Ryan Tatar is a surf culture photographer based in San Francisco, CA. Ryan is known for shooting with analog film, an age-old technique and art that many have since forgotten in the digital age. Recently, Ryan became a father and was confined to stay within a short distance of his home, preventing him from having the chance to pursue his passion for photography. We sent Ryan on a road trip along the coasts of Northern California to recharge and experience the sea through the lens of his camera again.

Written by Ryan Tatar.

I shoot film because I just think it looks better. Film has a feeling that can’t be captured in digital and this is why I’ve focused on this aspect of photography. In addition to that, you have to slow down when shooting film. You can’t rapid fire like digital and because of the cost of film and processing, taking the time to compose the image the way you want is essential.


This odyssey gave me the opportunity to balance work, family life and my passion for photography because the inspiration for the trip was a gift for my son to galvanize his first year of life – a framed image from the Odyssey. I first started shooting photos when I left home in the 90s. What started as a hobby quickly evolved into a full blown gig as I captured California surf culture.

My work is not just your typical surfing image, a silhouette of a surfer high and tight in the wave, what I hope I evoke in my images is the feeling of being a surfer–the single fin hanging out the back of a rusty station wagon, the dreadlocked skater hanging on the local stoop, and the vans stacked to the horizon.


Living in San Francisco is a photographer’s dream. Between the confines of the city the culture, food, music and city itself offer opportunities galore, but for me the adventure that lies beyond the city compels me to keep traveling. Big Sur, Wine Country, Santa Cruz are all gems but my true calling is north.

My life in San Francisco is pretty busy–work, clients, cell phone, family, friends–nearly all my time is spent planning, doing or planning. When I head north, my cell just doesn’t work, which offers the opportunity to unplug and engage in my surroundings, and for me, that allows my photos to nearly just make themselves. As a surfer, the north is the last frontier in California, there are no webcams to check, the breaks are rocky, the wind is stiff, the waves are big and so is the marine life.

It takes a certain type of soul to be the first to paddle out in these stormy seas and this is perhaps why it’s often so desolate in the waters north of San Fran.


The Odyssey of Fatherhood has been a blessing but it does come with its challenges. Time perhaps is the hardest thing to get back, for example, time for surfing….well there’s not really a lot of time for that. However the routine I have with my son, our shared time in the early mornings and evenings I couldn’t imagine replacing.


Watching my wife make the transition into a mother has also been inspiring. I framed up a polaroid for my son Mason because much like one of my favorite things–coffee, polaroids have this unique flavor that is unique to the shot. The moment is captured as is and can never be replaced and there is only one copy of that polaroid. I want him to cherish the present by enjoying moments for what they are and not imaging what they could be.

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