From a Rugby League player and fireman to an award-winning ocean and lifestyle photographer, Russell Ord found his passion through adventure and the discovery of the untouched and unseen wilderness. Russell’s photos blend the environment with real-life storytelling and his work has been published in magazines and books throughout the world.

Russell Ord was awarded the 2016 IPA International Sports Photographer Of the Year at the prestigious Lucie Awards and has held exhibitions in Germany at Photokina 2016 and Tokyo Japan 2017 for FujiFilm. Chiiz Magazine interviewed Russell Ord and got to know about some of the most astounding stuff about his passion for the waves. Here, is an excerpt from his interview:

Russell Ord

       1. How did you venture into surf photography and how would you define the transition from being a fireman to a surf photographer?

          I injured my knee while surfing in 1999, and instead of just sitting in the lounge, I picked up a camera and started taking photos of mates surfing. The passion grew from there, and as surfing had become quite competitive and crowded, being reunited with that feeling of freedom, especially when your swimming out alone, was more of an incentive than jostling for waves. The learning curve was steep, especially at the start, because of being self-taught and I was using film.

I gradually progressed with my camera skills and was lucky enough to have 20 years of ocean experience to call upon which, I have always said is the hardest skill to learn regarding surf photography. The transition from letting go of the fire brigade to a full-time photographer was an extremely tough decision and took me a number of years to make, as letting go of a secure job to pursue a creative career has its own ups and downs.

       2. How would you describe the Mavericks Surf Break and how important do you think it was in your life?

russell ord: mark mathews shot


If I were to explain to someone who has no idea about surfing, I would describe Mavericks like “Mount Everest”- a wave where you need to have an incredible amount of skill to ride and will let you know in a hurry that the ocean reigns supreme. To me, it’s just a simple moment, a “right place, right time” scenario that brought me and my family close to the Trette family after the incident with Jacob, not the easiest way to meet people and bond with them like your family. However, I am certainly glad that Jacob gets to enjoy his family and that’s more than rewarding, not to mention the way I started to look at my own life and make those changes: “Get busy living because one day it just may be your last”.

       3. With the changing times, how would you say that the techniques and the competition affected you? Why is it important to stand apart from the crowd?

People, including myself at times, make the mistake of looking at social media and comparing their worst selves with the best of others and let’s face it, a lot of those so-called best self is a complete perception. My only concern is to be able to look at my work and see a “Russell Ord” image that I know the backstory to and not just an image that is capturing a moment in time that 99% of people could do. I still go through those times where I would like to pursue other avenues, anything except photography, competing with photographers that think likes on social media pays the bills, undercutting clients, the lack of loyalty/trust. All those negatives and more that are now a part of everyday photography life. So keeping a clear and positive mindset is the key and that’s when I enjoy my job the most.

        4. What was the best shot you ever took, the Chris Ross one or the one with Mark Matthew? Or do we have another one? Why?

russell ord: Chriss Ross


I like to look at photos and see my skill level or photos that are very creative, photos that make me wonder “how did they do that”. I feel people, including judges in photography competitions, look at images and only see the moment in time and don’t take enough time to understand “what level of skill or knowledge is required to capture the picture”.  As an example: A beautiful mountain climbing image captured with a drone vs a mountain climbing image that would have taken years of knowledge and climbing skills just to be in that position to press the trigger.

I know which one I would choose as a good image against an average image. The Chris Ross shot is certainly an image with which I associate those type of feelings and it triggered that pursuit of being “that much better”. If I was to see further this way, I could see through the wave and decide that Mark’s image is the one and I have not tried it again since.

        5. Being in such an adventurous as well as a dangerous profession, the family is one of the major concerns that people generally have to worry about. Would you have some tips for the photographers or even other artists who take up such way of life, about the ways they can live in harmony with their family?

         This may sound a little weird but I always ask myself “WHY” – why do you do this or that? If the reasons are not truly personal and it’s just to big note myself on social media(I see this everywhere) or something along those lines, I won’t go down that path. Putting real thought, preparation and true passion in your work will inevitably produce the greatest results, work wise and more importantly family wise, making you a better husband, father, mother, brother, etc.

“Ethics of photography is one of the most important factors to me…”

…and that’s one lesson that has seemed to be lost to a lot of newcomers (not all) and to the photographic industry, either through a lack of knowledge, an impatience to be recognized, or other deciding factors.

To see more of Russell Ord’s stunning photography, follow him on Instagram or head over here to his website, where you’ll find his collaborations with Take 3, Surfaid and more.

You can also find some of his work at Elements, Margaret River, and Zippa Media.


Written By: Nishtha Goel

Youngest explorer of the team, an amateur writer with bubbling optimism, Nishtha’s enthusiasm for her work is infectious. A bibliophile at heart, she loves to travel miles, connecting to different people, in imagination as well as in reality.

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