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Behind the Lens—Shayne Stadnick

Born and raised in the Kootenays, British Columbia, Shayne Stadnick haven’t grown up with surfing around him, surprisingly. Summers at home were usually spent skateboarding, fishing, hiking and swimming in lakes while winters were welcomed with a simple joy and excitement to go snowboarding. Working as a snowboard instructor at the time, it was easy to think that riding waves wouldn’t be a problem. Learning how to surf in Asia and Australia, Shayne quickly saw that surfing was a completely different sport that required its own technical knowledges. It’s only when he first started surfing in Canada that he understood how amazing it was to surf here, and how hard it actually was.

Focusing his work on ocean waves instead of capturing surfers or the wilderness of British Columbia, Shayne’s work is showcasing the beauty of the west coast of Vancouver Island in a manner we aren’t used to see. Every photo is created by Shayne’s patience and commitment to the sea. Falling in love with the ocean in Canada means that you need to be ready to go on long adventures in the forests and under the rain to capture the perfect shot, but when we look at Shayne’s photos, we can say that these wet missions are definitely worth it.

To learn more about this Victoria’s based photographer, we’ve decided to ask Shayne a few questions about his photography, the cold season in Canada and his future projects. To us, Shayne isn’t just a guy from the Kootenays anymore—he’s a part of the sea, just like us.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?

After a few years of travelling, working away to save for the next adventure, I started getting some pressure to head back to school. I always thought of myself as a creative so I was torn between a photography and writing program, or a graphic design program over something like a business or engineering degree. I knew I wanted to relocate to a place where I could skateboard for more than 7 months a year so I head west and ended up on Vancouver Island.

Your work mostly showcase moment at sea as well as waves. What is it about the ocean that makes is so visually appealing to a photographer? Why not focusing yourself on surfing or the outdoor instead?

The honest answer to why I focus mostly on seascapes and empty waves is that it kind of happened by chance. In college, I remember skipping every class that I could, driving over an hour to the beach, getting a few waves in and making it back, still salty, just in time for the afternoon class. That is what actually got me into oceanscape photography. I was falling so behind in my classes with projects due that trying to set up shoots and complete assignments wasn’t possible. I had to combine my love of surfing along with my love of photography. Instead of using off camera lighting and trying to get creative with skateboard shoots, I learned to chase the natural light and uncontrollable subject matter such as waves to make it through the year. I made it, surfed a lot too.

It’s always a struggle when I go to the beach. Every single time I think, “surf or shoot?” I have learned to time it so I can surf at ideal times and tides, and shoot during the best light, or at least that is what I try to do. Most of the time shooting at mid day in the sun doesn’t work, so that’s a good time to surf, but what if it’s windy and cleans up around sunset and the waves are better? I like to surf first thing in the morning, but that’s also the best lighting so here comes another decision. It’s always hard to juggle but in the end, I guess it’s a win-win, although, it is only a surfer that knows the feeling of missing good waves.

Even if the West Coast of Canada is way warmer than the East, the cold is still well present. What’s the most challenging aspect of shooting in Vancouver Islands during the cold season?

The cold here is definitely a challenge, but what is more challenging for me is the distance. The driving, the short daylight hours, the unpredictable forecasts and the rain, everything that comes with the winter swells. It’s a blessing and a curse to live in a part of the world where it is as gorgeous as it is rugged and unforgiving. It can be hard to find the beauty in the cold, dark, wet west coast, but those moments exist just as in any postcard palm tree destination. Maybe not as often, or for all the daylight hours; but when the clouds break and the rain stops, the fog lifts and your surroundings become clear, it is unlike any place I’ve ever been. I want to be there taking in that moment, and be able to share what I see with others. I don’t enjoy when my fingers are so cold they ache and I can’t operate my camera or get out of my wetsuit, or when you are so ready for the hot thermos of coffee on the beach but your memory card is not full or your battery’s dead. It’s such a mission to get there, out in the water, and you don’t want to miss the moment that makes it all worthwhile. 

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned along the years about photography?

One word hands down no question: Patience. It’s something most of us could use more of in our day to day lives as well, but in the water or on the beach, waiting for a wave or for the shot, patience is the most important. Second I would say positioning, and third having your camera set to the right settings.

Where would you like to be in 5 years? 

Regardless of what happens, 5 years from now I will be as excited to be on the beach or in the water as I am now, and as I was 5 years before now. I hope photography is my career and I hope to continue gaining experience and knowledge along the way. Knowledge which helps me be prepared for the unexpected things that come my way, knowing there are moments of beauty in all situations. I will always take notice of the light and beauty whether it’s catching a perfect (or imperfect) wave on my surfboard or with my camera, and I will always push to make it possible to do this for the rest of my life.

Why have you decided to become involved with Nouvelle Vague?

I can’t help but thank everyone who has ever helped me along the way, big or small. I think I came across a post from Nouvelle Vague one day on Instagram, followed them and a while later they shared one of my photos, then another, then accepted a couple submitted photos for print. It keeps me so stoked when someone makes a comment or tells me how much they like an image I’ve created. It keeps me motivated to keep doing so. I love to see other Canadian creative’s move forward and any help and exposure are always appreciated. There is some real beauty here on the West Coast and I hope to keep sharing with whoever cares to look. So here to issue 001 of Nouvelle Vague—let’s keep those issues coming!

Website / Instagram

This interview is part of our series “The Digital Return” – a series of articles that present each contributor of our soon to be released digital magazine. 

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