The stunning coastline of Nova Scotia is packed full of rippable setups – but there's something about the Canadian colour palette that can truly transform those corduroy lines, stacked to the horizon, into a special kind of surfscape.
For the past decade, Cornwall transplant Adam Cornick (@Acorn Art Photography) has been profiling the Nova Scotia coast, capturing that rugged wild land and translating them into a hefty amount of double taps.
We caught up with Adam to talk living in Halifax, the surf scene and just how special Nova Scotia is.
First, tell us a bit about yourself, where are you based and what made you want to get started in surf photography?
I'm a freelance photographer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Canada's East Coast. I moved here 10-years-ago from Cornwall in the UK with my Canadian girlfriend, now wife.
She's originally from Ottawa which is an unappealing two days from the surf, so we chose to give Nova Scotia a try to start a new life. I knew there was ample coastline that's exposed to Atlantic swells, and plenty of great scenery to keep my camera busy, so it seemed like a great place to start and 10 years on we - love it here.
I've surfed for a long time and I've been making art for even longer so the two combining was inevitable but it took moving here for me to really get in to making surfscape imagery. From showcasing my work, I managed to build a client portfolio that expanded to a point that I could no longer balance the day job and photography work, so, a year ago, I took the leap and went full time freelance and I've not looked back since.
Nova Scotia is home to a number of setups, how’s the scene over there?
There's a decent selection of setups close to the city of Halifax, which is the main population base but if you're willing to hit the road and do some exploring, there's quality spots up and down the coast to check out.
Getting a long running period of swell is most likely going to happen during winter, which isn't without its challenges as sea and air temperatures are frigid.
If it's a good hurricane season, then Autumn can be pretty epic and my favourite time of year to get shots. Summer is generally pretty slow but has the odd good day to keep the stoke going. Water temperature can increase to 20C in summer but as soon as that northerly wind blows, it can dip back down to single digits overnight.
So, just surfscapes or do you get a crew together to shoot?
I don't generally shoot too much surf action for my own work as I'm more drawn to capturing the surf landscapes and lifestyle imagery. I aim to depict that first glimpse feeling you get as you walk out to a spot you think may be cooking and the excitement that comes with it.
It's a bonus for me to get someone doing something eye catching on a wave, but I'm usually paying more attention to the waves and the conditions. As for local talent, the likes of Nico Manos and Logan Landry both surf very well and have the coast dialled and know where to be on any given swell.
What makes Nova Scotia so different than anywhere else?
For a start, most locals are pretty hard core when it comes to winter. You can be standing knee deep in snow with a windchill of minus a million and it doesn't really come up in conversation, it's just winter.
I love that positive mentality and I don't know if you find it in too many other places. Nova Scotia is a very cool place to live and to travel around if visiting.
There's the incredible winding coastal drive of the Cabot trail in the north and whale watching off Brier Island in the South West, both are well worth checking out. The vineyards in the Annapolis Valley and the Halifax craft beer industries are both booming, what more do you want?
What are some of the difficulties of shooting in finger-biting cold
I recently shot during a freezing rain storm (image below) and by the time I got back to the car to warm up, my jacket could stand up on its own as it was coated in a thick layer of ice.
If you're out exploring in winter, or early spring, you definitely need the right clothing and be smart about where you're driving - if there's snow and ice about, you don't want to get stuck down some dirt road.
The coast is full of twists and turns so there aren't many coastal highway sections where you can check the waves, you really need to do some homework before hitting the road to go exploring for waves.
Is it the case that’ll you head out for a few days at a time, or just the one, two-day strike missions?
In Canadian terms, Nova Scotia isn't very big, so there's not too many places to surf in the province that's not achievable in a day. I have some spots I'd like to take some time exploring this year and hopefully camp out when the conditions are all line up.
Talk us through five of your favourite surf images.
This was taken during a hurricane swell several years ago. This image is from one of the sets of the day that I and, luckily, west coast ripper Pete Devries was in the right place at the right time.
This same day I captured a shot of local surfer Jacob Albury on another beauty which ended up winning me the MSW photo contest and an all expenses trip to the Maldives, which was nice.
This is from a few years back when we were battered by a particularly brutal winter, but it didn't seem to hold any local surfers back from getting in the ocean. I just love the soft light and the fresh thick ice on the rocks along with a real battle between feeling warm and cold.
A great example of how my mind works when trying to find images I want to capture. It's not the best waves of the year with the best surfer doing the best moves but I buy in to this more.
I'm feeling like I'm producing a scene I want to stumble upon for myself. The elements rarely line up this well, so it's important to study the charts and give yourself the best chance possible of capturing the magic days when they happen.
This is another example of facing the elements head on. This day I hiked in knee-deep snow around the coast to a spot that I thought would be cranking after a winter storm the night before.
First I had to clear a couple of feet of snow off of the car and dig out the drive way to get on the road and made it out to the beach.
When I arrived, three guys were in at the spot trading some amazing rides. I later learnt that one of the three, Andrew Tremaine, broke his toe on the walk out slipping on ice, but wasn't going to let that get in the way of one of the sessions of the winter. It's a long old winter if you don't get out there and embrace it.
The days you have to work for it can be the sweetest. This recent shoot I had with A for Adventure, a local company who promote getting outdoors into nature, had us cross-country skiing several kilometres in to a headland point.
The trees were heavy with fresh snow and we had just a couple of bald eagles circling overhead to keep us company, it sure was a pretty memorable winter session. Days like this are good for the soul and where I used to dread winter's arrival I now look forward to all that it can throw my way.