Chelsea Mandes

Rhode Island, USA

Years in surf photography: 6

Favorite Camera: I shoot with both film and digital in the water // digital is a canon 7d 50mm lens in an aquatech housing // film Nikonos V

Instagram: @chelseamandesphoto  (photo acct) // @chelseamandes (personal acct)

Photography website:

Contact Email:

What inspired you to take photos in the water? Ever since surfing has been a part of my life I have always wished there was a way for me to freeze time so I could re-live every day out in the water. Each day was so different & so magical. When I finally bought a camera in my early 20s my goal was always to bring it out into the water. I started with a go pro and didn’t like how easy it was. I didnt think it was that cool or rewarding to just point a super wide angle into the air hoping I got what I wanted. I wanted to be calculated and have more control. So I bought a $30 glorified ziploc bag that was made for DSLR cameras and for a while it worked, but I knew I needed something better. About 4 yrs ago I got a real housing that someone was selling and ever since then I’ve been addicted. I like that its really challenging to be in the right spot, to fight the current at a beach break until you think you can’t swim anymore with this 10 pound box in your hand. I love the feeling of floating there with all the energy surrounding you and being able to capture the feeling of what it’s like to be out there immersed in the ocean.

Do you surf as well? What came first? Surfing came first for me, when I was a kid my dad taught my sister and me. It’s always such a struggle for me to decide if I should surf or shoot (surfing always wins) so I recently have decided to make a promise to myself on a really good swell that I HAVE to go out and swim with my camera for at least 30 minutes.

Surf photography goals? A surf photography goal of mine is to shoot mavericks when Its really big and really good. I almost had the chance to a couple of years ago but it ended up being maxxed out and unsafe to venture to via jet ski. I get knots in my stomach just thinking about it.

What is your favorite time of day to take photos? My favorite time of day to take photos is the early morning just after the sun has risen, when the world is quiet and the wind is down. On sunny days, at the right time, the light gets white and super dreamy and it feels like you’re drifting weightless through this endless sparkly world.

Read more stories from female surf artists!