Local Legend: Surf photographer, Mickey (2M) McCarthy

This week we’ve decided to feature a Local Legend. The Outer Banks claims home to some of the best surf photogs on the east coast (Matt Lusk, Daniel Pullen, Ben Gallop just to name a few) but today we are gonna focus on a guy who’s been shooting surfing on the OBX since the 80’s. If you follow surfing even remotely on the OBX, then you’ve definitely seen Mickey (2M) McCarthy’s work.

How long have you been calling the OBX home and when/how did you first get into surf photography?

My wife Betsy and I moved to Kill Devil Hills from Virginia Beach in 1981. We live in Colington Harbour, where I built our home in 1983 and have been there ever since. The reason we moved here was simple, the OBX has the best waves on the East Coast. It was the early 60’s when I fell in love with surfing. Surf photography was just a natural progression into both art forms. My dad was an avid photographer and he’s the one that sparked my love for photography. Early surf magazines were also a big part of my early years, inspiring me to dream of being a surf photographer.

Tell me a little bit of what it was like to live on this little stretch of sand back then. Were there any other surf photographers in the area?

Well a real local should be the one’s to answer this question, guys like Rascoe Hunt and his family were born here and have seen the most changes here. I’ve seen some too in my 33 years here. There were no stoplights on the bypass when I first moved here. There were a lot of empty lots then and a lot of trees. One large grocery store (Seamark) and a few mom and pop stores. We’ve always had surf shops, a couple of the earliest in town were Governor’s Little Grass Roots Shop in Kitty Hawk and Mr.Bob Holland had a small shop in KDH near Helga Street.

Most of the “photographers” back in the 80’s were actually some of the surfer’s girlfriends taking photos of their boyfriends. A few of the professionals that I remember who shot and filmed surfing include Ray Matthews (photographer), Drew Wilson (Virginian Pilot Staff Photographer), Michael Halminski (photographer), and Brian Murray (video for TV 12).

How do you think surf photography and photography in general has evolved since you first started shooting? Is there anything you miss?

The biggest thing that has evolved in surfing is the emergence of digital cameras. The digital era has made shooting much easier and cheaper. We used to have the cost of film and processing, not to mention we had to wait 5 days to get our results back from the processor. Back in the days of shooting slide film you really had to know a lot about taking a photo (film speeds, aperture, exposure and shutter speeds). All real photographers shoot in manual mode, even with a digital camera.

I was a holdout from switching to digital (got my first real digital camera, Canon 40D, in 2005). Now I wouldn’t want to go back to film, though every once in a while it’s fun to shoot a little slide film.

I know you’ve shot probably hundreds of thousands of photos over the years but there’s got to be a few that you call favorites right? If so which ones and why?

That’s kind of a hard one to answer. I guess one is a water shot of Wes Laine at Laundry Mat in Kitty Hawk during the late 70’s. Another would be a water shot of Jordan Ford at Nags Head Pier, which got published but the mag miss identified him as George Ford! I still call him George whenever I see him. Noah Snyder in Surfing Magazine with my new Canon 600mm lens. Aerial photo of swells bending around the point in 2006. Gosh, there’s just so many I can’t list them all here.

Do you feel the huge increase in “photographers” has affected the art of surf photography?

There are more young guns out there shooting every year. I think it’s a natural evolution in the art and business of surf photography. Sometimes I do get frustrated but then I think how it was when I started out. I don’t want to discourage anyone from chasing the dream like I did, I wish them luck!

Digital or film?

I’ve shot film for 40 years so for me it’s Digital forever!!

Any parting words of wisdom?

Follow your dream. Don’t be discouraged if photo editors don’t use your shots and if you do get a shot published, don’t get a big head. Remember, you’re only as good as your last shot!!


Cape Point Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Oregon Inlet 2

Oregon Inlet 2 Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Southside Sweep,May,1999.

Southside Sweep, May 1999. Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Waves from Perfect Storm,Oct 91.

Waves from Perfect Storm ,Oct 91. Photo by: Mickey McCarthy


Lighthouse ,Feb 1999 Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

New Sun ,Feb 1988

New Sun Feb 1988 Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Noah Snyder 3

Noah Snyder Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Jordan Ford,Sept,1983

Jordan Ford, Sept 1983 Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Jeff Myers,Avalon Pier

Jeff Myers, Avalon Pier Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Ranger Station

Ranger Station Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Pat McManus,1985

Pat McManus,1985 Photo by: Mickey McCarthy


WES LAINE, OLD STATION,1982 Photo by: Mickey McCarthy

Tags: , , , , , , Categories: Posted: November 24, 2014
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