Russell Ord's career as an internationally acclaimed photographer started with a mate's film camera and a love of surfing

Searching for swell: Photographer Russell Ord loves the journey that goes into finding new areas to shoot. Photo: Catherine Ord.
Searching for swell: Photographer Russell Ord loves the journey that goes into finding new areas to shoot. Photo: Catherine Ord.

Russell Ord is a familiar name in the surfing community, and can be found in the credit line of photographs of big name surfers and monster waves.

The Margaret River local's photography career has taken him around the world, with his photos frequently on the pages of magazines and movie covers.

A life-long surfer, Mr Ord said his interest in water photography first began when he was injured and couldn't surf himself.

"Instead of sitting on the couch for three months doing nothing, I just picked up a mate's camera and started taking photos of local board riders and mates," he said.

"I didn't really enjoy it that much, I preferred to surf to be honest. It wasn't until I thought I'd try shooting in the water that I fell in love with the photography.

"There's no real competition. You're just out there, shooting your friends."

Some of those friends began to establish themselves as surfers and board riders, with Mr Ord earning a name in photography alongside them.

Russell Ord said he fell in love with water photography after an injury meant he had to take a break from surfing. Photo: Russel Ord.

Russell Ord said he fell in love with water photography after an injury meant he had to take a break from surfing. Photo: Russel Ord.

His love of water photography has taken Mr Ord to dangerous places, as he put himself on the line to take shots of huge waves that he knew would pull him under for a long time.

One of those waves was the Right, a massive wave in the Indian Ocean that Mr Ord shot for his documentary, 'One Shot'.

"A couple years went into trying to do that shot, doing breath holds and all sorts of stuff," he said.

"Big waves like that, you're getting really long hold-downs. You just try to prepare for worst case scenarios, working on your fitness, having helmets, having someone on another jet ski watching you for if things go wrong."

'One Shot' won multiple awards, and followed a string of accolades he received over the years, including IPA International Sports Photographer of the Year in 2016.

"I don't enter into too many awards, because it's so subjective. People don't really know what goes into capturing that type of stuff, especially when you're swimming," he said.

Russel Ord put his own body on the line to take a career-defining shot of the Right in the Indian Ocean. Picture: Trent Slatter.

Russel Ord put his own body on the line to take a career-defining shot of the Right in the Indian Ocean. Picture: Trent Slatter.

"I don't really chase those things, I just kind of chase the adventure. Just exploring and being with good friends, and taking a few photos on the journey."

Mr Ord said that as water photography became more popular, his focus had switched away from already-known good swell locations.

He said while many starting photographers fell into the pattern of chasing tried and tested spots, he preferred the journey of finding new places.

His favourite area to explore? Right here in WA.

"Just searching the coastline along here is great, when I'm trying to find empty waves," he said.

"There's just such a vast open ocean. There's plenty of reefs, there are hard to get to places. You get to spend a lot of time on the jet ski or four wheel driving and stuff like that.

"We're just so blessed with swell here. It's world class."

Russell Ord said a love of surfing spun into a career of surf and wave photography. Picture: Russell Ord.

Russell Ord said a love of surfing spun into a career of surf and wave photography. Picture: Russell Ord.

With the rise of social media over the last decade, and brands turning to marketing that wasn't limited to magazines, Mr Ord said the market was tough as a surf photographer.

His advice for up and coming surf photographers? Be good at it all.

"You've got to be a really good allrounder, being able to tell a story and bring in writing as a skill to sell packages. Shoot lifestyle, landscapes, portraits, in and out of the water."

These days, Mr Ord spends more of his time surfing, and has recently joined with a start up foundation to share photography skills with the next generation.

The foundation work includes bringing equipment and lessons in photography to at-risk kids in schools.

"We start off with the camera in auto mode. Some kids really get into it and want to try manual. There's no real right or wrong, it's just a creative outlet and lets them showcase how they're feeling. They absolutely love it," he said.

"You meet good kids," he said.

Russell Ord's career in surf and wave photography has taken him to dangerous places, and won him a string of awards along the way. Picture: Catherine Ord.

Russell Ord's career in surf and wave photography has taken him to dangerous places, and won him a string of awards along the way. Picture: Catherine Ord.