Several mornings a week, John Lucarelli gets up before dawn, checks the surf report and packs up his wet suit, fins and camera gear. He drives to beaches and coves along Newport Beach and Laguna Beach in search of his ideal sunrise conditions—a glassy ocean, unique light and a building swell. Then the self-taught photographer from Corona del Mar waits where the waves crash over his head to shoot hundreds of photos with his waterproof camera. Often, he returns before dusk to try to capture the sunset as well.
“Many days I get nothing. It’s all about taking the time to go again and again until I capture the image I’m after,” said Lucarelli, who calls his work “wave art.” “I’m not after one perfect image. It’s more about those moments when everything lines up.”
Lucarelli’s images often are so full of brilliant, almost-psychedelic colors, that many admirers believe he manipulates them.
“One of the most common questions I get is, ‘How do you get that?’ or ‘What do you do to them?’” said Lucarelli. “I try to get out there and capture as close to natural as possible. The colors come from my techniques and time of day I shoot, as opposed to Photoshop and post-production.”
To capture the intense light and reflections on the waves, Lucarelli says he shoots mainly during sunrise and sunset, when the light can be the most vibrant and luminescent.
“Many days I get nothing. It’s all about taking the time to go again.”