Artist Spotlight: Erik Schwab

Combining Passions to Create Art

Having an “obsession with water” since before he can remember, ocean art photographer and East End local Erik Schwab whiles away his summer in the waves surfing and snapping some pretty breathtaking images. He’s been able to tie all of his passions together and says it’s a dream come true. Erik took some time before diving back into the abyss to chat with Hamptons Monthly about how he developed his art, the risks he’s taken for it, and where we’re able to see his work this summer.

How did you get into ocean art photography?

As a lifelong surfer, there were so many moments in the ocean that were so stunning that I wished I was able to share it with my family and friends. Around 2008 I picked up a point-and-shoot camera and decided to start shooting in the water while trying to not get the camera wet. It was then that my desire to bring that same imagery to my friends and family began to transpire. Fast-forward a few years, and that is when I started to take my gear to a more professional level where I was able to really start capturing the magic.

What are the ideal conditions – time of day, weather, surf – for shooting?

I could honestly write a whole book about this, but generally speaking the most ideal conditions are dependent on individual preference. I mostly prefer to shoot at sunrise and sunset when the colors are most vivid; photographers call it the “golden hour.” For me, the more color the better!

You’ve taken pictures all over but, what makes the Hamptons special?

I cannot really explain it, but there is something magical about the light on the eastern end of Long Island. I have my theories, but I’ll keep them to myself! For photographers, light is everything. The better the light, the better the photos. The sweeping white sand beaches and deep blue ocean might also have something to do with it!

Do you have any favorite pictures that came from a completely unexpected moment where things just lined up perfectly for you?

Many of my most favorite images come from days that I least expected them to happen! This past winter during a blizzard, I was out surfing with a few buddies when I noticed the horizon started to glow as we got close to sunset time. I got out of the water with about 15 minutes left until sunset, carefully put my camera into its housing, sprinted back down to the beach, and swam out just as the sun began to make the sky explode in a pink and orange blizzard-like oasis. I was able to nab one shot that I was happy with, but it was the idea of being able to freeze that whole experience in time that really made that particular image special for me.

What are some safety or other risks you’ve taken to capture an image?

The ocean is inherently a dangerous place to be, as I have been swept out to sea, caught in lightning storms, and held under for longer than I’d ever want to be. I also recognize the fact that plunging myself into the ocean where there is nobody around for miles in the middle of winter can be very risky business. I do this because I love it, and I generally take the necessary precautions before plunging myself into the abyss. It brings me no greater joy capturing the raw and natural beauty of the East End.

Are there any new styles or techniques that you’re looking to incorporate into your work?

Every time I pick up my camera, I try to learn something new. As of lately, I have been trying to capture completely new perspectives of the same common places that I love to shoot. I am also slowly dipping my feet into “lifestyle” photography, trying to incorporate people into my photography as well.

What are three tips you’d give to amateur photographers developing an interest in this art?

1. Be passionate.

2. Have fun with it.

3. Double-check that your camera housing is sealed each time you hit the water!

Where can we find your work this summer?

I am excited to announce my collaboration with The Montauk Beach House, where my work will be found throughout the hotel this season. My work also spends time up each season for various events in Gallery At The Terrace, which is also located in Montauk. As always, you can keep up with my daily adventures by following me on Instagram @SaltyVisionz.

Opening reception at The Montauk Beach House on Friday, May 26.