I discovered Aaron Lieber’s stunning cinematography on Instagram, and was immediately mesmerized by the breathtaking sight of majestic waves being fiercely ridden by world-class surfers, and aerial shots of the ocean that looked like art. I knew immediately that, whoever was behind the lens capturing this exhilarating imagery, was passionately inspired by nature and cared deeply for our environment. After seeing films for Surfrider Foundation on his profile, @LieberFilms, I was exhilarated and compelled to reach out to request an interview.
When cinematographer, photographer, director and environmentalist, Aaron Lieber, responded and agreed, I was thrilled. Beyond his incredible talent in visual story telling, he is enthusiastically positive about our planet’s health - in particular our oceans - and is working with Surfrider to capture and bring awareness to their initiatives, including plastic pollution.
Despite his brilliant body of work - including his latest big film, Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable - and contribution to our environment through Surfrider and other initiatives, Aaron is refreshingly down to earth, possessing a rare and contagious effervescence for his life, career, and our beautiful Earth. We sat down to talk about it all . . .
So tell us all about you, and what it is exactly you do.
I'm a cinematographer and a director. I just finished a big film with Bethany Hamilton called Unstoppable, and in that film, I wore a lot of hats besides just directing and shooting it. I produced it and did a lot of things, and that was my recent really big film. I started as an intern 21 years ago now, so anybody wanting to get started in a career with filmmaking, I really encourage people to get an internship.
Now I am producing content for Surfrider Foundation. I shoot commercial work and documentaries, so I’m available as a cinematographer and director. Recently I bought myself a drone and I've been really learning how to fly it, but then also just the visual experience you can kind of capture with a drone is so unique. And so being able to apply my photography and cinematography skills to that, and has been really, really fun. It's been fun lately to, during the pandemic, learn something new.
Your surfing shots, your films, are just so mind blowing. Between the majesty of these mammoth waves and then the skill of whoever's riding them, and then your skill in capturing it. It's all so effortless and breathtaking, and it's just a highly exciting visual experience. How are you finding the conversion to drone photography?
Well, I've been just inspired for so many years in my own career by friends and peers that I used to look up to, and there are so many amazing surf filmmakers and photographers. I feel like I've kind of cherry picked what I like out of all of them and created my own vibe and style, but I think for drone photography, specifically, or even cinematography, I really like to just straight down and I’m starting to see how the earth creates art. I feel like I'm a conduit to capturing the art that is nature, and I'm such a fan of conservation and trying to make a better planet, so I also hope that when people see some of my work, it just inspires them to either go outside, or get engaged with the environment.
I just feel that nature is so important for our soul, and so that visual look of straight down and getting to see the symmetry, all the different formations that the earth is creating, and then even looking at the ocean and the way water moves from that perspective. I've been on a helicopter, but it's a short period of time, so actually getting to hover the drone from different elevations - maybe 100 feet, 200 feet, however high - and just getting to watch water move, and capture that. It's always moving and changing. It's like this really special kind of moving painting, and that to me has been one of the more fun things that I've gotten to indulge in recently.