Return To Blog 19 August 2014

A taste of Surf Adventure in Samoa

Photographer Derek Morrison is in Samoa this week shooting a story for Box of Light and a handful of his editorial clients. He will be focusing his lenses on the surf and surfers of Upolu’s southern coastline – an area renowned for its quality reef breaks.

While in Samoa he will explore Samoa’s coastline with some diving, snorkelling and fishing excursions around the islands. This is Derek’s first time in Samoa – a marked change in climate from the winter in Dunedin where he is based.

Derek will be using his Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L and EF 300mm f/2.8L lenses to shoot the surf from boats and he has three ports for his Aquatech water housing enabling him to shoot with the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L, EF 50mm f/1.4 and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L if required. When swimming in the surf Derek uses short fins so he can make quick changes in direction as he tries to position himself inside a barrelling wave with a surfer. You can follow Derek’s work by signing up to his weekly photoblog at:

Day One: Samoa - Packing Light


I nearly always buy excess baggage when travelling – I hate to leave vital bits of equipment behind. But for travel to Samoa, it’s almost impossible to even buy excess. So I had to make a tough decision: EF 400mm f/2.8L vs EF 300mm f/2.8L. In the end my favourite lens had to stay behind. The 300 had a few more pros to it for this trip:

1) The 300 can be handheld quite easily
2) I can shoot from a boat with the 300
3) It’s significantly smaller and lighter (3.5kg)

Now there’s nothing surer that I will wish I had the 400 with me at some point. What you see here is a fair bit more than my 23kg allowance, so fingers crossed I can sweet talk it onto the plane with me.

My next post will be from the hammock at Salani Surf Resort … see you out there. Derek

Day Two

We've arrived in Samoa and had a whirlwind start with a large swell testing the surfers at Salani Rights. Every one of them had a tussle with the coral reef at some stage and one board was broken. We've quickly become accustomed to the local way of life ... and managed a leisurely stroll down a secluded palm tree-fringed beach to find some more South Pacific reef break. Here's the lads on their way to a surf at Boulders, shot on the Canon 5D MkIII with the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L. Amazing pace of life here ... could get used to this.

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 The surf in Samoa is renowned for its unforgiving power and Ben Lacy, of Raglan, New Zealand, certainly experienced that on his share of waves at the infamous Salani Right on the southern coast of Upolu. Here he positions himself for a barrel in the warping righthand reefbreak. Captured with the Canon Eos 5D MkIII and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L from a boat anchored near the reef. 

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Day Three

A lot of the surf breaks along the southern coastline of Upolu, Samoa, can be shot from a boat, but others, like this remote lefthand reef break that Brett Wood is riding, require a good set of lungs and healthy dose of bravery. I probably could have done with a bit more of both. I tried to slip beneath one set wave, but the reef drained and I couldn't find a trench to hide in. The wave hit me full force and slammed me into the reef – I had my Canon EOS 5D MkIII with a Canon EF14mm f/2.8L in an Aquatech housing and I had zero control over my arms as the force sent them flailing. It was only luck that I didn't stove the housing directly into the reef. I emerged bruised and battered and a little shy of the inside section after that.

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 This shot shows Raglan surfer Ben Lacy setting up to get tubed at Salani Rights – one of the most well-known waves on the Southern Coast of Upolu, Samoa, and directly out in front of Salani village where I am staying. I like this shot because it captures the power of this place – that's a serious wave and just a few feet beneath the surface there is a razor-sharp reef. For shooting this reef break we tie our boat up to a mooring right near the edge of the reef. This was shot using a Canon EOS 5D MkIII and a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L lens with a 1.4x converter to get in nice and close to the action.

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We have a lot of good moments on a trip like this – we get to meet many colourful characters, but we also get to spend time completely isolated at times in a wildly beautiful ocean. This is one of those moments as Raglan surfer and businessman Brett Wood paddles back to the boat just as the sun begins to dip into the ocean. Made with a Canon EOS 5D MkIII with a Canon EF14mm f/2.8L in an Aquatech housing fitted with an 8-inch dome port. 

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Day Four

The children in Salani village, such as Marina and Taiti here, are always very happy to see visitors. They'll run out full of energy to greet us and babble away to us as they show us around the village. We encountered the primary school children one morning collecting rubbish around the village. "We like to teach them about the importance of caring for the environment," their teacher told me. They certainly take enormous pride in the appearance of their villages – working together to keep them trimmed and tidy. This image was shot on a Canon EOS 5D MkIII with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens.

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As I approached this fale in Salani Village I could see the family relaxing from the heat of the day. The young boy with the soft toy was calling out to me so I approached the family. This was a bit confronting for the young boy who looked petrified by my presence and possibly the big white Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens. This image was shot on a Canon EOS 5D MkIII using available light. Families get to spend a lot of time together every day ...  the family unit is the foundation of the community here.

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Pusa Fiu is a proud local villager at Salani Village – with a large extended family. He helped to build a volleyball court in the village and earlier on this day Salani Village had emerged victorious in a tournament against the neighbouring Satalo Village. Pusa is very proud of his pigs – an important food for celebrations (fiafia) and Sunday feasts in the village. He is also quite attached to them as you can see here in this shot made with a Canon EOS 5D MkIII with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens as he scratches one of his prize pigs behind the ear.

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