Filmmaker Feature: Branden Aroyan

How did you get into photography? What brought you to become a photographer?

My dad was always shooting family group shots during cultural experiences as we traveled around on road trips to visit random places. Then in the fifth grade we went to a camera store and picked up a Pentax with an interchangeable 50mm lens. It was both auto and manual which allowed me to play around with exposures and make some mistakes that I later learned how to control.

Do you think by going to Brooks Institute of Photography that you have an advantage over those who don’t? How do they prepare you to become a professional photographer?

Brooks Institute definitely gives an advantage, depending on the type of photography and the person. Essentially you can be self taught by reading up and researching and testing with digital photography. Internships can be very rewarding. Brooks is very technical and demanding. The program moves quickly and is very in depth. They really do help you to notice light and how to work with it to create pleasant results. When I was there is was a great time of creative exploration using the technical and adapting it to be emotional. They give the tools to create what you like. Then its up to the photographer.

Your short, Home…, for our Sacred Craft film festival was definitely one of the fan favorites. What made you decide to start filming? And why do you think you first short was such a success?

It’s always about telling the story… I read in a Bolex camera manual – film is capturing time in motion, stills are about capturing a moment in time. It just seemed like some still photos didn’t share all that I was going for. I love sequences and the essence of space travel, motion pictures is just that. I think a major part of the success of “Home… was the quality of content and mostly the feeling of it overall. There’s a subtle shift of clips from early am to late pm as a theme running throughout it. Also the long running time of some clips is so different from Taylor Steele it had a refreshing tension and gives the viewer time to relax, reflect a bit and recharge. It was more of a mood piece with enough high action to keep it interesting. And it was mostly from a surfers point of view, which is not as easy as it sounds. Plus it had Slater in it which helps draw an audience. Especially that he let me film him shaping, that’s pretty rare.

Killian Garland

What are the similarities between photography and video? Differences?

I guess the biggest similarity between video and photography is simply being in the right place at the right time. And technically a lot of things translate the same. Differences are dealing with video frame rate and editing. Editing is major. Work flow changed a bit.

What are the challenges you have had to overcome behind the camera making the transition to video? What was easy for you?

Video is like instant Karma and every breath is noticed. Holding the camera steady is critical. It’s way different and the act of filming becomes much more physically demanding to be in sync within myself, mind and body as one smooth entity. Verses still photography is more about tuning into the subject and timing the moment that makes the shot.

What kind of equipment are you using?

Canon equipment, the 7D has opened up a world of ease and possibilities. I used to juggled back and forth from a Panasonic video to a still film camera and switch them both in and out of water housings and making sure both had enough battery and film and baggage and accessories. Now its one camera and one Del Mar water housing a couple lenses a couple of batteries and a couple of small digital cards to store the entire days activities. Everything fits into one backpack.

Patagoina owner, Yvon Chouinard

What are your favorite projects that you have worked on in the past? What can we expect to see from Branden Aroyan in the near future?

A handful of trips with different Patagonia crews are at the top of my favorite projects. They are usually somewhere remote with great waves and they are all good travelers. Yvon is classic, inspirational and makes me want to ask questions for answers to make this world a better place. Currently I’m working with Killian Garland for an Intersection submission, building up Lakey Peterson’s archives for Nike’s next film. Just submitted a bunch of abstract water footage for Jack Johnson live tour to be projected on a big screen above the stage. Also gathering footage for my own project of some sort. And continuing to supply shops with my clothing line Low Tide Rising.

Being in Santa Barbara, where do you find yourself the most shooting photos and/or video?

In SB I find myself at Rincon quite a bit and an occasional side trip to spots off the beaten path which are becoming more often.

With the amount of eyes on Rincon during any sizable swell increasing year after year, have you had to adjust your strategies for getting shots that no one else may have?

Rincon does involve some strategy. The sun moves quickly and the wave covers a lot of ground. Usually there’s a decent current and a lot of people. It’s not as easy as shooting Lower Trestles that’s for sure.

Slater getting pitted

What is your connection to Kelly Slater? How is it to work with him?

Kelly became a mutual friend through Jack Johnson. He’s great to work with especially when there’s no one around. Every time we are at the beach, multiple people want a photo with him. So we have to keep moving and be quick about things. When there’s no distractions he can be himself. Being a seasoned professional he knows what looks good and helps make that happen.

To learn more about Branden Aroyan, visit his website at

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