The sea is a captivating subject for artists with its inconceivable size and raw power. Tal Lemmens is an artist who thrives on this; he is the Ocean Grove-based surfer and bodyboarder who captures the arresting beauty of the open waters through his hypnotic ocean wave photography.
Growing up in Warrnambool, Tal was inspired to pursue photography after stumbling across old film photos of his father’s surf trips. “Dad would show me photos of all his trips and while you’ve got these photos that are 10-20 years old, they still really tell a story,” Tal explains. “He would often go to South Australia, and within those photos, you could see it would look so dry, dusty and baron, and I really liked the way it could capture the story and the emotion.”
Finding himself up close and personal with the sea and its power, the last few years have seen Tal hone in on photographing the ocean, taking breathtakingly beautiful photos from within powerful waves.
“I always loved taking photos of the ocean; particularly showing people what we’re out there doing, some of the things that you deal with and the adversities that are a part of that.
“I started off taking photos of surfers and bodyboarders, but now I like taking more artistic shots,” he explains. “I like really dark, moody tones, and scenes that portrays a bit of emotion. There’s a lot of different elements, but for me, I strive for something that has a story behind it. I want to create an image that stirs up some emotion in people,” he continues, “either making them go ‘wow, that’s beautiful’, or ‘wow that looks cold’.”
Despite teaching himself the ins and outs of photography, Tal has well and truly established himself as an avid Ocean artist. His passion and skill can be seen through a variety of shots on Instagram (@tallemmens) and via his website, with his most compelling compositions revealing up-close views of the water and the waves with white-capped crests, swirling colours, translucent tubes and crashing tides frozen in time.
“I shoot a mixture of styles, both land and in water,” Tal explains. “I generally prefer shooting from the water because that’s the perspective that most haven’t seen, and there’s only a small niche of people doing that.”
Heading out into the water with only a pair of flippers and a very strong waterproof housing for his camera, Tal will spend hours floating in the salty sea chasing that perfect shot while getting pounded by bone crushing waves, over and over and over again. The waves he shoots can be dangerous, but his love of the water keeps him coming back for more.
“I think a big part of it is I’m lucky that I have surfed and bodyboarded so I can understand the ocean a bit; you learn to read it and interpret what the wave might do,” he reveals. “In terms of photography, you want to capture that moment that people don’t see, so you’re looking at all these different elements of the ocean, like whether the waves are going to collide. There’s a whole thought process behind it.
“Lately the drive for me of getting a photo that’s real sick really pushes me to get through [any dangers]. You do what it takes,” he continues. “It’s that thing in the back of your mind, ‘yes this could be an amazing photo’.”
Looking to photography as an escape from his daily stressors, the 26-year-old has isolated his skill to being a hobby, which is perhaps why his work remains so unique and so different, driven by the sole motive of creating a beautiful image of an incredible moment in the ocean.
“I like to think of it [photography] as my interpretation of the ocean,” he explains, “that’s why I haven’t pursued it as a full-time gig; if I’m pressured to get the shots and chase certain swells then it could probably kill the love of it for me. I like just picking up when I want to and doing it for myself. Sometimes that will mean I don’t take photos for four or five months too, and that’s okay.
“When I think about photography, it’s my kind of meditation,” he continues. “If you think about when you’re taking a photo, you just have your camera in front of you; you’re literally just looking in the present moment, you’re not thinking about your bills, dinner, any other hassles. You’re literally just frothing out on the waves and just hoping the shot comes out.
“It’s a real detachment from any stress. That’s why so many people find that connection to the ocean.”
It’s this connection between Tal and the ocean that has resulted in an array of breathtaking wave imagery, capturing those unique moments where the water loses gravity and delivers its raw power.
Check out Tal’s collection online at www.tallemmensphoto.com, via Instagram or check them out in various cafes around Torquay and Ocean Grove.
Written by Talia Rinaldo