Slowtide recently released their newest artist collaboration towel, with Hawaiian photographer Laserwolf. Known for his ability to capture the power of the North Shore’s waves, behind the camera, Laserwolf, aka Brandon Campbell, is a family man and and fun-loving friend.
In honor of their collaboration, Slowtide interviewed Campbell on a variety of topics – how he got his start in photography, his scariest moment shooting, and where exactly the nickname ‘Laserwolf’ originated.
Can you tell us a bit about where you are from and how you got into photography?
I'm originally from the East Coast of Central Florida. I grew up surfing, skateboarding, fishing and raising hell with my friends. I've been living on the North Shore of Oahu since early 2009. I got my first taste of taking pictures during a road trip with friends shortly after high school. I bought a cheap point-and-shoot on a supply run to Walmart. I was kind of hooked after that trip, but I didn't start taking photography seriously until a few years later. I started shooting surfing when I moved to Hawaii. I was always creative, but I was never artistic. Photography gives me a platform to express that creativity and be a part the arts that I enjoy so much.
What are you trying to communicate with your photography?
I just want to have fun and enjoy it. I'm really fortunate to have been able to make a living shooting photos the last few years, but I'd be lying if I said I was trying to change the world or make a statement with it.
What role does a photographer have in society?
‘Earth without art is just eh'. Photography is unique because you’re literally saving an exact moment in time, documenting history. It’s cool to be able to share those moments with others. It's pretty wild how a camera can mirror a moment in time and blast it onto a piece of paper where it will live forever.
If you could pick one subject to shoot, dead or alive, who would it be?
I’d pick a time: the ’60s! What a time it must have been to be alive. MLK and the civil rights movement, the hippie movement, rock n' roll, the fight for women’s rights, the protests against Vietnam. All of it, man! I feel like I was born in the wrong era. It would have been incredible to be there fighting for these causes and documenting it all. It’s insane to think that here we are, more than 50 years later, and we’re still dealing with a lot of the same issues. Unfortunately now, the clothes, music and cars aren't nearly as cool.
Describe your scariest moment while shooting.
I've been rattled quite a few times shooting Pipeline. Last year I smacked my head pretty hard on the reef, blew out the front of my helmet and lost my camera. Luckily it washed up on the beach and it was my helmet, not my head, that got the brunt of the hit.
How did you get the nickname ‘Laserwolf’?
I randomly used it in an art show I was doing with a bunch of street artists. They all had these cool tags and my real name just didn't flow on the flyer so I ran with Laserwolf. Signed all my photos with it and the name stuck.
What photo are you most proud of?
The drone shot we used for this collab has been my most successful shot to date. I've shipped prints large and small, all over the world. It was a magazine cover and now a towel. It's a powerful image – just so much emotion in it. “Conversation piece” is what I hear the most when people see it because at first glance, it looks like the surfers are going to get mowed down by a 100-foot wave. Funny thing is, I was anti drone for so long. I’m stoked I opened my mind and tried something new.
Favorite place to shoot?
If I'm shooting surfing, Off The Wall is my favorite little studio. I recently took a trip to San Francisco and it was my first time cruising in a big city. I was blown away by all of the different cultures and landscapes combined in one place. I shot a bunch of film that I was pretty psyched on. I'd love to get back there and do it again soon. New York would be rad to cruise around and shoot, as well.
Camera and lens of choice?
Canon 1DX Mark II with a Canon 24mm-105mm lens is my current go-to. I have a Contax T2 that is the raddest little pea shooter for film.
Describe your first experience shooting pipe?
I've always been really comfortable in the ocean; I had already put in a bit of time surfing Pipe on smaller-to-medium days, so shooting came more naturally. It never gets any less scary, though.
Advice to a younger photographers thinking about pursuing as a career?
Shoot the things that make you smile and really learn the trade. There is nothing worse the trying to force a shot or shooting something you don't enjoy for a paycheck. I'm self taught, but there is still so much I have to learn. I really wish I started taking it seriously sooner, so I could have maybe gone to school for it. I look at my favorite photographers, guys like Jim Russi, Todd Glaser and Corey Wilson. They all studied at the Brooks Institute of Photography and they're some of the best in the business.
Any new projects that you are excited about?
2018 is going to be a busy year for me. I recently took a job with Katin, managing and shooting their surf team. We have quite a few trips we want to do including the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, Central America and a bunch of other spots. My wife and I bought a house in Florida back in October that we're vacation renting so we'll probably be over there a bit this summer, working on the house and yard before heading back to Hawaii for the winter season. Looking forward to spending a bit of time with my family and all the homies back East.
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