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Behind the Lens: Jason Davis

Kayaker nails a shot of Sean Morley going vertical on the Oregon Coast

The Shot:
Olympus TG-2 at 13.47mm (74mm in 35mm format)
1/640 sec. at f/4.2 – ISO 200

Canoekayak.com: Describe the events leading up to this shot. Did you anticipate this action moment or was it just a "lucky shot?"

Jason Davis: The photo of Sean Morley at Pacific City, Ore., was taken during the long boat surfing class on the first day of the Lumpy Waters Sea Kayak Symposium. I was pretty intimidated by the class, as I had never surfed a touring kayak in a point or shore break. Generally, I try to avoid those conditions as a guide and it was impossible to ignore the “historical precedent.” We had planned to paddle around the point to a break, but when we got there it looked too dicey, so we turned around to head back to the shore break in front of the Brewery. While paddling around the point, Sean picked out a sheltered cove that we could paddle into between sets, ride out a set and then paddle back outside. I went in with the first group and once back outside, watched as the second group rode out a bigger set. The cove’s entrance is actually right behind Sean in the photo. Sean had positioned himself at a point where he could watch the group inside the cove and the group waiting outside, at least when we weren’t hidden by the swell. I was watching the waves crash into the cave behind him and was trying to get a picture of him and the enormous spray in the background when I took the picture. I was sort of holding my camera above my head and watching the LCD to time the shot so I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on until I saw him completely airborne out of the corner of my eye. I hit the button and put the camera in my PFD to watch him ride out the clapotis. He caught air in a way I hadn’t thought possible in a 16-foot touring kayak. It wasn’t until a couple minutes later that I looked at the picture and started getting excited about it.

There has been some chatter from C&K’s social media followers that this image was photoshopped (something we would never ethically allow here at the mag, of course.) What do you have to say to these comments?

I found the “photoshopping” accusation pretty funny because I actually gave Zak (C&K’s online editor) the .jpg directly off my camera the night after taking the picture, and he only did minimal post-processing. On the other hand, I can see where somebody might look at the shot and assume it isn’t real. Sean almost looks like he’s being levitated off the water, and the shape of the wave itself is pretty weird. It just doesn’t look like most kayaking pictures and you can’t piece together what was happening by just looking at the image. I can say that it was hard to wrap my mind around what I saw in person and the picture definitely captures that for me.

Do you find it difficult to paddle and make photos at the same time? Is it a priority to make images when you go out to paddle?

It can definitely be hard to take photos while paddling. I was lucky that this was a spot where I could hang out in calm rolling swell and still be near the action. Sean actually explained how the spot was safe specifically due to the steep drop off that produced those conditions. In fact I didn’t really take any more pictures for the rest of the event and I wasn’t going to bring the camera along until somebody suggested it. I use a waterproof Olympus Tough TG-2 point and shoot so I can leave it in my PFD and not have to worry about it.

I work as a guide for Discovery Sea Kayaks on San Juan Island in the summer and when the conditions are good I’ll bring my camera along. The San Juans are a spectacular place to paddle and this camera lets me take pictures of guests without having to risk dropping something expensive when we pass cameras back and forth.

What’s next on the list of your paddling or photo adventures?

I just returned from a climbing trip in the Southwest but as far as paddling adventures go, I’m hoping to do some kind of kayak to ski mountaineering trip next spring if I can figure out the logistics to make it work.

Is there anywhere online viewers could see more of your images?

I don’t have a website for my photography, but there’s an interesting video of an Orca encounter I had while working last summer at www.discoveryseakayak.com. Otherwise, you can add me on Facebook. I post pictures for friends and family to enjoy there, and I am always looking for more people to paddle with!

Read more about Sean Morley and the day this shot was taken.

–Check out more amazing paddling photos from C&K.