Cole Ferguson

"I actually set out to take sunset photos this day but didn't get a good one, so we went back the same night to get star photos. I brought an umbrella in case it rained, but ended up using it as a prop. I love how this turned out." Photo: Cole Ferguson

Next time you see a young kid staring at an iPhone while at the beach, in the mountains, or somewhere scenic in general, don't be too quick to judge. Case in point: Cole Ferguson, 15, whose photographic journey began by picking up his dad's iPhone and snapping photos on a family vacation.

"My family took a trip to Arizona when I was 12," recalls Cole. "Like most kids I was just bored on the drive and picked up my dad's iPhone and started snapping photos. Along the way, we'd get out of the car at some really cool spots, and I really started getting in to taking photos of the incredible scenery we were seeing. That was where it all started for me."

Cole Ferguson

The man himself: Cole Ferguson. Photo:


"I didn't have any surfers with me this day so I just shot whoever was out; the sun was setting, and this guy did a nose ride past the sun, and I ended up loving this photo. This is at Swami's in Encinitas, California." Photo: Cole Ferguson

Ferguson started up an Instagram page that showed his iPhone photography, and the page quickly got a following, coming it at 21,000 followers and counting.

"I just posted what I liked," laughed Cole. "When people started following me and giving me positive feedback and constructive criticism, I listened and tried to improve on what I was doing. I wasn't taking pictures to get likes; I was just taking and posting photos that looked cool to me, and by doing that, my followers just naturally grew. Again, I wasn't shooting for Instagram, but there's something very gratifying when you post a photo you really like and get immediate feedback through posting it."

The Wedge

“Early morning at The Wedge in Newport Beach. This was during Hurricane Marie; I just wanted to get something different with multiple wave forms in motion.” Photo: Cole Ferguson

At age 13, Cole got his first "real camera," a Canon T3i, with money he got for his birthday. From then on it was shoot, shoot, shoot.

"I started by shooting a lot of portraits of my friends and people around my neighborhood. I tried to get as creative as possible with these early portraits and do something a little different."

[Related: How to seriously improve your Instagram game]

Through early experiments and trial and error, Cole moved on to shooting landscapes and action. "I love to surf, so shooting surfing was a natural progression for me," says Cole. "When I first started, I would call Aaron Checkwood and pick his brain three or four times a day! He helped me so much, and I still look to him for advice. It's great to have someone like Aaron who is so cool and such an incredible photographer to learn from."

Cardiff Trench

“This is Levi Nattrass in Cardiff Trench. I laid down on the concrete and got as low as possible for this one. I got pretty dirty, but was really stoked on how this photo came out." Photo: Cole Ferguson

It's impressive to see a young person with such a clear and driven passion. "I love photography," says Cole. "I know it's a tough career, but if you find the right job in photography, it can be the best job ever. I see it as something I want to do for the rest of my life."

Joshua Tree

“This was from a trip I did with some friends up to Joshua Tree. He’s jumping around on these rocks, and I was actually scared that he was going to fall off these giant arches. It was so sketchy.” Photo: Cole Ferguson

Judging from the impressive body of work and massive fan base, Cole's on the path to hold the torch and continue on a similar trajectory as his photographic heroes, Brian Bielmann, Chris Burkard, and Aaron Checkwood.


“Tanner Gudauskas on a rainy day at Pipeline. I was standing on the beach in the pouring rain with all my gear covered with garbage bags. It was worth getting this shot!” Photo: Cole Ferguson

To see more of Cole Ferguson's work, check him out on Instagram or online at

Ben Goldstein

“My friend Ben Goldstein and I went to get a surf shot with a pumpkin head on, but none of them turned out as good as this portrait." Photo: Cole Ferguson


“This is my friend Jordy Collins at Ponto in Carlsbad, California. Probably my first speed blur that actually worked.” Photo: Cole Ferguson

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