Peter Sterling was raised in Hawaii from the age of 12. He attended University of Hawaii for several years specializing in Communications specifically Photography and Film. Most of his training however was in the School of Hard Knocks.
He got his first professional still camera in 1972 from his Dad who was also a photogrpher. It was Nikon F2, state of the art camera at that time. All serious Pros used Nikon equipment in those days. He worked diligently to improve his skills. Usually shooting every day for at least 5 hours. He took a photojournalistic approach in the beginning, documenting ordinary daily life in downtown Honolulu for example. The famous Chinese market in old Honolulu was one of his favorite locations for shooting. In 1976 he got job as a TV cameraman for UH Hilo basketball home games. He was the Chief cameraman and pleased his directors with smooth steady shots even during the fastest action on the court.
In 1978 Peter got another job as TV cameraman on the mainland at an NBC affiliate. He was a television news cameraman. He was determined to be the best cameraman at the station. He worked tirelessly to come up with new, unique and creative angles to shoot the sometimes dreary, boring content such as traffic accidents, political campaigns etc. He surprised himself and his supervisors back at the station numerous times with new and creative shots they had not seen before. Within two years he became their best cameraman. He landed on Maui by accident in 1992. He was searching for a new job and went down to Hookipa which at the time was the Windsurfing capital of the World. He started by doing videos for amateur windsurfers on vacation. This did not prove very lucrative so he switched to his first love Photos. At the time he didn’t have much money so he was only able to use a simple camera with a very short lens. But he again worked diligently every day for 5-6 hours taking pictures of windsurfers at Hookipa both amateur and pro. He would sell the photos for $5 and then buy some bread. It was definitely a struggle but he persevered and didn’t give up. He was definitely a Starving Artist. But his hard work paid off finally. He was able to save enough money to buy an 800mm 5.6L Canon lens. This was the best lens available for Windsurfing Photography in the World. It had an extremely narrow angle of view and was also a manual focus lens.
In 1994 when he got the lens autofocus cameras had not made their debut yet. So Peter practiced using this huge lens every day for 5-6 hours. He would get down low on the shore at Hookipa and track the fast moving windsurfers while keeping them in focus constantly. This was incredibly difficult. To track a subject moving at 25 mph, keeping the subject in the middle of the frame at all times and also keeping the subject focused at all times and also having to anticipate when the athlete was going to do that Awesome maneuver that All the Windsurfing magazines around the world would want to publish.
After practicing every day for a Year he got is first cover of German Surf Magazine in November of 1994. This was quite an accomplishment because this Magazine was the most difficult magazine to get photos published in. They were extremely picky and also All the best photographers sent their best photos to this magazine so the competition was very stiff. But the shot Pete sent them was a Tack sharp photo of an extremely radical maneuver no one had ever seen before. The editors had no choice but to put it on the Cover.
From then on Peter was getting photos published every month somewhere in the world in one of the many successful windsurfing magazines. They were usually double spreads, Covers or multiple page articles. He was very successful in publishing from 1994 to 2005 when he retired. During his time at Hookipa he diversified his repertoire to include shooting digital video as 2nd Unit cameraman for TV networks from around the world. This he accomplished by getting the best portable digital video camera available at the time the Sony VX 1000. He had a custom housing made for it and then went out into the huge waves at Hookipa to catch the close up action that the Producer and Director could then intercut into their Betacam footage shot from shore. Then they would take everything back to Germany or Japan and put the Show together. He also did the same thing with Film.
He searched for a year to find the smallest 16mm film camera he could and then after finally finding it in a used camera shop in New York he had a custom housing built for that and was then able to do second unit camera work for Film Production companies who would come to Hawaii for their documentaries on Paradise. Again Peter was the specialist they needed to go into the big waves and swim in the impact zone where the waves were breaking to get the dramatic close-ups which were essential for a polished production.
He grew up bodysurfing All over Oahu from Sandy Beach to Point Panic and Pipeline and Log Cabins on the North Shore. This experience served him well when he started pushing his limits in the big waves at Hookipa reaching a stage where he was going out into the Impact Zone of 20-30 ft. faces. It was Very Dangerous but he was determined to be one of the best cameramen at Hookipa and he was. He also became Expert at Helicopter Photography with 65 flights to his credit.