Landscape, aerial, time-lapse, cityscape, and surf photographer Toby Harriman is, as the list at the beginning of this sentence suggests, incredibly good at many different types of photography. But one of his photo series has drawn more interest and questions than most of his others: Modern Surf.

Modern Surf does away with clarity and sharpness in surf photography, capturing instead the movement of Toby’s subjects through expertly-photographed motion blur. Add to that a dramatic, “modern” post-processing aesthetic and you’ve got yourself a truly distinct set of photos.

And now, for the very first time, Toby has taken the time to reveal the post-processing secrets behind this captivating series of surf images.

The Painted Surfer by Toby Harriman on

“As a photographer, one of the hardest things to do is to develop your own distinct style,” explains Toby in his blog post about the series. “This was my goal in order to separate myself a little from other surf photographers or in general.”

These images are, Toby explains, more fine art than journalism. And what resulted from this approach was a series that, “allows myself or even the viewer to really focus in and see the connection between the surfer and the power of the ocean. Something with deeper meaning, that makes people look at a subject from a whole different perspective.”

Blue Ice Surfing by Toby Harriman on

Much of what makes these photos so special is how Toby decided to process the RAW files.

These images are processed in what Toby calls his “Modern” style, a nearly monochromatic style he’s always developing and improving upon, and one he’s often applied to other types of photography to add a moody, darker, more dramatic feel.

Click here to read the post on Toby’s blog where he goes, step-by-step, through the processing behind one of his Modern Surf photos and shares the settings he used to capture each image.

With those instructions and a bit (okay maybe a lot…) of practice, you can start transforming some of your surf images like Toby has: