Interview With Ocean Photographer Helio Antonio - The 124 Society

Interview With Ocean Photographer Helio Antonio

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Nazare, 100 meters from the beach.

Where do you live now?

I split my time between Nazare and Lisbon.

What is life like in Nazare?

It used to be pretty chilled, not much happening. Nowadays it's a lot busier for several reasons. Still, you can always find your time and place to relax.

Do you remember the days before Nazare became so popular as a surfing destination and how did the competitions come about?

Yes, I vividly remember the days before Nazare got worldwide fame. We would surf there regularly, just not the huge waves, but the smaller days.

In 2003 I believe, there was the first Nazare Special Edition, a bodyboard competition for the best athletes on 3-5 meter waves. It was a very famous competition that lasted until 2009 and after it a team of people decided to invite big wave surfers to try and surf big Nazare. A lot of invitations were sent, only Garrett McNamara accepted. I believe he came here in 2009 and slowly more people started coming.

What got you interested in photography and how old were you?

I remember being a young teenager and loving photography, but it was something that wasn't easy to reach financially. At 17 years old I started bodyboarding and once I saw the barrels in front of me I was hooked and started wanting to shoot waves in the water. I started buying these disposable waterproof film cameras and that's my introduction to the art of surf photography.

Did you formally study photography or are you self taught?

I'm self taught.

How does your gear differ now from when you first started?

It's day and night. From a 25€ camera (25 something years ago) to thousands of euros in gear currently, it's easy to acknowledge how much the technology has evolved and how much more accurately and easily one can capture ocean moments.

What gear do you use regularly?

For land and water I use Sony cameras. Regarding lenses, on land it's usually a 35-150mm, 85mm and 200-600mm. In the water lenses are 14mm, 24mm, 85mm. For air I'm using DJI Air 2S.

What is your favorite way to shoot nowadays? In the ocean, on shore, or by drone?

Nothing compares shooting in the ocean. Although I don't do it as often as I would like, it's for me by far the most intense and rewarding way to shoot waves. The connection to the ocean is obvious and you feel very much alive.

Helio Antonio Photographer Portugal

What is your favorite subject to shoot?

Definitely a beautiful barreling wave.

Surfer surfing wave in Portugal

Have you ever shot in the water during the Nazare big wave season?

Yes, I spent two seasons shooting the big waves in the jet sky. If it's big the only way is on a jet ski. When it's smaller I love swimming.

How do you get mentally and physically prepared for shooting in heavier conditions?

First of all it is very important to stay fit, swimming regularly, training and eating healthy. On the mental side, things get a lot easier if you're confident in your physical abilities. If you are not sure about if you're fit enough for a water session then it's better to shoot from land. When in doubt don't go out.

Who are some example bodyboarders and surfers you have worked with?

I've basically worked (directly or indirectly) with every surfer that has come to surf the big waves in Nazare. Regarding bodyboarders there's basically no money involved and I can't remember ever being hired to photograph them. I have however done a lot of images of a lot of big names in bodyboarding like Mike Stewart, Pierre Louis Costes, Antonio Cardoso, Dino Carmo and a lot more.

What is your favorite photo you have ever taken and why?

An underwater photo of Dino Carmo riding a perfect wave. I love everything about it, the colors, texture, the silhouette. It was a perfect moment.

Underwater photo of surfer Portugal

You have a pretty impressive list of clients, at what point in your career did you start seeing major success?

Things happened gradually. Due to social media it's now easy for your work to be shown to the world. If you're capturing images that standout people will notice you and want to work with you.

Who has been your most favorite client to work with and why?

Definitely the folks at Magicseaweed (now acquired by Surfline). They reached out to me in 2015 and we've been working together since then. Great communication and freedom to do what I love.

What has been your largest achievement in photography?

I would rather talk about the amazing people I've met on this journey. I'm truly blessed to work and meet amazing humans and that's what I value the most.

What is on the horizon for you?

Travel as much as possible to photograph new places, publish a book, do an exhibition and constantly try to evolve my skills to create good images.

More information on Helio Antonio

Winner of the first edition of Praia do Norte Photography Awards.

Worked with many international names like National Geographic, Esquire, HBO, Redbull, Monster Energy, Porsche and Mercedes Benz.

Regular contributor to Surfline and Surfer's Journal.

Surfer Surfing Wave in Nazare Portugal
Large wave photo taken in Nazare Portugal
Wave in Nazare Portugal