Photographer shares the joy of surfing

As a teenager, Aaron Chang became interested in photography because he wanted to show his friends the joy of surfing. Now, visitors to Chang’s new Cedros gallery can experience that joy and his amazing ability to capture some of the world’s most beautiful locations in large-format images.

Chang is not new to the business world. For 10 years, he made apparel for Aaron Chang International. Despite the recent economic downturn, Chang decided to open his photography gallery in November 2007. He chose Solana Beach as the venue because he loves the artistic and beach community vibe of the area.

He hosted an opening party for his eponymous 1,100-square-foot gallery on Feb. 28.

The gallery offers 60 of his images from two photographic collections, photo-wrapped surfboards, prints on recycled metal and posters.

Chang is now working with designer David Carson on his first photography book, which will be available in December. He is also partnering with the Surfrider Foundation on two future events and plans summer programs and photography seminars.

Chang grew up in Imperial Beach, where he first picked up a camera in the 1970s and started shooting.

After moving to Hawaii at age 17, he independently produced a surfing film that led to his becoming a professional photographer.

“Through that film, I was introduced to a photo editor who challenged me to try to shoot surfing with a still camera,” Chang said.

That meeting opened the door to his eventually serving as the senior photographer of Surfing magazine. There, he honed his skills while shooting the most beautiful surfing locations throughout the world.

“For over 20 years, my job was to create exotic travel stories for the magazine; it was one of the most incredible experiences you could stumble into,” he said.

Chang credits an early mentor, Brad Wagner, for his photographic inspiration. They met through their shared interest in photography, and Wagner went on to revolutionize the postcard industry with his high-end images and quality printing that became a multimillion-dollar business for him.

Chang left Surfing magazine five years ago and has been shooting freelance photography ever since.

In December, San Diego’s W Hotel featured an extensive exhibition of Chang’s work including a slide show on its rooftop beach bar. The event drew 300 people.

Chang’s photos show the years of experience it takes to effectively capture the power and the beauty of the ocean.

His photo “Malia Jones, Duckdive,” featuring a wave washing over Sports Illustrated swimsuit model/surfer Malia Jones, is just one of many photos that demonstrate Chang’s technical and athletic skills.

“It was shot in Tahiti where the waves break on reefs that are far off the beach and the water is crystal clear,” Chang said.

He shot the photo from an underwater view. As the wave approached, he went underwater first and waited for Jones to push under the wave with her surfboard and rise up to the side of him.

“The shot had to be very synchronized with a talented athlete, and you have to have a good sense of where to put yourself in relation to a wave that’s coming toward you and breaking,” Chang said. “It takes a lot of understanding.”