Up-and-coming surf photographers honored in awards paying tribute to one of the greats — Larry ‘Flame’ Moore – Orange County Register

There’s a moodiness to Nick Green’s images, captured in the shadows of the barreling big waves near his home in Australia, and in a storm hovering above the ocean’s horizon.

But then there’s the light shining through the cresting waves, and a vibrant sunset popping color behind the dreary clouds.

Green, who traveled to Orange County from Tasmania, earned this year’s “Follow the Light” award Thursday, Sept. 12, a prestigious honor for up-and-coming surf photographers.

“For me, it’s kind of been a form of medication, that’s kind of my main motivation. As long as I’m in the water, as long as I’m being creative — then it’s enough to keep going,” Green said after the win, which came with a $5,000 prize.

The award program at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point returned after a four-year absence. It was resurrected by the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in the hopes that it will give young, budding photographers encouragement and guidance.

Green was among the five finalists out of nearly 100 submissions from 12 countries — with a requirement that applicants be age 16 to 25.

The awards honor Larry “Flame” Moore, an iconic surf photographer and former photo editor at Surfing Magazine, who died in 2005 at age 57 from brain cancer. Moore grew up in Whittier and moved to Belmont Shore with his father while attending Cal State Long Beach.

The Follow the Light Foundation was created in Moore’s honor a year after his death, to provide grants and recognition to rising surf photographers.

Photographer Larry “Flame” Moore, shown here in 2005, changed the way surfers and non-surfers viewed the sport. (File photo by Daniel A. Anderson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The awards show began with Nick Carroll, a close friend and author of the book “30 years of Flame: California’s legendary surf photographer,” talking about Moore’s personality and the talent behind the lens.

“He loved surfing, he was like a little kid about it, all the way through,” Carroll said to the crowd. “Larry was relentless, meticulous, he was ruthless. He was a gatekeeper of surf photography in a time we’ll never see again.”

A slideshow of Moore’s work opened with a 1972 image of the photographer staring into the camera, surfboard under his arm, nose covered in zinc, a focused look on his face.

Moore kept a massive archive of images, back in a time when film — limited to 36 images per roll — was the method used by shooters.

“They were irreplaceable. If you lost one, if you damaged it, tore it, if it fell on the ground and you stepped on it … they were gone,” Carroll said. “It wasn’t a question of going out and shooting 1,000 frames in 10 minutes.”

Many images shown were from Moore’s favorite place to shoot — Salt Creek in Dana Point. Others were from secret spots of the time, including Cortes Bank, which he helped put on the map — images he kept secret for 10 years while he and surf forecaster Sean Collins tried to figure what swell and conditions were just right for the big-wave spot off Southern California’s coast.

But Moore was more than a surf photographer, he was a mentor to anyone who showed a keen interest and talent at the craft.

“He would have loved you five guys,” Carroll told the finalists. “He would have taken you under his wing. He would have delighted and adored in your successes.”

Each finalist gave a presentation, starting with Shane Grace, who showcased images from big-wave spots such as Jaws and other surf breaks including Pipeline near his home in Hawaii. He also highlighted images from Huntington Beach, where he grew up, and nearby Seal Beach, where he was a junior lifeguard.

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Grace won the “People’s Choice” award Thursday, picked by the audience, who voted for their favorite from the remaining four finalists.

“It’s just cool to even be here and be a finalist. That part is surreal enough,” the 25-year-old photographer said.

The finalists formed a bond through the experience.

“We were all together last night, our consensus was that we’ve all already won, just by being a finalist,” Grace said. “We’ve all got more friends now, more community. We met more people who all love the same thing. We’re all stoked.”

The Follow the Light awards, put on by the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, pays homage to renowned surf photographer Larry “Flame” Moore and gives a grant to one up-and-coming photographer talent in the challenging field. The images shown was taken by finalist Shane Grace. (Photo courtesy of SHACC)

Paul Greene showed many images from his home in Santa Barbara, with Nolan Sullivan showcasing Northern California’s more remote coast.

Ryan Mack showed a chilly New Jersey surf scene, where in winter water can be 40 degrees or colder. One image showed a portrait of San Clemente surfer Dane Gudauskas during a surf trip to the colder coast, ice covering his beard, eyebrows and long blond hair framing his smiling face.

But it was Green’s work that the committee — made up of past winners and some of the world’s top surf photographers — selected for the top honor. Along with the cash price, the win earned Green a chance to shoot a part of the Vans Triple Crown in Hawaii.

Larry Moore’s wife, Candace, said it was Green’s honesty about his emotional struggles that made him stand apart. Through his slideshow, Green talked about coping with mental health challenges and how surf photography was his form of therapy.

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