The Girl Behind the Camera
After months of looking at my “coming soon” blog page and days of binge watching Game of Thrones, I can no longer put off getting this blog up and going, especially because it’s a new year and new me, right? Probably not, but I’m perfectly ok with that.
Although I might sound unaffected by this potential new blog of mine, I am really and truly excited. Another platform where I can force my images on your eyes! I will try to involve some writing, however, since this is an ‘about me’ post, you should know I’m a painfully slow and shy writer. As a photographer, I can (sometimes) post photos on social outlets and not think twice, but when I hear someone might actually be reading my writing, it makes me want to crawl under 600 pounds of duvet and die. Oh yeah, and I’m dramatic.
Between the surf photos and wedding photos and anything else that triggers my inspiration, I want to start with a little bit about me, giving you a chance to get to know me and help you realize that I might not be as cool as my Instagram account may make me seem.
So, if you haven’t figured it out, my name is Bryanna Bradley, and I am 27 years old. I’m originally from a small town outside of Ottawa, Ontario, called Stittsville. Yes, it’s a real place. A small suburban town that is located very far from the ocean.
Following high school, which was full of Abercrombie and Fitch, Chanel sunglasses, and more time spent at the dance studio than actual school, I went to study photojournalism at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario. Coming out of college I was lucky enough to get a summer internship at the Montreal Gazette in Montreal, Canada, where I went on to freelance for some time after. Surprise, the news industry isn’t exactly for me and my sensitive soul.
During my time at the newspaper, I went on a short and vicious trip around Europe with a great friend of mine, where we came across a white van in a parking lot in a small surf town in Ireland called Lahinche. This van was renting foam surfboards and wetsuits to whoever was willing to go out in the middle of a storm. So, we put our wetsuits on backwards and I’m pretty sure dragged our boards by the leash and headed out to give surfing a go in some disgusting conditions. It wasn’t pretty, but I stood up and was hooked. Although I had try surfing one time previous to this at Cocoa Beach, my shred session in Ireland was was truly the beginning of the end.
You see, since I was young I was pretty in love with the ocean. In fact, I use to spend many months of the year in Florida at my grandparents house. I would walk out as far as I could in the ocean (I was four, so it was probably like, a foot of water) and wait for my mer-family to come and collect me.
If I wasn’t in the ocean, I was in the pool. Flipping my hair back so I could pretend that I was a mermaid and worrying my family that I would never get out of the water.
Then there was Blue Crush, the movie that changed everything. After watching that movie, I instantly went out and bought a Billabong rash guard just like Kate Bosworth, my hero. What I did next I would not advise. I found what I thought was foam in the garage at my family's lake house, and proceeded to spend the entire summer trying to balance on these foam sheets in the lake and pray for boats to drive by so I could ‘surf.’ Yes, I was the coolest 13 year old ever. It turns out it was construction insulation, and I had red painful bumps all over my body that summer from the fiberglass.
Either way, it was only a matter of time before I took off to learn to surf.
Shortly after my trip to Europe, somewhere around 2am I booked a one-way ticket to Hawaii. I was going to learn to surf, get barrelled in the first 3 months, and become a professional surf photographer. Duh.
Even after emailing surf photographers who advised me not to even try, and truly concerned family and friends reminding me how lucky I was with my life in Montreal, my plan was easy and fool proof—and I was going.
Fresh off the plane in Honolulu, I didn’t waste a minute. I went and bought my first surfboard and paddled out in Waikiki. I was instantly insanely head over heels for the waves, and my camera was nearly abandoned besides picking it up like 5 times in 3 years.
I travelled for nearly 3 years all over the world. From learning to surf in Waikiki, to scuba diving in Borneo, working at a crocodile park in North Australia, and hiking in Nepal, what began as a trip to learn to surf became a bucket list trip, where I knocked pretty much everything off the list except one thing—becoming a surf photographer.
The problem was, as I began to travel, I began to hate my camera. I kept thinking of all the things I had taken photos of while I was a photojournalist: the car accidents and homicides, all the times I knew I was upsetting people by taking their photos. I really didn’t feel inspired to take photos. During my time as a ‘photojournalist’ my camera became my business partner, and like any business that doesn’t work out, there were bitter feelings towards it.
When I finally decided to come back to Canada, not ever getting barrelled or becoming a surf photographer, I needed new direction. I wanted to find a way to keep surfing and to avoid all the questions of “are you going back to work at the newspaper?” or “are you going to keep taking photos?” So, naturally, I found a small school on Vancouver Island, where I figured I could surf, and began a three-year program studying holistic nutrition.
I was going to be a new person—I even went as far as trying to sell all my camera gear. I was totally and completely over photography. Thankfully, my parents convinced me otherwise.
It wasn’t until I was half way through my second semester that I was willing to start taking photos again. No one was bothering me about photography anymore since starting a new school program, so the pressure was off. I started shooting weddings and engagements—happy things, and it turns out I freaking love shooting happy things.
During summer break, I moved to Tofino. I was sucked into the heart of the female surf scene working at an all female surf school called Surf Sister - I was completely inspired. I couldn’t wait until the next summer, I was going to get a water housing and I was going to shoot the girls in our element.
And I did.
None of it has been easy, and as much as I love the water, it has a lot to teach me. Some lessons are easier to take than others.
I can’t say I know exactly where I’m going with either my wedding or surf photography, but I’m completely infatuated and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m excited to see my life come full circle, being able to finally be a part of something that I wanted most in this world. Even with all the detours and failed plans, I now know it all happened for a reason.
My journalistic side used to get worked up that I’m not working on a ‘story’ and that I’m not feeding my documentary desires, but I have since realized I’m just part of the story this time, and how freaking amazing is that?!
Here is my top ten, in case you weren’t bored yet:
1. My family
Everyone thinks they have the best family, but I seriously do.
2. A good attitude
Life can be challenging and really freaking scary. I know my attitude is what determines how
things work out in my life and propels me to accomplish things I never thought I could. So, it’s
important I keep a good one.
I mean, do I really need to explain this?
4. My surfboard
I would probably be in rehab or have joined a circus without discovering surfing.
5. A camera
Taking photos inspires me to capture all things beautiful. It excites me to get out amongst
unique circumstances with people, nature, and chaos.
6. My girls
I don’t think I could do half the things I want to do without a group of amazing females in my life.
It seems a lot less scary to step out of your comfort zone if you know you have a group of
radical females there to catch you if you fail.
I just finished a three-year holistic nutrition program and I will say with confidence: butter is a
Being a surf photographer, surf instructor, and surfer isn’t easy with long hair. Even with
conditioner, I dedicate HOURS each week combing out this wetsuit hair.
I can be so productive, but if I don’t have a list, I can guarantee nothing will get done.
This is pretty much the only reason I try to make money.
So now you know the girl behind the camera a little more.
Keep it sweet you beautiful humans!!