04.26.2019 Russell Ord

Personal Best vol.22 | Russell Ord

Russell Ord

On his path to becoming an internationally acclaimed photographer, Russell Ord has squinted down the lens at an intriguing mix of subjects over the years. He’s shot magazine covers of world-class surfers and helped deify celebrity chefs. He’s roamed with Uunguu Rangers in the Australian outback, island-hopped across tropical fantasylands and followed his photographic instincts through urban meccas. Meanwhile, his ocean images are celebrated for simultaneously implying the cruelty and majesty of the sea.

As one of the world’s leading surf photographers, Russ’s unique talents culminated in his documentation of a violent twist of Indian Ocean known simply as ‘The Right’. In pursuit of a unique, career-defining angle, Russ put himself in a situation where the ocean’s most powerful forces converge. The hard-won image served as the focal point for his celebrated documentary, ‘One Shot’.

While he remains a passionate and astute chronicler of the ocean’s moods, Russ suggests that evolving and diversifying is the key to a long and stimulating photographic career. “I realised very quickly if I wanted to keep working as a photographer I would have to develop other skills. Most of my work now revolves around capturing people’s stories, along with tourism and brand work.”

While professionally driven, Russ is very much the type of person who thrives on the opportunity to share his extensive knowledge. “It just about works in reverse,” he states. “By sharing my experience/knowledge, it inspires me to pick up the camera and shoot for the enjoyment. Watching someone develop a new skill and how ecstatic they are when the shot works out serves as a true reminder of why I started photography in the first place.”

Russ’s diverse range of experience, superior technical knowledge and gregarious nature mean he is uniquely placed to act as a mentor to other photographers. Time with Russ is not simply a tutorial; it’s a rollicking experience that ensures you come away both entertained and educated.


  • XF56mmF1.2 R
  • XF10-24mmFF R OIS
  • XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

I can still remember the phone call, I was just about to launch my jet-ski for a photo shoot “Russell, it’s Kevin from FujiFilm, and we are looking for a surf Photographer to trial a new camera”.

I was surprised and honored to be asked however at the time I had no idea that phone call was going to have such an impact on my future work and how I go about capturing images.

The camera arrived a month or so later, easily half the size of my typical setup, and it wasn’t until I decided to use it capturing my lifestyle work and how people’s reaction or more importantly the lack of reaction to the camera, that I quickly realized how important this tool was going to be in my work. Having in hand an unintrusive sized X-T2 allowed me to capture peoples stories in a far more natural way, combing this with the camera’s performance capturing action had me doing a complete change over in equipment (the first time I have ever done this in my career).

It’s great to look back in my career, the defining moments, the mistakes, how and why I should have done this or that better, how to improve, and I always think about that one phone call, “the wake-up call” I like to call it.


X-T2 + Touit 2.8/12 - 1/800 sec at F8.. ISO 800, 12mm.

Two times world surfing champion Tom Carroll is waiting for a wave to arrive during a tropical downpour in the Telo Islands. It’s never easy shooting an above and below image especially in the torrential rain; the raindrops cause blurring in parts of the picture from hitting my dome port, I was lucky to have a few keepers amongst a lot of ruined images.

X-T2 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS - 1/800 sec at F8.0 ISO 400, 11mm.

I love what’s happening below the surface of this image, Asher Wales (the surfer) is gliding past while one photographer is shooting and another swimming under the waves vortex. Underwater action photos give a vastly different aspect than above the surface.

X-T2 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS - 1/2500 sec at F8.0 ISO 800, 10mm.

Luke Barrett gliding through a Fijian crystal barrel, as a surfer myself this is as close to feeling like I am part of the wave while taking images, the athlete and photographer sharing the same space of ocean.

X-T2 + XF56mmF1.2 R - 1/320 sec at F1.6 ISO 800, 56mm.

Roger Hall a New Zealand based surfboard shaper putting the final touches to the foam blank before the next stage of fibreglassing. Capturing peoples stories is certainly my favourite part of my work including more delicate details.

X-H1 + Touit 2.8/12 - 1/20 sec at F8.0 ISO 200, 12mm.

My first swim with the X-H1 and my primary objective was to test the camera stabilisation (very happy with the performance), waves a very tricky to find that correct shutter speed to cause motion blur in one part of an image and freeze another part especially while swimming.

X-H1 + XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR - 1/6 sec at F13 ISO 200, 400mm.

There are many ways to showcase an incredible sunrise in this circumstance I wanted to blend the colours of the sky and water via a motion blur using very slow shutter speed. I love how you can combine the colours (in camera) and to look at it have no idea the exact nature of the picture.

X-T2 + XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR - 1/3200 sec at F5.6 ISO 400, 400mm.

In the past, there is no way I would have attempted to shoot a wave with a 100-400mm lens while driving a jetski and figuring out ways to avoid oncoming surf and losing gear. The compact nature of this lens apart from capturing clean, crisp images gives me plenty of room to drive the ski and shoot with a dry bag on my lap which opens up doors and greater possibilities to showcase the ocean.

X-T2 + XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR - 1/5000 sec at F5.6 ISO 250, 400mm.

The ocean has an array of moods, from tranquil to some may say quite violent, as a surf photographer for the past eighteen years I have seen them all, however, there is something that draws me back, the peace amongst massive oceans, a form of serenity that I never get from being on land.

Read more on “Personal Best”

Vol.1- Flemming Bo Jensen
Vol.2- Pieter D’Hoop
Vol.3- Santiago Escobar-Jarmillo
Vol.4- Stefan Finger
Vol.5- Xyza Cruz Bacani
Vol.6- Christian Bobst
Vol.7- Tomasz Lazar
Vol.8- Eamonn McCarthy
Vol.9- Faruk Akbaş
Vol.10- Kevin Mullins