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04.03.2014

Over the last weekend a huge swell focused giant waves on California triggering a high surf advisory and I had my Sigma 50-500mm to document some of the action. By the end of the weekend the awe inspiring power of this swell took its toll with lots of snapped surfboard leashes, broken surfboards and injured surfers (one had to be taken away by ambulance), my friend Jim broke his foot on Sunday dropping into a huge wave!

At my local beach in south Los Angeles the waves break close to shore so my Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM works very very well to document the action in the water here. Prime lenses are much harder to shoot with at beach breaks especially when the surf is large.

Professional surfer Alex Gray on the face of a wave setting up for a barrel ride, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 460mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

Professional surfer Alex Gray on the face of a wave setting up for a barrel ride, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 460mm, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

Alex Gray is an LA local and one of the leading barrel and big wave riders in the world so it was really nice to see him charge the biggest waves over the weekend.

When shooting large surf its always important to select a shooting position to give you some elevation to shoot over the waves. This way you can avoid having your view blocked by waves in the foreground.

Professional surfer Derek Peters getting barreled, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

Professional surfer Derek Peters getting barreled, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

It was really great to see and shoot Orange County local Derek Peters surfing in LA county on Saturday. This is a single frame of a 30 image sequence of Derek’s tube ride. This guy is one to watch whenever he paddles out.

Surfers will travel vast distances to find the best conditions. In the LA/OC area of Southern California the Catalina eddy steers storms and weather in from the south causing winds to swirl and blow out or destroy the conditions in one spot but making the conditions ideal at others.

Derek Peters barrel image at 100% actual pixel crop.

Derek Peters barrel image at 100% actual pixel crop.

This 100% crop gives you a good idea of the image quality of the 50-500 at the longest focal length of 500mm. Check out the wrinkles in Derek’s forehead.

The lens used for all the images in the post has been used and abused over the last 3 or 4 years all over the world performing in all kinds of conditions from searing heat to extreme cold and through ice, snow and rain without ever letting me down.

Wave in black in white, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 380mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1100, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

Wave in black in white, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 380mm, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1100, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

Due to the storm track of his swell the waves were actually larger in Southern California than Central/Northern California, which is unusual.

Zoom lenses like the 50-500 are ideal for shooting beachbreaks here shooting at 380mm I was able to easily frame the wave exactly as needed.

Conor Beatty on a big bottom turn, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

Conor Beatty on a big bottom turn, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

It was awesome to see local southbay surfer Conor Beatty charging this weekend getting some of the very best rides on the biggest and best waves.

The Sigma 50-500mm AF system worked perfectly, even in a 35 shot sequence I made of Conor getting barreled. The conditions this weekend were less than ideal with low light and contrast due to all the mist and spray in the air but the AF kept up with everything I threw at it.

Professional Tim Reyes pulling into a tube, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 280, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

Professional Tim Reyes pulling into a tube, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 280, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

This is a single frame from a 20 shot sequence of Tim made with the Sigma 50-500. Tim Reyes has always been one of my favorite surfers so it was awesome to see him show up at my local surf break.

If you have any questions or comments be sure to share ‘em in the comments section below.

Robert O’Toole is a Sigma Pro and has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years. As an accomplished instructor, Robert leads photography workshop tours across the US and internationally. For more info visit Robert’s web site at robertotoolephotography.com

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  1. Looks like a good lens. I’m looking at upgrading my zooms at present, Might consider this one.

  2. I shot some surf pix last week here in Australia. I used a canon 70-200mm f2.8 L series lens with a 1.4 extender. The hardest part I find is keeping focus. I surf myself so I have a good understanding of when a rider is about to pull off a manuvere.. It really helps to be able to read the surf.. Watch those sets come through & be ready.