Not Seeing Eye Level

Eugene Tan, a Tamarama-based water photographer, got his first camera in a garage sale at the age of nine. It was the size of an adult’s palm and tiny compared to some of the equipment he uses for his work these days. Now, the 33-year-old owns a multitude of cameras and lenses. The largest one is about as long as his outstretched arm.

Eugene Tan

Tan has managed to turn his passion for the beach and photography into a successful career and is the proud owner of two galleries, in Bondi and Bali, to date and another one in planning.

His local exhibition is an aquatic little world with over two-hundred panoramic, surf and underwater pictures hung on white walls, handy in wooden boxes and on draws. Their presentation is modern and meticulous. Blue lights create a true underwater setting in the evenings.

According to Tan, he wants to show people something they don’t normally see and aims to show “unique angles” in his shots.

Sara Groen, one of Tan’s customers, says he creates an intimacy with the ocean in his images. She particularly likes his use of light.

And Andrew G, a fan of Tan’s website Aquabumps and subscriber to his free daily surf report, says “Not only does [he] capture the majesty of Bondi in the morning, but when I’m away, I read [his e-mails] and feel a little closer to home. He inspires me to buy expensive lenses and get up extra early to make my own photos better.”

If you’ve always dreamt of taking your own beautiful shot of the ocean or your home break, Tan shares some professional advice.

“Tips would be: good light. Light’s everything. It’s actually just waiting for the right moment of light.”

While Tan’s equipment is a cut above anything a hobby photographer could afford, including a lens worth over $15,000, he says good photos can be taken on any camera.

“Good gear helps. It’s not everything though. When I couldn’t afford a real lens, I shot one of my best shots on a two hundred dollar lens,“ Tan said.

“It’s just being out there at the right time. I reckon at the start and the end of the day is the best time to shoot. Middle of the day is boring. Everyone sees it.”

According to Tan, another common mistake is when “people just think they’re gonna go out and take a good picture straight away. Whereas, I really hammered it to get good shots. You don’t get it in one shot. You really gotta be persistent.”

And getting back to his artistic eye and unique angles, he adds. ”The most important thing is: try and show something that people don’t normally see. Otherwise it’s not that interesting… ‘cause everyone sees eye level. So don’t shoot eye level, try and shoot on the ground or on a wall or something like that, where people don’t normally put their head. That’s when you get interesting angles.”

If that all sounds like too much work to get a beautiful photo of the ocean, just go down to the Aquabumps Gallery in Bondi and look through Tan’s samples of his work or log onto

It is winter after all, and not everyone will want to join Tan for the sunrise at the beach, sitting on the cold sand for hours, waiting for the perfect shot.

Article for The Beast.

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