P L A C E S / T R A V E L I D E A S
the life aquatic
Transporting you to the spectacular shores of Sydney, Australian surf photographer and founder of Aquabumps, Eugene Tan, captures stunning daily beach scenes like you've never seen before.
SYDNEY It’s 6.30 a.m. and the sunrise is casting a soft pink glow over the rippling waves of Bondi Beach. Sydney-based surf photographer Eugene Tan has been awake since dawn and is likely to be found with his Canon camera in hand hovering overhead in a helicopter, perched high upon a coastal cliff, or in the ocean surrounded by early morning surfers. As the founder of Sydney’s legendary beach photography website, Aquabumps.com, he explains, “I fell in love with the beach from a very early age, along with surfing, so it just made sense to combine my three passions in life – surfing, the beach and photography. Living at one of the most spectacular beaches in the world, Bondi Beach, means that every day is different.”
His passion for photography started early on in his life. “I got my first Pentax camera when I was about eight years old, and I took it everywhere with me", he reflects. "I turned the bathroom at home into my dark room – much to my mum's horror!” His passion for surf photography ignited when he accompanied famous ocean photographer, Jon Frank, on a trip to Tahiti. “I watched him and asked him a million questions about shooting in the water – what equipment I needed, where to sit in the water, and the rest is history", he says. "Now, I combine shooting in the water, from helicopters and from the land, wherever I am in the world.”
In 1999, when he was the Creative Director of a web design agency in Sydney, he started sending his photos to his friends in a daily email newsletter. “At the time I launched Aquabumps, it began as a hobby, where I would send the images around to my mates", he says. "I’d leave the beach every morning to commute to the city and I hated it. People started to ask if they could buy my prints, which I used to store in cylinders underneath my desk for customers to pick up. In 2004, I was offered a small gallery space in North Bondi, and I thought if I was ever going to do it, now was the time. I opened the doors and people started buying my work – I was stoked. In 2008, I moved to a bigger space in the heart of Bondi’s commercial district. It paid off and this is now our standalone flagship store.”
When asked about his daily Aquabumps routine, Eugene responds, “I usually leave before first light, around 5.30 a.m. most days. I shoot a lot in the water, so I always take my Aquatech housing and Canon cameras. I shoot mostly at Bondi, the local Eastern Suburb beaches, and I've also just started shooting in Manly once a week to widen my portfolio. I love that Bondi is always different and you never know what you're going to get each morning. I’m addicted to the early morning light that rises over the Ben Buckler headland. Nothing beats hovering in a helicopter above thousands of people on a packed summer's day in Bondi. My aerial photography has become my signature work.”
Over the last 15 years, Aquabumps.com has grown into an international site with over 180,000 unique readers each month, 45,000 newsletter subscribers, 108,000 Facebook fans and 60,000 Instagram followers. Working with his wife, Debbie, and his Sydney-based Aquabumps team, Eugene also partners with brands such as Audi, Canon, Corona, Speedos and Havaianas on creative collaborations, and recently launched a designer t-shirt collection with Australian fashion brand, Bassike. In addition to their photography gallery in Bondi Beach, the Aquabumps team has also published two inspirational coffee table books called A Day in Bondi and The Beach Blog. They're also planning international exhibitions in London and New York, and residencies in Byron Bay and Hawai. Never sitting still, when asked what’s next for Aquabumps, Eugene answers, “The main thing is to just keep doing what I love and taking more photos.”
Photography: Eugene Tan (Aquabumps.com)
To sign up to Aquabumps' stunning daily online newsletter and to purchase their fabulous photography prints, visit the Aquabumps Online Store & Gallery:
151 Curlewis Street, Bondi Beach NSW 2026
+61 2 9130 7788 | aquabumps.com
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