Meet the man behind Noosa’s sporting lens

Noosa Festival of Surfing.

By Abbey Cannan

Have you ever wondered who creates the amazing images from Noosa’s local sporting events?

Whether it’s shooting in cyclonic rain and lightning, swimming around with sharks, being run over by out of control cyclists, or getting vomited on as athletes cross the finish line, Noosa photographer Dave Gleeson has seen and shot it all.

Over the last 10 years, the owner of Sunny Coast Photos (formerly Surfshots Noosa Photography) has established himself as one of Australia’s leading sports events photographers and the go to guy for sports and events photography in the Noosa and Sunshine Coast area.

It wasn’t an easy path to success, with endless hours spent planning locations, researching athletes, shooting thousands of images, along with the extra time spent in post production that nobody sees.

His photography journey started at the age of eight when Dave started taking photos on his Dad’s old Konica 35mm SLR film camera.

“I mainly took photos of family holidays and travels,“ he said.

“My first photo I can’t recall but it was possibly of my sister or the family pets. I always had some sort of camera with me during my teenage years (yes kids, this was the age before mobile phones!).

“I started shooting surf events when I was maybe 15 (mid-1980s) in my hometown of Cronulla, Sydney. By that stage Dad had upgraded his camera to a Minolta with a decent zoom lens and I’d borrow it whenever I could.

“We had a couple of big surf events with the world’s best surfers in town and I’d sit on the beach all day shooting photos of my surf heroes.“

He’s gone on to shoot athletes from all walks of life and sports, many of whom are world record holders, Olympians or national champions.

“Some of my favourite athletes that I’ve photographed in the past are golfer Adam Scott, swimmer Michael Klim and surfers Julian Wilson and Kelly Slater, however, quite often the best images from events are generated from everyday athletes where I just happen to be in the right spot at the right time to capture their amazing emotions,“ Dave said.

“Those raw and unguarded moments, for me, are the real story of each event.“

After a 20-year career working for Sydney-based newspapers and magazines, Dave moved to Noosa back in 2012 and since then has cemented himself as a friendly face at most events around town.

His speciality is fast paced action sports events such as triathlon, surf, cycling, running, ultra-endurance and oceansport events, and with a huge number of these events based on the Sunshine Coast, Dave is in high demand from local and national events companies who continue to seek out his services.

Dave is head photographer at most of the high profile sporting events on the Sunshine Coast including: Noosa Triathlon, Ironman 70.3, Noosa Festival of Surfing, Coastrek Sunshine Coast, Surf Lifesaving Queensland State Titles, Ultraman Australia, Noosa Classic Cycling Event, Noosa Ultra Trail, Noosa Summer Swim, Mooloolaba Triathlon, Swim the GoldCoast, Hells Gates 38 Ocean Ski race, WSL Noosa Longboard Classic, Vetshop Australia DogSurfing, Cooly Classic, Noosa Strade Bianche , Noosa Rise and Grind, Swim Noosa, Runaway Noosa Marathon, Beach Rugby Australia, Titan Ocean Swim, Mooloolaba Mile Swim Festival, and Old Woman Ocean paddle.

For those of you who compete or spectate at events, you may have seen Dave popping up in front of you at key locations out on course, up close, capturing the action.

His uniqueness is that he is just as comfortable shooting landbased, or swimming around in the ocean with his waterhousing, or capturing the action from above with his aerial drone cameras.

“My strength has always been getting shots that the public can’t get, so shooting with my in-water equipment for surf, swim or ocean sports events is always cool and creates images that 99 per cent of the public will never be able to achieve, so that’s probably my favourite genre,“ Dave said.

“Every event is different and I love the variety but I do have a soft spot for the annual DogSurfing Championships where the surfing dogs are the stars and 5000+ people line the beach cheering them on.“

Along with his events work, Dave also shoots a wide range of commercial and portrait work, corporate events, and also captures around 50 weddings each year. Dave was also head/editorial photographer at Noosa Today up until 2019, and continues to supply images to several other local and national magazines on a freelance basis. He has also photographed Tourism Noosa’s marketing imagery in recent years, with his images being used on the sides of trams and buses and billboards around Australia.

“Most people just shoot for fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that, so if you’re having fun then you’re doing it right,“ Dave said, for any up and coming photographers looking for some advice.

“However if you intend to make a career out of it, it will take time to build up your skills, you have to show up on time, be confident with how to use your equipment and get the shot no matter what the conditions, be easy to deal with and deliver over and above what you’ve promised.

“It’s a pretty simple concept, and like any profession, the longer you work at it, the better you get.

Away from the cameras Dave is a keen surfer, ski paddler and golfer, and he volunteers as a lifesaving patrol member at Sunshine Beach Surf Club. He has two children Mitch, 17, and Katie, 22, and is married to Pauline, a graphic designer, teachers aide and sprint coach, and they live at Sunrise Beach with their border collie Roxy.

To see more of Dave’s work, visit his website at or follow him on Instagram @sunnycoastphoto or Facebook @sunnycoastphotos