A travel scrapbook by Nate Zoller

Mexico © Nate Zoller


Travel Photographer

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Hi Nate, you surf, travel and photograph for a living, how did that come into being?

I’ve been surfing my entire life, and I often sacrifice certain day-to-day comforts in order to be on the road. I have always taken photos of my travels, since I was 12 years old. But after graduating college with a degree in Cultural Anthroplogy I became inspired to create more of a cultural diary of the far-reaching places I go. Being able to make a living off of surfing and documenting my travels happened organically with sponsors and websites/magazines reaching out.

How does the stillness of photography relate to the dynamics of surfing?

I believe good photography takes patience. I do my best work when I am not rushing a moment and I feel that translates over to surfing. Patience is a huge factor in waiting for the right wave to catch. And once you see that moment, be it a wave or a photograph, you grab onto it and take advantage.

“Engaging with the people and culture of a place has become the most rewarding factor of travel for myself.”

Nate Zoller
Nate Zoller


You work a lot with video as well, how does that play into your photography work?

I do work with video but am often in front of the lens as subject/surfer. It turns me into more of a director who has to know what looks good. A background in photography helps me visualize how something should be shot. My brother Isaac is the cinematographer and we work together on many surf/travel projects.

You have travelled to an incredibly wide variety of places, from Fiji to Senegal and Iceland, what is it that draws you to these different places?

I am always trying to find ways to get to a place I’ve never been. Fiji came from years of nagging to drive boats for the island of Tavarua. Last year I got a call on a Saturday that they needed someone to be there Monday. I dropped everything and bought the ticket. Best decision I’ve ever made. After a few weeks on the island I caught a flight to Nepal, where I spent two weeks exploring and photographing with my sponsor the Roark Revival. Every six months I travel with a small crew to a remote part of the world in order to create unique advertisements. We tear through entire countries in ten days or less, leaving no stone unturned. Senegal and Iceland also came about through Roark.

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Tell me about one of your favourite trips?

A trip that stood out above all others was Iceland. I was there in December, in the dead of winter, where the sun only breached over the horizon for a few hours a day. We drove around the entire island and surfed near Icebergs, saw the northern lights on multiple occasions, drove through the tundra and got lost in the fjords. I can’t wait to go back, the lighting and natural beauty make it a photographers dream location.

Next to shooting the surfing culture, what are the things that inspire you about a place?

Engaging with the people and culture of a place has become the most rewarding factor of travel for myself. Half the time I travel for the surf and then am totally caught off guard by the richness of the culture. For example, the Fijian people are some of the funniest and most loving I have ever met. A couple weeks on an island in the South Pacific cleaned my western perspective slate clean. And that is kind of what draws me to travel so much; being able to see life through a different set of eyes.

“We tear through entire countries in ten days or less, leaving no stone unturned.”

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Your photographs provide snippets of your travels; do you feel your photography helps you explore a place?

I have always aimed to record my experience of the places I travel to. My website started as a personal diary so I could have a place to house my memories/photographs from each trip. I bring multiple cameras on every trip and look to document nuances of a place. And then once I sift through the results it lets me relive each moment, almost like a scrapbook.

Have you got any places that are high up on the to-go list?

There are a few places on my radar I want to check out this year. A set of islands off the coast of Chile, the Tran Siberian jaunt of Russia, and also the rugged coast of Portugal. There are a million places I want to go, but those are on the top of the list.

Peace © Nate Zoller