The historic walled City of Chester may not be the first place you imagine as an obvious base for an aspiring surf photographer. But sure enough, as a member of the Wilkinson Cameras team in Chester, Jenny Warriner is as keen on capturing waves as she is sharing her knowledge and passion for photography with customers.
Over the last few months, while stores were closed, we’ve been catching up with the team to learn more about their passion for photography and adventure outside of work. For sure, lockdown limited all but essential travel for several months, but as restrictions are lifting, there’s at least one photographer itching to get back to the coast!
We caught up with Jenny Warriner, one of the sales team at our Chester store, to find out her kayak vs paddleboard dilemma, camper van conversion and her love-hate relationship with the waves.
“I’ve been interested in photography since the early 2000’s. I wasn’t happy in my job as a chef with all the long hours and I moved to Spain for a short while – attending college to learn Spanish while I was there. It was great to have the break from work and think about what I want to do with myself. I knew I didn’t want to return to the kitchen.
After coming back from Spain I had a few retail jobs, but I knew I wanted to get into photography. Initially I started work for studio based Olan Mills but sadly after a year they went into administration.
Shortly after this, I worked briefly for Wilkinson Cameras – running one of the mini-labs in store – but with the decline in film processing and the move to digital this sadly came to an end.
After a brief return to retail in toy sales, I once again found an opening in photo retail with Camera Solutions, which last year was purchased by Wilkinson Cameras!
My experience along the way has been amazing, but I’m glad I was given the opportunity to carry on doing what I enjoy, finally selling things I am passionate about, as part of such a dedicated team here at Wilkinson.”
Capturing “Choka” Waves
For those of us less familiar with surf terminology, ‘Choka’ is surf slang for awesome/great, and is also part of Jenny’s Insta handle @chokasurfphotography, where you can seen an epic collection of her surf photography.
“Before I met my husband I was pretty terrified of water – I’m still not confident. I didn’t have anything like swimming lessons at school and when I was about 11 or 12 I almost drowned in the sea on a holiday in Majorca!
‘My first experience in the sea as an adult was a long weekend away to The Gower – a friend of ours had been going for years and we thought we would see what all the fuss was about. Our friend had body boards for us to use, it was the first time I had been in the sea properly for years and I felt safe knowing I had people around me to help if I got into any trouble, plus Llangennith is one of the safest to be in as it stays waist high for a good stretch.
Eight years later and we are still taking our trips there. It’s an 8 hour round trip for us so it is rare we would go just for the day. Until we got our campervan!
‘Bronwyn’ joined us in the summer of 2018. She was previously used as a work van and we’ve converted her with surfing in mind. We don’t need things like a kitchen inside, or seating, as when we go places we like to be outside, we love our camping BBQ’s and sitting out in our sleeping bags.
We do have a massive king-size bed in there and under bed storage for our surfboards and my husbands longboard. The longboard is too long to fit under the bed – so we’ve made anchor points in the roof in order to hang the board diagonally, which means one end of the board is above my head in the passenger side of the cab, luckily I’m only 5ft so there’s plenty of head space!
The van has meant we can go on longer journeys, travelling over night and sleeping in the van ready to catch the waves the next morning. After enjoying time in a kayak, I now have a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP), which I absolutely love.
I think since having the SUP, I have come to enjoy it more than kayaking. It is one of those sports/hobbies where it is weather dependent – you really don’t want to go out in the wind believe me! The board came supplied with a camera mount – so my GoPro Hero 7 fits on there perfectly!
Whilst we have been in lockdown I have been furloughed and hubby has worked right the way through. It’s been really hard not being allowed into Wales especially as some of our favourite spots are over the border. It’s lovely, you can go for a hike then come back for a paddle and enjoy some sandwiches sat relaxing after an adventurous few hours. Not to mention most of the best surf spots are in wales!
We have been a couple of times during lockdown to our local river, the River Dee. We’ve headed out super early, while it’s quiet and to guarantee a parking space!”
Getting The Shot
“‘When I first started photographing my husband surf, I literally wouldn’t point the camera at anyone else, partly because I didn’t want to miss any of my husbands waves and partly because I have never really been confident getting my camera out around others.
It’s only been the past couple of years I have come out my shell a bit and started shooting other surfers. I’m still learning of course, and I still enjoy shooting portraits and wildlife too.
About a year ago I started to experiment with long exposures, I find it fun and it’s a good break when the surf has gone a bit sloppy and surfers are bobbing in the sea waiting for the next good wave.
I’m currently using a Fujifilm X-T2 with the newly purchased 100-400mm. Unfortunately I bought the lens a few months before lockdown and the surf hasn’t been great – so I’m really looking forward to getting out again soon.
I use a Manfrotto monopod as a support as this is much more practical I heavy sand than a tripod. My other top tip if you’re thinking of doing a bit of surf photography is to get a decent pair of wellies, because more often than not you’ll be standing in the sea at some point!
When we are chatting, a lot of customers ask if I am going to get a waterproof casing for my camera… No, no and no! This would mean I’d be in the actual sea trying to stay standing in waves… no thanks!
I did go in once in my wetsuit, with my trusty Panasonic waterproof compact camera. Got a few cracking shots actually… but it’s hard for me because most of the time the wave is higher than me so I miss some good waves and being inside the wave I’d get knocked down for sure!”
To see more of Jenny’s work, check out her Instagram. Alternatively, if you’re ever in Wilkinson Cameras in Chester, be sure to ask about her coastal adventures!