Rippin’ and Snappin’ with Mark Wengler.
Mark Wengler – Danish photographer and waterman. The time when I have spoken to a man more passionate about the ocean and the waves eludes me – his drive perhaps only rivaled by one of his Danish brethren, Christoffer “super stoked” Hartkopp.
I exchanged words with him about life, about how his relationship with the ocean changed in a split second – and of course, about his phenomenal photos.
Hi there Mark! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
MW: Well, how does one normally start these sort of things? I’m 54 – and live in Hellerup, north of Copenhagen, Denmark, together with my daughter, Marie, and our little dog, Inez.
I used to be a VERY passionate windsurfer, but a serious traffic accident changed my life. I got a very bad neck injury in a split second… While sitting in my car waiting for a red light to change, I was suddenly hit by a big truck who rammed violently into me from behind, which consequently launched my car out in to the crossroad section, where a bus came from the left side and hit my car AGAIN.
From that moment on, surfing was removed from my life for ever. After that I had a really difficult time mentally and I’m still suffering from monster headaches – but I could have ended up in a wheelchair.. or even died!! Luckilly, I’m still alive – the rest is just a matter of trying to stay positive and enjoy every moment… because we never know what tomorrow brings.
Wow, that sounds like quite a crazy accident – we are glad you are still here with us! You have an amazing talent when it comes to photography – when did your passion for taking photos kick in?
MW: Thank you. After spending 4-5 years struggling with the fact that I couldn’t enjoy the ocean like I used to, I slowly began to develop an interest for fly fishing, it gave me a whole new outdoor approach in a very “dark period” of my life.
Suddenly I was able to enjoy the outdoor life again, and it was through fly fishing my photographic interest slowly developed. One day an old windsurfing friend of mine asked me why I didn’t shoot some action photos of surfing. At first, I simply couldn’t handle it… having been torn from my passion of windsurfing and all.. but then he more or less “tricked” me (That f**king bastard!!! Haha, just kidding – really love him for it today!). We got in the car and “somehow” we ended up at the North Coast on a windy day. A day perfect for windsurfing.
I felt “reborn“, it was pure medicine for my sad soul, and I really enjoyed every single moment of that day. Meeting old friends, the light reflecting in the ocean, the powerful wind chiming in my ears. I closed my eyes for a second, and could suddenly hear them thundering upon the beach… the waves. O’ how I had missed them.
The waves changed everything. It suddenly struck me how much I had missed them. Missed the simplest of actions, just looking at the waves – admiring them. Forever changing, never the same shape. Their dynamic flow – how they build up, the joy of spotting them further out, finding the peak of every wave. You know, it’s all about the motion of the ocean. Can’t live without it!
Your passion for the ocean is moving, Mark. Really makes one think. You hang out a lot with the top danish surfers – what is it like, and do you have any words of praise for them?
MW: I generally really enjoy the company of all kinds of surfers worldwide, as most of them have a really free and positive spirit. Always tuned into the weather forecast, always in search for the perfect swell…
… ” But… of course I feel very much at home in my natural habitat amongst the Danish windsurfers, since that is where I first set my surfing roots. Lately I have followed Chris Hartkopp and his brother, Oliver. The company of these two brothers is such an immensely positive experience. ” …
They are just pure ocean spirits, with a constant “red alert” energy level. Chris is joining the european tour this year, and from what I saw of him in Portugal, he has a really good chance of positioning himself amongst the top in the european surf scene. Really got my fingers crossed for his success. Oliver is also a HUGE talent and he has developed a lot the last year after he moved to Klitmøller – he is much stronger and solid in his approach. An aura of confidence about him. It’s going to be really interesting to follow these two brothers the next couple of years.
Shooting so many photos it must be hard to decide which one is your best photo EVER. Still, do you have a favorite surf photo, and if so, can you tell us the story behind it?
MW: Ohh yes, so true – with 14 frames / photos shot per second I have to be very selective, otherwise my hard-drive will quickly freak out and send out smoke signals for help…
Over time, I have more or less experienced that out of approximately 1000 shots, only a few will really “stand out”. So, it’s a matter of being selective.
I love black and white (BW) shots, my daughter who is also a photo artist (www.mariewengler.com) taught me how to enjoy the raw power of BW. Answering your question, I have one picture in mind and there is a fun story behind it… A couple of years ago we arrived for an “early bird surf session” in Sweden, at one of my absolute favorite spots over there in our “Brother Nation”. The light conditions were not the best yet, but nice waves were rolling in constantly. I stressed into the right position and somehow I didn’t get the camera adjusted quite right, but somehow it gave this shoot a bit of a magic touch. Worst thing was I almost deleted it, but then my daughter luckily caught a glimpse of it and showed me some of the BW editing possibilities which made it one of my favorite shoots ever.
Your surf photos from Portugal looked amazing! Are you off for any other exciting photoshoots in the near future?
MW: Yes, I’m planing to go back to Portugal in october for sure, to shoot some nice photos and watch the ASP PRO series down there. Portugal really stole my heart. Ericeria, where I stayed, is a very unique little town, with so much charm and atmosphere. Cliche, but it was love at first sight. Putting that aside.. there are a bunch of interesting events I want to follow. The Copenhagen Pro Skate event in end July is a must! Most of the pros are showing up and it’s a really calm and relaxed event – with such a unique atmosphere.
Where can superstoked readers see more of your work?
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Rippin’ and Snappin’ with Mark Wengler.