Sporting a deep tan and a very mellow disposition, Gold Coast landscape photographer Sean Scott sat down with us to talk all things Tahiti. Armed with his trusty Canon 1D, Sean recently followed the swells to French Polynesia to capture this year's Billabong Pro surfing competition in Teahupo’o.
"They're calling this one the best surfing event of all time," Sean says. "The waves were enormous and perfect. They do it every year. It can quite often be good, but this year was the best quality wave they've ever had."
Sean is no stranger to immersing himself in the environments he is capturing. You might remember the Burleigh Heads-based photographer from his road trip around New Zealand's South Island, where he stood knee-deep in the middle of a freezing Lake Wanaka to capture its surreal, glass-like surface.
This time around, Sean stared down the barrel of some epic waves in Tahiti. Waves so impressive American surf champ Kelly Slater said it's the best surf he's ever been in. Waves so massive they reached the height of a three-storey building.
"I was lucky – I was there on possibly one of the best days they had in the competition," Sean tells us. "The event itself went for two weeks, but there were only four days of surfing.
"I don't do a lot of surf photography. I love the landscape and do a lot of oceans, even inside waves – rarely do I get to shoot surfers actually surfing them. So this was pretty much the best way to do it!"
Sean wasn't capturing the waves from afar. Bobbing in a small boat, the waves crashed right in front of him, sending nervous paddle-boarders and kayakers retreating back to calmer waters.
"I was exciting enough by itself, sitting there with these waves that come pretty close to you. It was a bit of a rush!" Sean says.
Sean relished the chance to shoot something different and push his creative boundaries, but making his way over to the outlying island of Moorea revealed something equally as rewarding.
There were two major highlights of Sean's Tahiti trip. The first was shooting the Billabong Pro. The second, swimming with stingrays, black-tip reef sharks, and whales in Moorea.
"I swam with the whales, which I was not expecting to do," Sean says. "It was like me-to-you away. There were heaps of people in the water and I was lucky that I spotted two big whales deep down, while everyone else was looking elsewhere. Slowly, he just came straight up and breached right in front of me."
While many might think of French Polynesia's islands as honeymoon central, Sean's experience proves it's more of a bucket-list destination than you might expect.
"Within about 200 metres of where I stayed on Moorea at the Les Tipaniers was everything: the water, the sharks, the rays, the lot."
"I hadn't been to Tahiti before, but I would definitely go back," Sean says. "I only got out to Moorea, but I'd love to see Bora Bora and the other islands. Most islands have protected lagoons and the outer reef.
"Those little islands are all so open, you can just drive around, find a beautiful part of the lagoon, and just head out there on your own."
Despite Tahiti and Moorea's offerings of whale swims, world-class surf and, of course, those iconic over-water bungalows, Sean says it's still not overrun with tourists.
Moorea is easily accessible via ferry from the main port in Tahiti, while Tahiti itself is an easy flight from Australia's east coast (arriving in the French Polynesian capital of Papeete), usually with a quick stopover in New Zealand.
"I did the Maldives just before this," Sean says. "I've been to the Maldives a lot of times, but I liked Tahiti better. This time, I got to go and look for what I wanted to shoot."
Sean has just returned from a second trip to NZ – watch this space for a wrap-up!
About Sean Scott
Sean Scott is a coastal landscape photographer based in Burleigh Heads, Queensland. Operating his own galleries for over 10 years, Sean has built up quite a library of images from all over the world. His passion for what he does is evident in his work and he is constantly travelling in search of his next shot. Sean is well-known for both his underwater and landscape photography.