Northeast Florida lensperson Adam King’s surf photos are nothing if not attention grabbing. Unlike many surf-shooters of the household name variety (your Flames, your Changs, your Jimmicanes), King’s not often working with the kinds of precarious-looking waves or even visually pleasing water colors one might find in Hawaii or Indonesia. Still, what the 39-year-old photographer is able to do with a knee-high, sweet-tea-hued swell cresting under a gaggle of cumulus clouds is just as eye-catching.

Among surf photogs, King’s water shots—with their perfect framing, accentuation of light, and cinematic editing—stand out. In the last few years, he’s nabbed two covers of the heralded Pacific Longboarder Magazine on his way to attracting more than 14K followers on Instagram (a modern marker of a photographer’s merits; for better or worse). 

But as much attention as his shots have garnered over that time period, it’s nothing compared to the response King received for this shot of Northeast Florida surfer Reid Mikalsen perched atop a north-North Florida wedge as the HMS Queen Elizabeth—the largest ship in the British Royal Navy—makes its way from the Atlantic to the St. Johns River. 

“The response has really been overwhelming,” says King of the reaction to the photo, which has appeared on the social media handles of nearly every surf publication and earned a half-page in the largest newspaper in the UK, the London Telegraph. “I wasn’t really ready to handle the influx of comments and messages, especially once I started selling prints!”  

The photo is jaw dropping—flawlessly framed, perfectly timed, and imaginatively edited, to be sure. However, it’s what King’s image reveals to the viewer that makes the photo so exemplary. Here is a Northeast Florida surf shot that captures as much about what it means to surf in this region—the raw natural beauty, the pure joy of the glide, our intimate relationship with an ocean that connects to nearly every nook and cranny of this bizarre land—as one could fit into a single image. 

“My central theme in my surf photography is our connection with the ocean,” King says. “I don’t think we typically have the scenic elements that put North Florida on the world stage for surf photos, so I try to focus on the details and the moment. I push things into a dramatic, or even cinematic feel in my editing process. I really want to put the viewer in the moment, the way a surfer remembers it, from the surface.This shot plays to those themes and styles perfectly.”

King is donating a portion of proceeds from print sales of the photo to The Warrior Surf Foundation, which provides therapy to military veterans. Prints are available through King’s website adamking.photo

This feature originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Void Magazine under the headline “Behind the Photo: Is this Adam King shot the most Northeast Florida surf photo ever captured?”