Flashing back to a legendary lenswoman who rocked the 60s, 70s surf scene, left an outstanding impression amongst a world of very surfing heavily dominated by men.
Shirley Rogers, a Hawaiian born surfer, model, photographer, and actress moved to the North Shore of Oahu in 1971--during a time when there were very few women living in the region and heavy male surfing energy was a dominant force ruling one of the most sought-after wave riding region of the globe.
“It was like the Wild West, and even being local didn’t help – my first Nikon setup was stolen from my house! Thank God they didn’t get my Century lens.”
Being one of the only local female surf photographers gave Rogers a unique allure and advantage to documenting images of a rather tight-knit, inside circle of pro male surfers, their lifestyle. However, Rogers still needed to prove herself, capabilities as a lenswoman among the predominantly male surfers, photographers and earned new respect after having to stand, work long hours shooting in the heat and shlepping heavy loads of camera equipment up & down long beachfront stretches.
Despite her work being published throughout the 70s and 80s, and her name being listed on the Surfing masthead for years under contributing photographers, little is known of her. She stopped shooting decades ago.
Jack McCoy and Dickie Hoole asked Shirley to shoot their Century lens at Waimea Bay for their surf mag, BackDoor, because they were doing water shots for their movie, In Search of Tubular Swells...not long after, Rogers gained pretty rapid notoriety among the North Shore surfing, surf photography scene.
“The thing I remember most was how quick to learn she was, and how soon she was taking great photos that were published not long after she started, which was saying something,” says McCoy. “Sure, there were some standard rules you had to learn to get your exposure and shutter speeds right, however it was a real art to learn to follow focus manually to get a sharp shot. There was such a small area of depth of field where your shot was either tack sharp or slightly soft.”
Shirley learned from other photographers such as Dan Merkel and Brian Bielmann; she had an eye for off-moments and produced stunning, candid portraits. Being the most gorgeous woman on the beach during a time when there weren’t any women on the beach, she gained VIP access to the entire stage of the surfing arena.
Besides shooting the rising stars of the time like Shaun Tomson, Gerry Lopez, and Rory Russell, she brought lesser-known, local heroes into the spotlight like Marvin Foster and Louis Ferreira.