Mike Borchard

Heidi: How long has the ocean been part of your life?
Mike: The ocean has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. The first house I lived in as a kid was only a couple hundred yards from the ocean, so pretty much from birth I was at the beach. I feel extremely blessed to have grown up in and around the sea.

How has your love for the ocean informed or influenced your photography?
My relationship with the ocean has influenced the direction of my photography significantly. In the past, I viewed my commercial photography work as a separate entity from my ocean and outdoor exploits, and I was almost hesitant to mix the two. I was putting too much energy into photographing whatever subjects and scenes I thought would get me hired. Over the past year or two, I’ve really leaned into my connection with the ocean and pushed my work in that direction, both in terms of subject matter and style. I’m in this for the long haul, and shooting subjects I’m passionate about and know intimately seems to me to be the best way I can build a sustainable career. Subject matter aside, I find myself gravitating stylistically to images that feel more raw and honest and have a certain untamed energy. That’s definitely inspiration I’ve taken from the sea. The ocean is no bullshit, no frills, just unapologetically itself to anyone and everyone who comes in contact with it. My goal is to be able to say the same about my work. I’m not there yet, but it’s an ongoing process.

What projects have you been working on lately?
I just wrapped up two projects that I shot during the pandemic free time. The first was a study of surfing through double exposure film photography using iterations of old Nikonos cameras, which were some of the first complete underwater camera systems invented in the 1960s. The second project is a series of portraits of strangers I made immediately after they exited the ocean, still dripping wet. Since then, I’ve been a bit busier with commercial work again. As far as upcoming personal projects, I’ll be working on my first motion piece this spring, which will feature a story about connection to the ocean and quite a bit of spearfishing as well.


How soon after the fish was speared did you take that image?

Probably around 10 minutes, which is the time it took to fight the fish back up to the surface after it was first speared.

Was there concern with the blood in the water (will that bring predators?)
The blood can attract predators, but it isn’t a huge immediate concern. These tuna schools are often feeding on large bait balls and are found in areas of the ocean where there is already above average animal activity and life. Sharks or other predators are more than likely already prowling these same areas whether we see them or not. You’re never on top of the food chain out there, but the blood definitely isn’t helping.

What led you to spearfishing?
I got into spearfishing one winter when the waves were terrible in California. It was flat for months and we couldn’t surf, so a buddy and I went and bought used 3-prong pole spears off Craigslist. We just decided to go for it and figure it out. That was years ago, but it took off pretty fast, and quickly became my favorite ocean pastime.

How long can you hold your breath?
Breathhold really depends on the activity you’re doing. For example, it’s much easier to hold your breath freediving than it is while being held down surfing in big waves, but much harder than if you were just floating face down in a pool. If I can spend a couple minutes underwater actively photographing or hunting I’m happy.

Was this personal work?
Yes this was personal work, if you can even call it that! I wasn’t working on a specific project or anything in particular when I shot this image, I was just out on a trip for fun and had brought my camera. I only picked up my camera twice that day and just took about 50 photos, but thankfully I was in the right spot to get this frame and it was selected as a category winner for Modern Huntsman.

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