Liam MacDonald has been on our radar for some time now. His work with Sepp Bruhwiler, and others,has been showing up in our inbox on a pretty semi-regular basis. More recently, Liam made it to the semi-finals of the Follow the Light photo contest honoring the late Larry “Flame” Moore.
Well, Liam is a winner in our book so we decided to make sure that we brought the man and his work to light. Please enjoy the images and the Q&A.
What Youth: Where are you from and where do you reside these days?
Liam MacDonald: I am originally from North Vancouver – Which is on the mainland, away from any real consistent surf. I moved to Tofino as a 17-year-old fresh outta high school with not much real-world experience. It took a couple of years of some pretty hilarious living situations to get where I am now, with a place right in downtown Tofino. Been here for about 5 years now.
WY: How did you get into photography, same for surf photography?
LM: I started picking up cameras when I was around 14. I was in a photography class in school which was actually great. It had film cameras and a darkroom so I really learned through shooting film at first. Around the same time, I was snowboarding a lot and was often being filmed with friends. I kinda liked the role of being the filmer but never dabbled too much. I liked the creative process most I found. Eventually, I got my first DSLR and not long after got an image put in a Transworld “photos of the month” article. Not too big a deal but I was hyped and was pretty much hooked after that.
Surf photography came as soon as I moved to Tofino. I knew who Pete Devries was because I owned a copy of the 2010 Innersection film. I used to watch his part on repeat in disbelief that the waves in it were only 5 hours from home and that a Canadian had one of the best parts in the film. I had just bought an old 1D and a telephoto so any time I caught him out there I’d just stand on the beach and pretty much creep shoot for practice. After a while another surfer in town, Sepp Bruhwiler, hit me up and asked me to do a trip with him and Timmy Reyes. At the time I was intimidated by Sepp as he had a reputation for being a regulator and having high expectations from photogs. The trip was haywire as all hell but I got some images and was hooked. For the next couple of years I was whipped into shape by Sepp but I needed it. If any young photogs wanna learn how to take surf photos I recommend hitting him up. Its like surf photography bootcamp haha.
WY: Favorite format: Film or digital?
LM: I work mainly with digital but would love to shoot more film. Only issue with that is there is nobody in Tofino for developing and I don’t trust myself to get quality results. Sometimes I wish I was born 20 years earlier back when you had to submit slides and much higher value was placed on proper bangers. With all that being said 14fps with the DSLR sure is nice, haha.
WY: Favorite location to date?
LM: Definitely Japan! Such a rad place. I went there with a couple of fellow Canadians. They went to compete and then free surf for a week but I mistimed my flights and only stayed for the comp. Definitely put a fire under my ass to go back.
WY: Favorite surfers?
LM: I’ve a hard time picking favorites when it comes to surfers. I always watch old A.I. footage to get psyched. Definitely a sucker for power surfing. Other than that I quite enjoy shooting with fellow Canucks. The crew up here definitely know how to get shit done.
WY: How are you adapting to the changing surf media? Are you working more with brands and athletes now that so many of the surf publications are out of business?
LM: For sure. Honestly most of my surf work is done out of passion and less to get coin. Obviously, you hope to sell a couple of ad shots or social media shots here and there but I’ve never had a ton of luck in the editorial department. I’ve heard from some publications that the highest number of submissions come from Canada. Those submissions definitely aren’t from me, haha. I’m not one to hound editors over and over or force my work on anyone. I can’t keep up with dudes who are like that so all editorial stuff has kind of always come along organically anyways. I rely on shooting other subjects to make money but definitely will try to be more on it with submitting surf work in the future.
WY: Any travel plans coming up?
Everything is very up in the air for this winter. Hopefully we will have a better swell season this year and do some good trips up here. Other than that either Cali or Hawaii in November and hopefully somewhere else later but I have no clue yet.