The PhotoCPL Top 20 of 2017 / by craig levers


Christmas carnage is all around, the roads are chocka, the malls are packed and stupid people are doing extra stupid things on your clear and correct efficient trajectory. But soon enough the chaos will be done and you'll be able to chill. And that's time we all reflect on the year that was. 

I'm getting in early. Here's a visual ...and most probably very lateral... photo essay of the year that was with what are my favourite images from 2017. In a roughly chronological order. 

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And here the rules of engagement are broken straight away. These images were actually shot in December 2016. But the Corona Campaign ran early 2017 so no one saw the photos 'til '17. It was a hard week's work but super rewarding because the client was stoked on the shots and that we [there most certainly was a team] actually pulled off a tough somewhat remote location. I ended up taking on the roles of location scout, production co-ordinator and photographer. First on the island, a week before the talent arrived, last off the island, properties, keys and props returned. 

Sean Boucher's biggest air at the 6th Annual Mangawhai Bowl Jam. Love being the shooter for the Bowl Jam! It's stinking hot, the concrete reflects the sun, there's no breeze at all because it's so packed, you're hustling for position, and then Sean goes and does this... are you f_ckening kidding me!!! So sick Sean, he didn't win the Jam, he came second to his close mate Bowman Hansen, but he did beat Bowman in the Biggest Air... and that would be this one right here. The Bowl Jam is on again this February. I'm be there, there's no place I'd rather be than coping-side. 

We had a shit summer for waves, there's no sugar coating it. It was crap. But there were moments... and yes 3 through to 6 are all from the same bank. But these were heavy swims and the waves were solid. These are stand outs for me because it was a real challenge to even get out the back and hold any type of position. This is Braedyn Louie, the shot went on to be used in Damaged Goods Zine. 

This one of AJ Matthews also made the DGZ cut. If this wasn't chronological it'd probably be sitting a lot higher than 4 for me.
The lads in DGZ

Bevan 'Napes' Wiig and I have a cursed shooting relationship. We're very good mates and we do surf a lot together. But man, for knowing and seeing how good Napes is for the last 20 years of friendship, the photo archive sure doesn't reflect that. We'll paddle out together, he'll snap his board, I'll get sucked down the beach in a rip, it'll go sea breezy... honestly, every fricken time. So this one's gold.... and yep he snapped the board two waves later...AGAIN! But this shot made the cut for NZ Surf The Collection Vol 1  in the feature I wrote about The Piha Village. 

Toby Dobson-Smith was paddling back out next to me. The set of the day came through, no one was out the back to catch any of them.  And in the set of the day there was Wave of the day, hell, wave of the year! The most perfectly formed 6 foot plus, grinding, spitting beast. It almost seemed un rideable; but it could have been. Toby and I were gobsmacked. There was nothing that could be said anyway. This is it. Straight to the Photo CPL Waves Gallery HERE it made the cut for The South Seas Revised Edition  and last month was made into a Primal Fish for the Legasea Auction, it was bought for $3,800.00. All proceeds to Legasea of course. 
We went camping. This year there has not been enough missions in the Chevy, and there's a good reason for that. Someone, who shall remain nameless, reversed at full speed in a wood truck into the parked Chevy. Because the parts came from the States the Cambulance as out of commission for four long, long gruelling months. Needless to say, we don't get wood deliveries from that chap anymore! But this was shot on an epic weekend at Waikawau Bay, my bro Kent and his missus Lucinda set up with their inflatable tent... just pure camp site porn right there... how good is that set up! 

The Campvibes take 2, and the most epic stag do ever! Me old mate Luke Darby managed to finally snag himself a goody [aye Jane!] and so we were forced to have a Stag Weekend. The call was made, The Far North. We scored sick waves on both coasts for four days. We were all in bed by 10pm every night! 
The last trip before the aforementioned catastrophe

Getting skunked at Shippies isn't all bad. I love the Picker Huts and have wanted to spend some time re-shooting them. Well, the swell we were chasing this next mission just never came so Picker Huts exploration it was. 2017 has been a different year shooting wise, off the back of getting The Big Little Beach Book out, which is landscape photography and switching to The South Seas and NZ Surf The Collection projects, it has all about surf and action shots. This was a super satisfying image to make.

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I do love shooting on film and 2017 has been a quiet year film wise, for all the reasons above. 2018 resolution; shoot more film. Shoot more grit... watch this space. 

The random wins! This was not an epic day, but it was fun as. I snapped off this shot of visiting Seppo Chris Lantz, hmmm I like it, ok I'll post it on Insty .... holy fricken shit! My most liked and shared shot on Insty ever. I don't think it's the best shot ever, but the caption was pretty good. It was about how Chris was ripping, but super respectful in the line up; if he got a bomb one set, he'd intentionally sit out the next set. He got his karma too, he got the best ...probably only barrel that day.  Respect to you Mr Lantz. 

The gorgeous Ange and I escaped to Samoa for my birthday, a number which does not need to be mentioned. The goal was to surf the birthday woes away. And I scored this wee nuggy of the reef pass almost every day for a week. One of the sessions was, for me, as good, fun and perfect as it gets . So this image represents a week of surfing fast, zippy barrels and desperately trying to clutch at the notion that I've still got it. [Never had it!] Love Samoa!  

click HERE to see bigger

And then this happened. A really good heavy bank on the Bar and a waterhousing configuration change [and a bit of practise to adapt for the change] This is the closest I've got to an image I've wanted for 25 years. I'm claiming it, it's the one I've been after. Here's the stinker though, a lot of locals still like this one better ... 
click HERE to see bigger

Tough audience huh! 
Last week the newbie got installed above the entrance of Backdoor Surf Barry's Point Road, Takapuna, 16 square metres of hugeness. So yeah defo in the top 20 huh! 

Hanging with Roger Hall is always a fun day. This day was a work day, shoot Roger in the Surfline Factory, in his habitat, maybe get some action and then interview him for NZ Surf Collection Vol 1 . The feature in the book came up really well, it's kind of a gnarly interview, pretty blunt and looking at a few old wounds. Josh, our graphic designer and Warren Hawke choose the last shot in the sequence to be included . I love the middle shot; love cross steps and the plank dance. 

Again not actually taken this year. But if you walk into your local Post Shop chances are this will be on the ad screens of sitting on the peg boards. This was a massive project with NZ Post, and I'm not going to lie, a bloody good payer. The First Day covers were released mid year. And it's the first time NZ Post have done NZ Surf Break Stamps. The $1 stamp was particularly good :) 
Home this Spring and one of the most north angled swells I can recall. It wasn't the biggest but it pumped for three days which is not usual. So this image is an emotional choice, 'cos north swells are such a treat. 

Dune Kennings on a northern treat. This shot is all about the angle and luck. Water photography is as much about the physical technique as it is photographic. So this one's me putting the camera in a different place. This one's a stoke maker to want to be in different places and give different angles. 

I thought this one was out of focus for a couple of days after, it was gutting, but then I checked it out properly at actual pixel depth. Corky is pin sharp in there. I shared it and Magic Seaweed picked it up as Shot Of The Day- chuffed. But this one's more of a stoker 'cos Corky charges whenever it's sizey and it's super cool that it's his Shot Of The Day.
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Last week... oh boy...last week was pretty epic. Another tough swim because when this place gets sizey so do its rips. Again this shot's an emotional choice, I haven't shot with Bobby Hansen for nearly a decade. 

And finally 20... that was harder than you'd think, and if you're still reading thank you for staying tuned. This did get posted in last week's E-bomb also. Straight off the bat there were a couple of requests for prints of it, so it's now the latest addition to the Waves Gallery HERE  so in a way, I haven't chosen #20, you guys did. Thank you for your patronage. 

That's probably the last E-bomb for 2017 fellas. It's been a full on year but a bloody good one for the PhotoCPL brand. Two big books smashed out and a lot of shooting in between. Next year... honestly...who knows, more roadies in the Chevy! More film shot and more swims with the waterhousing. 

Stay safe in the festive season!  


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