an amazing human being, the kind of people that brings back the true mentality of the surf culture. Motivated and passionate, her photos showcase the beauty of Vancouver Island with an emphasis on women’s surfing, which was something missing in Canada. The Island count endless of talented female surfers and forgetting to capture their moments at sea was simply a terrible mistake, to which, Bryanna decided to remedy. 

Originally from Ottawa, Bryanna had a long love-hate relationship with photography and was uncertain of what she wanted to do with her life. She finally found her way to Vancouver Island to study in Victoria and this is how she discovered what she was looking for: inspiration. “The first time I went to Tofino, I was amazed because it is such a mecca for women’s surfing with a great community that is so supportive. But I quickly noticed that there was only male photographers shooting male surfers, that are yes, so talented, but so are the females. I thought, ‘we need a girl in the water’ and I suddenly decided that I will be the one,” explained Bryanna.

Tofino holds a special place in any Canadian’s heart that love cold water surfing & the adventures that comes with it. Finding her place could have been hard as she was an outsider from the East, but she quickly found herself at home while being well supported and accepted by all the male surf photographers. Lucky of not being somewhere else in the world, Bryanna never felt any pressure or intolerance towards what she was doing, which is something that could have happened in another location. It is impressive how a specific place can shape you and your future just by the way people support you.

You may ask yourself now, how does a girl that grew up in a landlocked city back East with snow out of her window found her way to eventually become a surf photographer? Well, it all started when she finished High School and immediately enrolled herself into a photojournalism course, in which she knew nothing about. “The first day, I didn’t even know the difference between a Canon and a Nikon Camera! It was so embarrassing, we had to write on a piece of paper what our camera were and I copied the girl next to me,” laughed Bryanna while remembering her first time learning about photography. She didn’t know much at the beginning, but she was talented enough to get herself a job at the Montreal Gazette.

A few years later, she realized that photojournalism wasn’t for her and decided to quit her job, pack her bags and leave on a three-year trip around the world. But, she wasn’t leaving clueless, she was leaving with a plan: to become a surf photographer. She knew nothing about it whatsoever, but she still had some background in surfing that was quite uncommon, but enough. “From a small age, I was obsessed with the idea of learning how to surf and the movie Blue Crush kind of ruined me! We had a cottage on the lake and I used to take foam to stand on it until boats would drive by so I could get some waves. So ridiculous!” explained Bryanna while trying to figure out where the foam came from. The feeling is easy to relate to for any outsiders that comes from a place far away from the ocean and the simple idea of seeing her stand up in the middle of the lake is hilarious, but oh, so sweet!

She then hopped on a plane direction Hawaii to learn how to be with the ocean. Knowing nothing about it, it was important to learn how it works as there are many elements that need to be taken in consideration. We can’t blame her though, who wouldn’t be as naïve as her in their early twenties? During three years, she was everywhere: Hawaii, Australia, Europe, Asia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal…

Until reality hits. “I was having a moment in Indonesia where people were dropping on me and I worked three months to get there, so I was getting so frustrated. That’s when I thought it was time to go home,” added Bryanna.  

Now 26 years old and finishing University in the next few months, Bryanna has only one intention: move to Tofino. Her experience on the Island is a different universe from what she was used to in Western Australia, but as she mentioned, “there’s something magical about surfing here.” She then slowly described the beauty of cold water surfing with the help of only a few words: “It’s definitely a different sport. The beauty of getting up in January, being in the parking lot when it’s freezing cold, slipping into your massive wetsuit. It’s the adventure that makes it the fun part.”

Obsessed with light, it’s easy to see the artistic approach she brings to her photography while trying to showcase the environment around her. Sunrise and sunset being her favourite, she will always give a chance to mid-afternoon session. Don’t be surprise if you hear someone in the lineup talk about the way light hits the water, it’s only Bryanna!

Working with Surf Sister during the summer, a surf school in Tofino, she usually go out with the same crew of girls to shoot and stay inspired. Of course, some exceptions are normal and her friend Ben is one of the few male she will shoot with pure joy. “He was the first one to give me a chance. When I told him about getting my water equipment, he’s the one that encouraged me to do so,” explained Bryanna. She promised herself one thing when she fully committed to surf photography and it was to shoot with her friends, so this is exactly what she does—getting the most out of it!

Bryanna is the living proof that no matter where you’re from or what your path in life is, if you’re passionate and committed enough, great things can happen. Humble and always with a smile on her face, except when she gets stuck in classes without waves for a few weeks in a row, Bryanna is the kind of person you instantly get stoked when you see. Her idea of surfing is so honest and beautiful, and this is exactly what she’s trying to make us feel through her photographs. “For so long, I shot something I didn’t love to the point that I almost walked away from photography completely. Now, I combined two of my passions and I am the happiest. I think it’s important to make sure you shoot something that matters to you.”  

We should probably thank her parent for convincing her, back in the days, to not sell her camera and give up on her first passion. Now, she’s showcasing the female side of surfing and became a photographer worth discovering. We don’t know what’s next for her except being here with us, moving to Tofino, or a few trips in and there, but what we know is that her motivation and her drive will make her accomplish amazing things.

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