I recently found myself thinking that the way people in Quebec find their way to travel is impressive. We are here, far away from everything, staying in our comfort zone and then, we want to explore. Simple as that. I discovered the work of Jesse Levesque because of chat I had with Akela Surf on a sunny afternoon. Born in Quebec and now living in Nicaragua to avoid the freezing winter, Jesse spends his days shooting pictures of surfing and waves, at the same time of drinking refreshing drink that doesn’t cost a dime. Some would say he’s living the dream, while others would say that he works hard to be able to shoot some beautiful pictures. In both cases, he’s having fun in one of the best places. Even though I envy him a bit (way too much), I really wanted to do an interview with him. His pictures are really worth an article, no matter if I’m jealous of his lifestyle or not. He found the time to answer to me between some surf session and crazy nights out.
Where did you grow up and when / how did you get involved with photography?
Born in ‘91, I grew up in the suburbs of south shore Montreal, Chateauguay. I always had a small thing for photography growing up, I was debating going to college to study photography, but it didn't happen, I did a trade in car mechanics instead, haha. I didn't buy my first camera until 2013.
How did you become interested in making surf photography and how did you become so good at it, even though there is no surf scene in Quebec?
Well, thank you, I first came around surfing in 2012, with Barefoot Surf Travels. From there on I was hooked. I was also hooked on the aspect of wave formations. Through the internet, I discovered you could slap a camera into a water housing.
Life on the east coast is…
Life on the east coast is rad during the summer! Beaches, outdoor parties, bonfires! The winter is a bit harder, the cold is not my thing, that’s why I’ve been living in Nicaragua for the winter haha.
What kind of preparation do you do and how much effort does it take? What type of gear do you use for your shots?
First thing, you need to be some sort of fit, being pushed around in the water can be a bit hard sometimes, well most of the time. I usually start my mornings with a fruit smoothie, which is a must. Then, I grab my gear, I use an SPL Waterhousing with a Canon 60D and mostly Tokina Fisheye lens as well as a pair of Dafin Fins and all depending conditions wetsuits.
Who were the first artists that you found inspiring?
I was first influenced by a couple of different artists as they all have something different that I love. Among those people we have; Corey Wilson, Willie Kessel, Laser Wolf, Brent Bielmann, John Hook and Ray Collins.
Do you consider photographing as a future profession?
I’m working on it, as I do freelance working aside LiveGreenTeaHawaii and Barefoot Surf Travels. My goal is to do it for a full-time living.
When you aren't creating artwork, what are you into?
I like to party, haha no, but I’m really social, I love meeting new people and going out from bars to beach fires. If not, I will be either surfing or be on some sort of adventure!
What is it about surfing that makes it so visually captivating, especially for a photographer?
Being mostly a water photographer, something about being in the middle of the action drives me crazy. If I’m in the wrong placed I’ll get tossed around like a rag doll, but when I go over the last roll I’m always stoked to see the shots. Wave formations and working with different lights and conditions are what I love, there’s never a day that is the same.
What’s the most challenging thing you face when capturing a surfer in action?
Being in the right place at the right time, and not getting sand in my housing haha. Oh, and making sure I don't get hit with a board or fins on crowded days.
Have you ever experienced any risky moments while being in the water?
Happens almost every time I will be shooting with a fisheye lens, as I try to get as close as I can to the surfer or wave, and sometimes it puts me in a bad position. The wave will either push me over or pull me under water, it is sometimes a stressful moment, but I learn to deal with it more and more.
When you’re in the middle of all the action in the ocean, how do you stay focused on the moment?
I just try to be steady and calm on my shot, then again staying alert in case that a surfboard is heading into me.
Where are you when most of these shots are taken? Do you prefer shooting in the water or from the beach?
Most of my shots are taken in Central America, more often Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I do shoot river surfing back in Montreal sometimes for fun. I mostly shoot in water, when the waves are too big or conditions too rough I shoot from land with a longer lenses, but it’s rare unless I have a specific project.
How much of your day do you spend shooting and editing photographs?
All depending tides and surf conditions I will spend 3-7 hours at the beach shooting and then when I go home I usually clean my gear and go over a few shots. I usually edit my work at breakfast or on flat days, I can spend 1-2 hours depending on how many shots were taken.
Tell us more about living in Nicaragua. Any idea of the next place you will visit / move to?
I love Nica! Like I said before, thanks to Barefoot Surf Travels that I mostly discovered Nica. I live in San Juan Del Sur, which is a mix of party/surf town. Everyone here is out for a good time! Beaches and good surf are about 20-60 minutes by trucks. The beaches are not too crowded, the food is amazing and cost of life is cheap. Surf, Tunas & Tacos is the motto haha. The next destination I’m thinking Bali, Indo.
Biggest complaint about surf photography?
I can’t complain too much, but I think the biggest thing that I can say is like other careers, I need to make money. A lot of people want shots/pictures and they think everything is free or they ask me for a deal. If I put 100% into my work, why wouldn't you do the same? But sometimes I’m too nice and give it for free.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Oh, the big question. Haha, I have trouble making plans for next week. In 10 years, I’m hoping not much will change: surfing, pictures and just really enjoying life while making a living of it. For sure somewhere like Nica or Indo where I can enjoy the waves and good vibes without being -30 outside.
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