Interview: Bella Bunce - Surf photographer
We first met Bella last September when we asked her to come and shoot for us one morning when we had gathered some members of the Singlefin Sistahood together - (You will see lots of her images floating around our website!)
Bella lives in Cornwall, working as a full time surf photographer, working with brands and companies who are inspired by the ocean and nature, which allows her spend countless hours in the water with her camera, or shooting on land with stunning Cornish backdrops.
Being a surfer herself, she has a great eye for in water photography, she knows just where to be at the right time, which allows her to get great shots - plus, she is super fun to be in the water with, taking any nerves or pressure off you, whilst you are shooting together.
I got the chance to ask Bella a few questions about the industry:
How did you get into surf photography?
My love for photography started when I was a kid, always asking my mum for disposable cameras to take photos of my surroundings. Which most of the time was something rubbish, like me jumping on a trampoline with my siblings using up a whole roll and my mum paying for 30 mostly blank or abstract photos.
I then got a compact digital camera as a young teen and started photographing everything. None of the photos were any good, but I've always had a bad memory so taking photos helps me store memories, like a digital archive.
This then sparked a fire in me for being a creative person. I was quite a complex kid, and struggled with academic subjects, so art helped keep me grounded and view the world in a different way.
Are there any other UK female surf photographers who inspire you?
Megan Gayda (Technically lives in Ireland) and Meg Hemsworth
Bella shooting for Alder / photo Tom Baldwin
What is the best part of being a surf photographer?
Mostly being paid to bob around in the sea for more time. If I could live in the sea I would. And then getting to capture the beauty of what the ocean does, and make that into a physical thing, brings me so much joy. Whether that be getting a photo of the special way light dances on water or how the movement of the sea creates wonderful formation we call a wave or getting to capture someone gliding on their surfboard and giving that person a memory to keep forever.
Being a surfer and a photographer, do you find it hard shooting when the waves are good and you just really want to surf?
'To surf or to shoot?' is my biggest question in life. It's the thing I find hardest about being a surf photographer. I am cursed with being a very indecisive person, and so having a hobby that's also my job, makes that so much harder. A lot of the time I end up being greedy and surfing, then I suffer the consequences by shooting a session that is less dreamy than the one I just surfed!
Fellow photographer Laurie Mccall on the other side of the lens / photo Bella Rose Bounce
Describe your perfect conditions to shoot in:
Either 2-3 foot summer log waves, where I'm able to shoot in a shortie suit and bask in the sun and waves, snapping away for hours, or barrelling waves at a reef break, where I can sit in the channel and the surfers come to me like they're on a conveyer belt.
What do you want to capture on camera the most, but haven't just quite yet?
My dream is to get a photo of a girl shredding at a big barrelling break, and to get a shot of her fully in the tube. One day I'll paddle out at pipe (when I have the money or am reborn into a parallel universe)
You are sponsored by and shoot for Alder, how long have you been working together for?
Technically it’s not an official sponsorship, but I started working for them (October 2021) as a photographer first and they casually said I’m ‘Part of the team riders' now, so get gifted suits. It’s super chilled and the best job I've had so far.
Bella making her way to the nose / photo Aline Arnold
Being submerged for hours, you must get cold! How do you survive the winter months when shooting?
I barely survive. I'm running away to Sri Lanka for a month, just to give my bones and muscle a warm up. My winter months are filled with itchy chilblains, bad ears and I've got arthritis already. My gear isn't very good for shooting in, so it's a real testament to how much I love it. I get in the water and I'm cold the whole time, but as soon as the session switches on and the wave are good, I forget about it and climatize. The biggest tip I can give someone is go out with people who's energy will warm you up in the line-up, (or someone who will let you have a go on their surfboard to paddle around and warm up!) Any scary moments in the water whilst with your camera?
Not so much scary as funny and a bit of an 'uh oh' moment. I was shooting Mike Lay for Finisterre, first time properly meeting him, and I got in the way of his hang 5... So his board came charging towards my camera and 'boop' hit my housing. Thankfully for me, my camera won in that game of chicken, but now I know Mikes out to get me!
Izzy Henshall making it look easy / photo Bella Rose Bounce
Any other hobbies? Stamp collecting, world of warcraft?
Can dogs be a hobby? I'm literally obsessed! If I wasn't a surfer, I think I'd definitely be running a dog shelter, in somewhere like Thailand or be a professional dog walker by now. I think that will probably be my back up plan for when I hang up my wetsuit.
What camera and housing are you using at the moment?
A second hand Canon 5D Mark 4, with a second hand 50mm lens and a second hand Elite Aquatech housing.
Somewhere in Cornwall / photo Bella Rose Bounce
What's your favourite spot / wave to shoot here in Cornwall?
Porthleven all the way. Just need to shoot there more.
What would you say are the biggest challenges of being a surf photographer?
Being Cold, weather, unpredictability of waves, being Cold, organising shoots with surfers, equipment costs, equipment and transport breaking down. Being Cold!
Any advice for anyone wanting to get into surf photography?
Brace yourself for a job that you will love and hate at the same! If you're doing it as a hobby, you'll hit the sweet spot and have a great time. If you, do it at as a full-time job, get ready for the wave forecast to be your new diary and rain to be your biggest enemy. But my biggest advice is, find a surf community that gets you pumped to keep doing what you're doing and you'll never want to give it up.
This lucky duck is just about to head out to Sri Lanka for a month surfing and shooting, so be sure to follow her adventures!