Golden waves and other vibrant hues–Southern California native David Orias has unlocked the perfect mixture of location, lighting and technique to capture the Pacific Ocean in a stunning array of flowing color.

David Orias

David Orias

David Orias A Start in Surf Photography

Physician by day, Santa Barbara based David Orias became interested in photography in the late ’90s during the advent from film to the digital camera. With no formal education, Orias explains that he learned many fundamentals with the help of the Internet and feedback from other photographers . He would post his photos to sites such as, where fellow members would provide criticisms of his work. Around 2005, Orias took an interest in surf photography, where shots using a long lens were captured during international contests held in San Diego all the way to the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Oahu, Hawaii. With hundreds of photographers producing similar images, Orias decided to stand out from the crowd by using a slower shutter speed as well as panning the surfer, which created a blurred out background.

David Orias

David OriasAdmitting that it was a struggle to sell photos within this common genre of photography, the technique of panning and slower shutter speeds was brought over to photographing waves.  By 2007 people started to offer to purchase prints of his fine art wave photos.


A Spot Like No Other

One particular location on the coast of Ventura Beach, CA offers the perfect geography for capturing these images–a nearby mountain range hides the sun as it rises in the morning so that the ambient light is high, creating a proper exposure along with vivid colors in the water.

“There is a fifteen-minute period of time where the sun peaks over the mountain, creating bright, golden reflections. I have yet to find another area where the light hits the waves the right way.”

David Orias

Not Everyday is a Potential Shooting Day

Before sunrise Orias will head to Ventura Beach to check for tide tables and wave heights.

“Fall and winter are ideal for capturing the best waves. In a typical photo session I might shoot 400-500 frames. Of those, thirty I might process and out of those I might find 1-10 that are interesting and different enough to add to my portfolio”

David Orias

The Technique

A telephoto 600mm lens (standard surfing photog lens) is used, which allows Orias to shoot more parallel to the shore, adding curl and crest in the waves. He currently uses a Canon 5D Mark III along with an f4 1.4x teleconverter to capture these interesting shots.

The exposure in the initial image is brought all the way to the right on the meter so that the original Raw file appears bland and bright. The photos are then edited in Lightroom and Photoshop. Common adjustments include: dropped exposure, added contrast, increased white balance, saturation boost, and dodging of the wave mist.

David Orias

Recently, Orias has been interested in adding pelicans into the mix:



 Check out more of Orias’s work here: 500px | Flickr

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