The Wedge: Kevin Kielty captured one of the surf break's most impacting photo ever | Photo: Kevin Kielty/Red Bull Illume

My name is Kevin Kielty. I never had a genuine passion for anything before I started seeing the world through my lens. Now, it's my reason for living.

My next great shot is always the carrot at the end of the stick, and I'll chase that f----er wherever it goes!

This is the story of one of my pictures, the one that was a semifinalist of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2023 in the category "Photos of Instagram."

I'm an amateur photographer (aspiring to be a pro), born and raised in California.

I didn't get my first real camera until I was almost 50 years old, and I was 51 before I shot my first surfer.

Since then, photography has changed my life.

As an active misanthrope and part-time agoraphobe, my camera has dragged me outdoors and into contact with some amazing people and places, thus destroying my distaste for humanity (mostly).

I now have friends and sometimes even speak to them - in person, no less!

I enjoy all kinds of photography but am particularly drawn to surfing and wildlife shoots.

It probably has a lot to do with the distance those allow me to keep between myself and my subjects - hard to completely kick those misanthropic tendencies, after all.

As one can probably tell, I live alone, I work alone, and I will more than likely die alone.

Kevin Kielty: an amateur photographer born and raised in California | Photo: Kielty

The Surf Shot

The Wedge is a surf break in Newport Beach, California, known for its size and ferocity.

Nestled into a corner of a jetty at the entrance to Balboa Harbor, the conflicting swells here bounce off the rocks and create conditions for some of the greatest wipeouts you'll ever see.

When it's firing, the water is packed with bodyboarders, bodysurfers, and surfers.

On this particular day in September 2022, the waves were 15-20 feet, and the water was packed.

While most of the action was taking place on the lefts breaking away from the jetty, there were still a couple of surfers challenging the rights.

I'd been shooting at 500 mm, catching the bodyboarders in the barrels off the jetty, when I noticed a nice set coming in for the surfers taking the rights.

I dropped down to 200 mm just in time to catch the full sequence of this guy dropping in on a foamy ten-footer before it eventually swallowed him whole.

The action at the Wedge is so rapid-fire that I never know what I've captured until I get home, so this was a gem among some great action shots for the day.

Technical Settings

Camera: Nikon D500
Lens: Nikon 200-500mm
ISO: 400
F-Stop: 5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/3200

Words by Kevin Kielty | Photographer @kksurfphotography

Top Stories

I'm now making a surfing video game called "Surfers Code," but I probably shouldn't be.

It's hard to find a secluded surf break these days. But when it seems impossible to be alone and surf with your thoughts, magic happens.

He's one of the legends of surfing history who passed away too soon. Sion Milosky was 35 when he rode his final wave.

There are many ways to ride a wave using surprisingly more surf craft than one could imagine. But can the Laser Olympic sailboat do it?