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Flash, Flo Jung - Samuel Tome (20220408) (STP28821-Edit)




Flo Jung and photographer Sam Tomé tell us about their daring night shoot in the notoriously shark filled waters of Cape Town, South Africa!  

Words: Flo Jung and Sam Tomé  // Photos : Sam Tomé.

Flo Jung – “You probably know this problem. You see a good forecast with the wind starting at 8 p.m. and decreasing at 6 a.m. the following morning. Unless it’s summer, and you are somewhere like the far north of Europe, you can’t do much with a good forecast like that, because it will be pitch dark when it’s windy! I have experienced that very problem in South Africa, especially at the end of the season in April, when the trade winds start in the evening, just before the sun disappears behind the horizon. 


But there are no problems, only solutions for local water photographer Sam Tomé. He is a local legend in the south of Cape Town and pretty much all good water shots from any pro rider that resides here over the season come from his camera. He isn’t just an expert in taking water shots, but also specializes in building his own camera water housings too.  

One day while the sun was just setting and the full moon was just about to rise, we tried his new invention – a water housing with a big built-in flash system. 


Going in this ‘black’ water when it’s hunting time for the big grey fish feels a bit uncomfortable, but at least I was on top of my board while Sam was swimming out next to me in this freezing cold water at a spot close to the Cape of Good Hope. I had been swimming every morning at sunrise in this bay with a couple of friends and thus knew its currents quite well. As for sharks, I actually don’t worry about them too much. They might be there, but as long as they don’t attack, I am fine with that. 


I could barely see the approaching wave, even with the light of the full moon. The waves were 1-1.5 metres and the wind side-offshore for a 4.2 sail. While sailing at night, you must rely on different senses. You have to trust your gut feeling that your timing is right and just go for it. I tried to compensate for the lack of sight by listening to the waves and feeling the power in my sail. It’s a weird experience. It’s hard enough to hit a lip with perfect timing during daylight, and it doesn’t get any easier at night! 

Seeing Sam floating between the waves was another tricky part. To know more or less where he was located, he started to flash his camera while I was setting up on a wave. Like that I had a rough idea where he was in the water and tried to time it with hitting the lip more or less at the right moment in front of him. The final results on the camera were pretty surprising. The splash of the water drops look like little stars and the whitewater like frozen ice. It’s definitely something different!”  

Sam Tomé – “Having spent many hours out in the water here shooting windsurfing over a good few seasons, I felt like I needed to set myself a challenge and try to shoot windsurfing with a flash in the waves after the sun had gone down. The first step was to figure out how I was going to get the flash close enough to the rider and the waves. I have been building my own water housings for my cameras for quite a while, so all I had to do was incorporate a flash mounted on the ‘hot shoe’ of the camera into one of my designs. After a few hours in CAD, and many hours in the workshop laying up carbon fibre, vacuum infusions and plenty of sanding, I had a working housing for the flash setup.  


Shooting flash is like going back to the film days. You can’t spray and pray in burst mode. You have to anticipate the action and have a relatively good response time in order to pull the trigger at the opportune moment. What I hadn’t considered was how little you would able to see in the water once it gets dark. Even once your eyes have adjusted, you still can’t see very much and you have to rely on your other senses. For Flo and I, sound played a big role. I had to listen for the board skipping down the line, then the silence of the rail engaging on the bottom turn, spray dropping onto the surface of the water and then relying on experience and muscle memory to know when to pull the trigger for the top turn. For one thousandth of a second while the flash is going off, you can see if you timed it right or not. 

Floating around in the darkness, with the fading yellow sky above, watching Flo sail and disappear into the distance looking for the next wave to ride, one can’t help but wonder what else is out there in the cold dark waters. The Atlantic down here is fairly well known for the men in grey pyjamas, and although I don’t let it consume me, I always pray that I won’t be on their menu for that evening.” 

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