Artist Profile: Photographer Nick Allen

by Mark Lukach

Photographer, husband, father, bodysurfer, and crafstman, Nick Allen is the West Coast’s answer to Clark Little. His website withinwaves.com is a haven of his fine art ocean photography, taken from within the collapsing waves. “I’m not trying to say a lot with my artwork. I’m just trying to let the images speak for themselves. I don’t have an agenda with the work, I’m just appreciating the ocean.”

November Tubeview

Nick grew up in the water in Avila Beach, California and spent almost all of his free bodysurfing and bodyboarding the hollow closeouts that are characteristic of the beach. “I’d duckdive through the wave on my bodyboard, and end up with these magical images of waves going over my head at sunset. I would end up with those images stuck in my head for a while, but they would always fade. I think that’s a big part of what drove me to want to take pictures in the water in the first place…to capture those images for longer than just a fleeting moment.” Nick shoots waves, mostly empty waves. He doesn’t seek out surfers to shoot, nor does he consider himself a surf photographer. “I feel like the waves stand on their own. People mess up waves. I want to let the wave be its own thing.”

Central Mexico Sunrise

The one type of wave riding that Nick will shoot is bodysurfing. He is an avid bodysurfer–“I’d say about 80% of my sessions are bodysurfing these days”–and he makes his own handplanes. I got the chance to bodysurf with Nick, and to watch him in action as he stood on the inside and took wave after wave directly on the head.

Bodysurf Session, Early December

Nick started by shooting on film, but that medium limited his sessions to only a few dozen shots. Now, with digital available, he can spend several hours shooting without having to get out of the water. But he will sometimes choose “lo-fi options, like taking a camera in a plastic ziplock bag,” and the end result can be quite majestic.

Apparition

To see more of Nick’s work, or to order a print, visit withinwaves.com, and enjoy getting lost for a few hours.

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