Dan Merkel Instagram
Brian Bielmann - Haleiwa (Sunset Beach), Hawaii
I was born in New York in 1957 and started surfing in 1970 at the age of 13. In the last two years of high school, all I could think about was graduating and moving to Hawaii. In 1975, I did just that, and so at age 17, I was living in paradise. Since then, I've never looked back. When I was 21 I decided that I would be a surf photographer, but it still took a near death collision with a reef to get me off my surfboard and behind the camera.
It has now been 30 years of surfing and photography for me, and what a long, strange trip it has been. Lots of crazy people, lots of exotic places. Not much money, but a fantastic life. I have been lucky enough to see - and in a small way be a part of - the evolution of the sport of surfing. I have seen surfing champions come and go, and i have visited and photographed places that were once unknown and have seen them become world-famous hot spots.I have seen technology change the way a wave is ridden, and I have watched the pictures I used to draw on my notebook of surfers riding giant waves become a reality. My goal is to try to keep taking the viewer to places they have not visited and to see things unlike anything they have seen before.
I work for Transworld Surf in the USA and Volcom clothing, and contribute to most surfing publications outside of America.I pray that I continue to see the beauty in what God has created and be able to continue to spread that beauty with my own vision. Thank God for this fantastic world.
Click here to watch "Inspiration: Pass it on" Brian Bielmann at TEDxHonolulu
Dan Merkel - Santa Barbara, California
Emmy Award-winning Dan Merkel has been one of the sport of surfing's legendary lens men for 30+ years. Dan Merkel broke into the world of surf photography more than 30 years ago, at a time when pro surfers like Rabbit Bartholomew, Shaun Thomson, Mark Richards, Gerry Lopez and Buttons Kaluhiokalani were taking the sport to a new level of competition and international attention. A top surfer himself, Merkel had the stamina and skill to get in the midst of the action while working with the cumbersome cameras that were available at the time. Merkel adapted a waterproof housing first developed by fellow surf photographer George Greenough, experimented with gear driven glass housings that allowed him to follow focus, and later went on to design splash housings for the Photo-Sonic brand.urf star Shaun Thomson tells PDN writer Kristina Feliciano, "There were a lot of surfing photographers around who were really great at capturing the action, but [Merkel] captured the action, and he captured the interaction between us and each other and the environment."
Thomson is the author of the new book on surfing's glory days, Bustin' Down the Door, which features dozens of Merkel's images from the Seventies. In the 1970s, Merkel moved into cinematography. He became an Emmy-winning filmmaker, with the classic surf movies Free Ride and Big Wednesday among his credits. These days Merkel, 62, is not resting on his laurels. He licenses his images through AFrame Media and markets his prints through his website. He spends most of his time traveling and, when he picks up a still camera, it's usually to shoot panoramic landscape photos- -mostly travel shots, often taken near the ocean. Likewise, he approaches panoramic photography with the same perfectionism and ambition that catapulted him to the top echelon of surf photography.
Anyone who knows Dan knows that he is always looking for a challenge. A year after surfing had its turning point in 1975, Merkel had one of his own when he began shooting his first film. Free Ride, released in 1977 and directed by Bill Delaney, became an instant classic. It was a challenge," says the self-taught cinematographer, but like anything else that has to do with water and action, Dan approached his film work with the same perfectionism and ambition that elevated him to the top echelon of surf photography.
Click here to watch 'Jim Russi' on Dan Merkel
Click here to watch 'Behind the Lens' with Dan Merkel
Alexander Semenov - White Sea, Russia
Alexander Semenow is a marine biologist and professional underwater photographer. As the head of the divers team at Moscow State University’s White Sea Biological Station, he specializes in scientific macro-photography in the natural environment, an approach that makes it possible to observe animals that can not be studied properly in laboratory conditions. He studied at the biological faculty (2002-2007) of the Moscow State University, and comes from a family of biologists. He is used to diving in unfavorable and often harsh conditions, successfully conducting complex research projects. Furthermore, he has led multiple collaborations with the Discovery Channel, the BBC, National Geographic, Smithsonian and many more, all with the goal of advancing science while boosting interest in marine biology. He specializes in the study of marine invertebrates, is accustomed to diving in cold and dark northern waters, and after years of practice with underwater cameras and lighting, is now producing truly remarkable images of some of the world's least known creatures. Alex’s experience and fascination with underwater life has led him to conceive the "Aquatilis Expedition". Alex also regularly takes part in workshops all over the world, giving talks to all sorts of audiences from pre-school children to university deans and presidents, where he provides expert scientific and photographic advice at a number of international competitions. Several species and aspects of their behavior were first identified and photographed by Alex.
"Since childhood, my main passion was water, because I grew up around the great Russian river Volga. I decided to devote my life to studying the sea and its inhabitants and entered the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the department of zoology of invertebrates. There I attended the courses of diving and in 2007 after graduation I started to work at the White Sea Biological Station of Moscow State University, with great pleasure. I am amazed by the diversity of the underwater world. When I went underwater for the first time, I seemed to hit on another planet. So many life forms, bright colors and the most unusual organisms I have not seen anywhere else. These are real aliens. Me aim is to bring this amazing biodiversity to all people with my photographs and to show all of this another world that is actually quite close to us. In addition, I assist various experts and scientists in illustrating their articles and papers. The sea for me - it is, above all, freedom. Freedom and knowledge. Hovering in the three-dimensional space of the water column next to the huge sharks and a tiny almost transparent plankton, I understand that this is real life. My life and the life of our planet. This is my greatest love."
Click here to watch Alexander Semenov's documentation of the Aquatilis Expedition
Harald-M. Lehnardt - Haleiwa (Sunset Beach), Hawaii / Minden, Germany
Harald-M. Lehnardt, a native of Germany, studied "Visual Communication" at the Design Faculty in Bielefeld, then moved to New York as a Fulbright Scholar in 1991 to attend Parsons School of Design and The New School for Social Research in New York City. He received a 2nd Fulbright Scholarship in 1992 and finished his Master of Art in "Media Studies". After a variety of design assignments throughout Manhattan, he became Sr. Art Director at Macy's headquarters for Federated Department Stores in New York. Harald spend 14 years in New York, before he decided to give up his loft on Manhattan's Westside, first in exchange for a nice little house in the Pupukea Hills on Oahu's North-Shore, and later on Sunset Beach, took advantage of a new and challenging offer as Design Director in Honolulu, before he started his own creative consultancy with dolceVita Creative: Fine Arts & Communication. In summer of 2017 Harald moved from Hawaii on Germany to care for his father, who passed away in 2018.
As art director + designer, he has been able to apply his skills to many award-winning projects throughout the islands, in the continental US but also in Europe. "I wake up with a smile every day, and thank god for the great life that was given to me - the many adventures and the many wonderful characters that crossed my path. I truly enjoy living here on Oahu and don't regret the move from New York City. From my perspective, Hawaii offers a wide spectrum of creative engagements and opportunities. In a way, I feel blessed, being involved with high-end creative projects - in such a nice environment. Everything happens for a reason, and there is a time and place for everything. As an artist, I participated in exhibitions in Europe as well as the US. I have traveled extensively throughout Europe, Southeast Asia and been to the Hawaiian Islands many times before I moved here. It is my belief, as an artist and designer, that in the development of style and character, it is crucial to travel - to experience different cultures; then judge and find out what's in store for you and strengthen your own voice. Life is truly a wonderful journey.
My artistic inspiration evolves out of the circle of my own personal spiritual-emotional experiences and activities. Intentionally, these inspirations represent subjective signs, seen as my individual poetic ways of inner exploration. For me, it is an aesthetic interaction of the image and subliminally placed text elements,- between immediate emotion, desire and medium: an exchange of thoughts between individuals, technology and aesthetics - playful, yet with intent."