By PAUL GONZALEZ
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Surf photographer and filmmaker Morgan Maassen’s office is the world.
The Santa Barbara native started out making films in 2003 at 13 with his family’s old Canon ZR80 camcorder from Costco and a buggy version of Windows Movie Maker.
“Throughout my teenage years, I ditched school and worked to sneak off and film my friends surfing, making short films I released on MySpace, YouTube, and sold on homemade DVD’s in Santa Barbara’s surf shops,” wrote Mr. Maassen in a blog post.
In 2013, a Quicksilver sponsorship allowed Mr. Maassen to invest more time into making films with professional surfers Kelly Slater and Stephanie Gilmore.
Since then he’s earned several awards including the 2013 Red Bull Illume “Athlete’s Choice.” He was a 2013 Monster Children Black & White Finalist and 2014 Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown Finalist.
These days, Mr. Maassen spends half his time making films outside the surfing industry.
He took a moment between projects to answer a few questions about his career.
What was your last project, and what will you be working on next?
Mr. Maassen: “I just wrapped up a short film about a close friend of mine, Imogen Caldwell, a young woman who grew up in the outback desert. She spends her days surfing large waves, hunting, fishing, and exploring, so I spent some time documenting her as well as her international travels between Indonesia, France, and Iceland.
“I just returned from another trip to Iceland (on Feb. 5) where I was free diving underneath a frozen lake. Truly the most terrified I’ve ever been, but it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.”
You did some work on the Amazon building in Downtown Santa Barbara. How did you choose the photos for that project?
Mr. Maassen: “Through a friend employed at Amazon, they reached out to me to use my photography to furnish some of their wall space in their new campus. They opted with several images; some featuring the sea and landscapes of Santa Barbara, and others places abroad like Hawaii, Australia and Barbados.”
How did you get into photography and filmmaking?
Mr. Maassen: “When I was 13, I injured myself surfing, keeping me out of the water for several months. This coincided with a mentor program for 7th grade, and as another student had already claimed the idea of shaping a surfboard, I had to find another way to incorporate my passion for the sport into the project. I ended up asking my father’s friend, a cinematographer, and borrowing the family camcorder to learn the ropes of shooting and editing video, which resulted in a 9-minute short film… that was terrible! However, the newfound excitement and gratification I felt from exploring cinematography, video editing, music, and documenting the beautiful waves and talented surfers of my hometown became a passion I had to pursue.
“From there, I set out on a journey of odd jobs to continuously upgrade my cameras and computers while producing short videos that I uploaded to YouTube/MySpace along with several longer films that I sold in our local surf shops on homemade DVDs. Around the age of 18, my father casually suggested that I try out photography to compliment the videos I was making. He lent me his Nikon D50 with a couple of old manual focus lenses and I immediately became engrossed as the transition from storytelling with motion to freezing it in 1/1000th of a second thrilled me. I quickly changed gears and began shooting photos everyday, of everything I could point my camera at.”
What is the next step for your career?
Mr. Maassen: “This year I’m continuing to travel as far and wide as possible, but I really hope to expand my filmmaking and storytelling to a higher level.”
Mr. Maassen’s work is available at https://vimeo.com/morganmaassen and http://www.morganmaassen.com/