Nick Santora: I never associated Maine winters with surfing, but now (thanks to your photographs) I do. Tell us a little bit about surfing/photographing in the dead of winter up there?
Nick LaVecchia: It’s a beautiful thing. The tourists have gone home and you’re left with a perfect landscape, hopefully blanketed in snow, to shoot and get creative. Preparation takes a lot longer in winter. There’s no just running out the door and jumping in the ocean. Sometimes I’ll be shoveling the driveway in my wetsuit to crank up the body heat.
Did you get into photography through surfing? How did it become your career?
I started shooting back in high school in NJ. I took it a bit more serious through college and while out on the road traveling. Photography was the tool and creative outlet I needed to document my adventures. After college, I worked in graphic design for JDK/Burton Snowboards in Vermont for years. I’d save up all my vacation days and use them at once to do a big trip. This continued year after year and really fueled my passion for photography. In 2002 I quit my dream graphic design job to pursue photography full-time. I moved to Maine in 2005 and have been chasing waves and the people who chase them around the world and back.
How does living in Maine inspire your work?
Maine, the raw and exposed coast, and the changing of the seasons are what I really draw inspiration from. The extreme weather changes this place can go through in a 3 month period are incredible. There aren’t many places in the world where the ocean temps can dip below freezing and little waves can be frozen in time. This all happens with very little people around to witness it which blows my mind.
What makes a great photograph?
To me personally, a great image is the result of a well thought out idea, and many factors coming together just the way you envisioned them. Great images can also happen by putting yourself in the right place at the right time, while understanding all the workings of the camera to quickly create that perfect image. Recognizing what the strongest element is within your frame and composing accordingly is key to a memorable image.
When you are shooting, is the story already there? Tell us your process?
Most of the jobs I’ve be on are much more, ‘drop the characters into an environment and document what happens over the course of the day/week/month.’ Capturing and creating the story visually as it unfolds. While I’m immersed in it I’m really observing and looking for the most unique real moments to capture. It’s constant. Constantly watching, listening and learning especially when shooting with people I’ve never met. Sometimes I won’t shoot a frame until I really feel like the characters are being themselves and fully in the moment. I usually tend to take a step back and look at those people in the environment and how they are interacting. Depending on the landscape, this can be many steps back. I really want the viewer to get a sense of being there and feeling what it’s like at that moment.
It seems like the nature of your work is very unpredictable. Is it possible to plan in advance or is it always a new adventure for you?
Most trips are last minute. Overnight. That’s the nature of it when you’re dependent on weather, waves, snow etc… A long range forecast is only so accurate.
Do you have a bucket-list that you would like to capture through your lens?
This list is constantly growing. Russia and the Kamchatka Peninsula are at the top for places. I’ve also been dreaming of following a pod of Orcas around Vancouver and Tofino CA, documenting their daily habits.
What should I readers look out for next from you?
New project in the works with Kassia Meador, getinthevan.com 2.0 is on it’s way soon and a Seea x Urban Outfitters in store project is coming next spring.