Glow: Nighttime wave pool photos get a makeover

Photographer Mathew Tildesley captured our attention with his ‘Nocturnal’ photo series. The Tasmanian lensman (yes Shipstern’s is a regular haunt) is in the habit of sending a strobe light out the back to capture the ghostly serendipity of ocean waves. He spends a lot of time at the bombies floating around shooting surf. Along with this being one of the most efficient ways to enter the aquatic food chain, the rewards outweigh the dangers (at least for a starving photographer). Tildesley earned a White Horses Magazine cover and an invitation to shoot the Future Waves event at Urbnsurf wave pool.

wave pool nightimve surf photography

First, tell us briefly about yourself and your photography background

I’m based on the east coast of Tassie and have been shooting for about 14 years now. In that time I’ve gone from trying to shoot everything. Getting over it, and coming back to it with a fresh mindset to refine what I enjoy shooting and that’s evolved into this remote strobe project I’ve been playing around with since 2017. This year I’ve only had a handful of sessions shooting photos one session produced the photos you’re featuring.

Which photographers do you most admire and why?

I find it hard to name a select few but I admire the hard work that goes into long-term projects.

wave pool nightimve surf photography

What do you hope to achieve with your art – social, political commentary?

I’ve mainly been trying to achieve personal goals with this strobe project. I’ve achieved some visions I had in the beginning and I’ve got plenty more whacky ideas that I’m yet to execute. Hopefully, that’ll all happen in time!

You are out in the ocean at night a lot. Any, uh, encounters with wildlife or hidden bits of reef?

Luckily we haven’t had any encounters with wildlife in the dark yet, I’ve spent a lot of time at these bombies floating around shooting surf and diving/spearfishing out there. It’s not that scary once you know what’s down there. Yeah, there’s plenty of shallow bit of reef to keep an eye out for, but It’s what I’ve grown up around so I feel comfortable out there.

Those whales we saw on your website are huge mate.

Haha yeah, the whales are in Tonga, it’s such an amazing experience! I’ve been twice and would recommend it to anyone. They’re the size of a metro bus and weigh about 30 tonnes yet they’re so gentle and have such amazing spatial awareness. In one encounter we had two males swim right up to us and circle around checking us out, one of them lifted its pectoral fin over me and then tucked its tail in so it didn’t hit me. They seemed just as excited about checking out humans as we were watching them.

Tell us about your wave pool photos, how you did that and what brought that on.

I was lucky enough to score an invite by Mitch @foundboardsofficial to shoot at Urbnsurf for their first Future Waves event. I’ve been wanting to use my strobe at a wave pool for a while as the idea of having constant perfect waves seemed ideal for perfecting my strobe photography. Initially, it was super tricky swimming in the pool as the whole lineup turned into a massive whirlpool. @brendennewton pretty much taught me how to stay in the channel thereby standing against the current like the rugby player he is. For the strobe shoot, I decided to put a purple filter on the lens of my strobe housing in an effort to create purple tubes. And it worked! Massive thanks to @geoffswan & @brendennewton who helped me out by swimming the strobe light behind the lip.

Where can people find more of your work?

My Instagram account and I’ve got some nice galleries over at my webpage – best viewed on a larger screen to appreciate the finer details.

Mathew Tildesley