Minneapolis-based photographer John Haynes recently sent out a promo email stating, “When it gets cold out, I get antsy. When I get antsy, I get busy. I’m watching the forecast to continue my series of ice surfers on Lake Superior.” The promo caught our attention, thanks to the images and Haynes’s work ethic.
“Ice Surfers” began when an art buyer who loved Haynes’s work called to see if he had any surf-related images. Haynes didn’t, so he decided to make some, and in a unique way. “All of the [winter] surfing movies I had seen on the Great Lakes focused on the waves,” Haynes told PDN via email. “When shooting from the shore to the waves, it doesn’t look very cold. It’s just blue sky and blue water. Also, it’d be easy to focus on the skill of the surfer and the quality of the wave. I didn’t feel like that was the point in this case, so I focused mainly on making portraits of the surfers interacting with the environment.”
Haynes had never surfed before, or photographed in the water. There were early shoot times (sometimes beginning at 3:30 am), and long days of being in the cold (sometimes 9-hour days with no assistant), and difficulty predicting weather conditions. “There is an ‘art’ to forecasting that I truly never fully got the hang of. I relied mainly on my contacts in the surf community, many of whom became friends through the project.”
Peter Hunner, of Hunny Digital in Minneapolis, helped Haynes develop an overall look to the images. “I wanted everything to look cold, but didn’t want to simply cool off the color temp. [Hunner] did this cool slate-blue overtone for everything, then adapted it to look similar for each day. Everyday the light was so different, and the water was even different colors at different spots.”