Belfast Telegraph

Photographer's desperate dash for iconic Northern Ireland picture that has circled the globe

By Jonny Bell

Northern Ireland photographer Charles McQuillan has spoken of the desperate dash he had to make in order to capture what is sure to become one of the greatest images of all time.

The Getty photographer was at Castlerock with friend and professional surfer Al Mennie.

As Al was walking along one of the piers a giant wave broke over it, with the surfer appearing to face it down.

After he filed the photo it was used around the world, gracing the front pages of The Guardian, London Times and New York Times.

But as Charles explained, he almost missed capturing the image.

He said: "Al was out out on the waves and was at one stage washed back to the beach.

"The waves had been crashing against the piers and when I realised he was going to be walking down one of them, I thought there could be a potentially good image.

"But I had not anticipated it and was out of position, so I had to run to get into place - and I was carrying a 600mm lens, which is one of the biggest you can have and I was out of breadth and on my hands and knees to get it, but it was worth it.

"There was one frame which showed the wave at its nastiest. It looks like the dirty green and brown underbelly of the wave and with Al just looks like he is facing it down. It's close, certainly closer than I would like to be to it.

"The reaction has been unbelievable. I've never had an image spread like the way this has."

The surfer has rode some of the biggest waves imaginable with Charles describing him as "a bit of a sea beast".

"He is a professional big wave surfer known as Big Red, as he has the big red beard and is 6ft 5" tall. There are times people see him out and mistakenly think he is in trouble.

"This did not phase him at all, he is at home on the water."

The picture has recalled the oft repeated quote: "Fate whispered to the warrior 'you cannot withstand the storm'. And the warrior whispers back 'I am the storm'."

Award-winning photographer Charles added: "And that's what this reminds me of.

"That's the great thing about photography, it captures a frozen moment in time. It's like a smell that takes people back.

"Getty provides a great platform to spread images. It has a saying that photography is a language in itself.

"More than a video, its the picture that stands the test of time."

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