We are happy to introduce our next photographer of our portfolio series. James Martin hails from the Tla-o-qui-aht territory on West Coast of Vancouver Island and is blue collar and humble as they come. Spending the majority of his time commercial fishing from Oregon to Alaska with his family, James spends his off season shooting surf up and down the coast. To learn more about James and his work scroll down and enjoy!
James Martin // Portfolio Series
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Tell us a little about yourself?
I come from the Tla-o-qui-aht first nations, I’ve spent my life growing up in our Hahoulthee which today is Tofino and its surrounding area.
You have been a Tofino local your entire life, what has changed the most over the years?
There’s so much, that’s a tough one. When I was 5 I think there were 800-900 people that lived here, Surfers were a bunch of weird hippy’s, and tourism was just starting to become a thing. Now a summer’s a complete write-off. These days it seems like there’s never a break from all the tourist. “Weekend warriors” come from all over the island and mainland to surf. At the same time, it’s how a lot of my friends and family make a living around here. So I can’t complain.
What would you like to change with where the town is heading?
All the damn stop signs popping up at every block in town haha. Nah, one thing that bothers me is the lack of respect in the lineup around the local beaches I constantly hear about. Maybe somebody needs to start cracking a whip out there. You’d never hear about that happening to locals in other parts of the island.
We see you have been commercial fishing a lot this summer, how was the season?
It was a long season haha. Just finished fishing halibut on my brother’s boat a couple of weeks ago. There were good days, and there were bad days, but That’s fishing, just like shooting surf. I think between June and late October (fishing Chinook, Sockeye, halibut and tuna) I spent a total 7 to 10 nights in my own bed… I love it though, for myself there’s a sense of belonging out there!
Any crazy moments with nature or weather?
There’s one day that comes in mind for me. It was around mid-August. A big northwest/ high-pressure system had made it all the way down from the charlottes/Alaska area down to the Oregon coast (where we were fishing tuna at the time). By the time it had hit us it was blowing about 30-35 knots and was at least a 6-meter short period/wind swell… I remember looking towards the bow after pulling a fish and couldn’t see shit. There’s a wall of white, and the wheelhouse was somewhere behind it. Would’ve brought my camera out if we weren’t getting fish that day. Crossing the Dixon entrance/Hecate strait area is never fun either… Once you have enough fish on board the boat turns into a brick shit house so to speak. It stops rolling with the waves and starts plowing through them. So if you’re on the deck you really have to watch out for a big one that might wash over the side or come over the bow
Touching more on the environmental aspects, rumours of sportfishing closures are starting rise around Vancouver Islands coast, what are your thoughts on it all?
It sucks for sure. The proposed areas that DFO wants to close for the SRKW has already been closed to the commercial sector for some time. There’s a lot of families that rely on fishing charters to put food on their table. The issue that is lack of salmon for the southern resident orcas goes far beyond fishing in my opinion. That’s a huge conversation that we’ll put aside for now.
Have you seen less or more chinooks as of late, compared to years passed?
The area we fish Chinook has been doing quite a bit better than clayoquot sound. One theory that’s commonly discussed amongst us commercial guys is that it could be due to the sea pen rearing going on in the area. That’s where the smolts are grown to big enough size and released into the wild. The idea’s that they will have a better chance of escaping predators, surviving sea lice, and ultimately returning home. Not to say nothing’s getting done in Clayoquot. CWFS and The Tofino salmon enhancement society continues to do great work even though they’re disgustingly underfunded.
How and when did you get into Photography?
I initially started by filming for Vince (Sepp). His filmer had just left town, and I just jumped in to help him out. Later on, I saw some of the shots the older guys were getting, and I wanted to take photos. Today getting a banger gets me just as psyched getting the wave the day when I was younger. So, I slowly started buying gear over about a year or so.
You have been on quite a few trips over the past couple of years. What is your fondest memory from all your travels?
Any tour when the old-timers are around, those guys always have a couple of haywire stories to share haha.
What kind of gear are you running with at the moment?
Canon 5D Mark 3, 50 mm f 1.2, 100-400 f4, 24 mm f1.4, with an aquatech water housing.
What other hobbies do you have outside of the fishing and surfing?
Well, I grew up playing puck, hockey was my first love. My brother and I, try to get out to port once in a while to play in their men’s league.
Will the Leafs ever win Lord Stanley again?
I’ll always hate the Leafs so I hope not haha. They’re looking pretty good these days though with all that young talent. Adding JT was a pretty deadly signing too.
Where is your dream surf trip?
Mind your business hahaha.
Alright, what about winter plans?
Hopefully get in a couple surf/photo trips. Otherwise, enjoy time with family until next season.