The surf film genre dates back to the 1950s. Pioneered by Bruce Brown and most famously brought to life in the all-time classic "The Endless Summer," the great surf films are about more than a wave, they’re about the spirit of adventure. “Surfers are travelers,” Brown said, “and so are the waves they ride.” Where Brown took a pair of adventurous young surfers in search of the warmth and sunshine of an endless summer, today photographer/filmmaker and Sony Artisan Chris Burkard seeks a different journey.
Burkard is known for his epic treks into the cold in search of rare, perfect waves breaking in the solitude of remote and stunningly beautiful settings. Directing one of the most ambitious surf films of all time, "Under An Arctic Sky," Burkard and his team take the viewer into the cold of the North Atlantic in winter to capture some of the most incredible footage you’ve ever seen, including an amazing surf session under the Northern Lights.
“We had this crazy concept to go to this remote fjord in Iceland on a boat," Burkard explains, "and the only time we could really do it was winter time, because that's when the swell was coming.” As Burkard, along with fellow adventure photographer/filmmaker and Sony Artisan Renan Ozturk and the athletes arrived in Iceland, the cruel and fickle winter weather of the North Atlantic turned ugly. “We got caught by the biggest storm in 25 years. We got kind of stuck in this house, and we thought the trip was over,” Burkard says. “But at the end of that big storm there was this crazy opportunity to actually chase one of the best swells we’d ever seen.”
Taking advantage of the legendary low-light capability of the Sony α7S II and matching it with the 35mm f/1.4, Burkard and his team were able to get some of the most incredible surf footage ever as the athletes took to the waves in the dark. “After the storm passed, we had really, really good surf and really, really clear skies, and we saw this amazing opportunity to shoot surfing under the Northern Lights.”
“You couldn’t design a more challenging shot,” says Burkard. “You have to deal with the wind, the swell, the tide… And as a photographer you have to be ready for anything. And you factor in the Northern Lights, this incredible celestial event that really only happens on the coldest and clearest of nights… It’s rare to see them low on the horizon or over the ocean at all.” And Renan Ozturk adds, “At three o’clock in the morning when it’s pitch dark, normally you call it a night. But when you have cameras that can shoot at 10,000 ISO, you have to keep going because you’re forced to keep up with the technology.”
In the BTS video, you can see the adversity that the crew faced. Despite the storm, the physical difficulties and injuries, Burkard and his team persevered and "Under An Arctic Sky" became a reality. "When I look back at my career over the years," says Burkard, "the most exciting times were when it was right on the brink of failure. It became that much more real for everyone when we knew that so much effort went into making something like this."