Urban Vibes

Someone once told me that lifestyle photography can be some of the most difficult to pull off and I happen to agree.

Kelly Halpin and Rob Aseltine cruising through the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah.

In July I received an email from Dan Holz, the photo editor at Osprey, asking if I could create new images of their Tropos and Talia packs in an urban setting. Street cars, city streets, and coffee shops? Find a male and female to play the part? And have it done in a week? – Sure thing! I replied and then felt my stomach drop.

Rob Aseltine enjoys his outdoor office in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Turned out I have a friend who owns a coffee house located not far from a streetcar stop in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake City. Check. The week prior to the email, local skier/marketing guru Rob Aseltine happened to reach out asking to shoot some lifestyle images to add to his portfolio. Check. And Rob told me his friend, an Osprey ambassador and endurance athlete, Kelly Halpin was coming to town in a few days and was totally down. Check, and check! That was hard. Next up was “The Plan”.

Kelly Halpin at her work station inside Sugar House Coffee house, Salt Lake City, Utah.

My approach to lifestyle is fairly simple. Create a reason for the people to be where they are or make it look like they are actually doing what they are doing and hope that everything works out. The basic storyline was two people commuting to a work meeting/or to remotely work at Sugar House Coffee. I reasoned that if we gave everyone a purpose we just might find that quiet, and believable moment. Luckily, both Kelly and Rob had actually done that exact thing at Sugar House Coffee so it wasn’t such a stretch… All I had to do was push a button.

Coffee meeting. Rob Aseltine and Kelly Halpinget down to business inside Sugar House Coffee house, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Over the last 6 years I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Osprey Packs. In addition to making quality products, their team is filled with incredibly talented, patient, and giving people who keep offering me a place to expand and explore. Here are a few selects from that day.

Kelly Halpin exits the streetcar in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The What For – Skiing

The What For – A Labor of Love

April showers bring late season powder days. Kaylin Richardson skiing deep in the spring swing of things, Grizzly Gulch, Wasatch Range, Utah.

Since November I’ve shot more than 30,000 frames of skiing and snowboarding. Of the countless days only three were paid and the rest were done on speculation. This season a dozen images made in previous years were published in magazines and online, half a dozen were used in advertising campaigns, and the rest remain on a hard drive or two… After all the early mornings, late evenings, travel, sleeping on floors, ingesting cheap food, and bad coffee you’re probably wondering – Why shoot skiing and snowboarding?

MacKenzie Ryan drops into am untouched line in False Breaks, Cedar Canyon, Utah.

The simple answer is the snow sports industry, brands, and corresponding magazines need new imagery each and every season depicting the latest gear, destinations, and characters. Why do they need new imagery each season depicting the latest? To help drive their sales, push profits up, pay employees, contribute to the economy, etc. The more interesting question is the What For? or what’s the reason I keep doing this?

Early to bed and early to rise makes getting first tracks easy for Mali Noyes, Wasatch Mountains, Utah.

I’ve focused on shooting snow for the past decade. The first time money was involved came six years ago when I was given the opportunity to work with a brand and their ambassadors (the athletes totally saved me). Since then it’s been a roller coaster ride. Rising high by landing magazine covers, taking on editorial assignments, traveling with a production company, and being hired to create the next season’s print campaign for other brands. Then dropping low by going a full year without a single ski image published, no assignments given, and not one inquiry from a commercial client. In spite of this and operating at a loss each season I can’t seem to help myself from going out there to create more.

Lucy Sackbauer and Lani Bruntz boot up the JC Couloir, Sawtooth Range, Idaho.

Twelve years ago when I chose to cart a camera along my goal was NOT to replicate the polished and predictable images we had been inundated with. I set out to capture a more aspirational side of traveling through snow covered mountains, to come home with something you could see yourself participating in, and ultimately, share an experience that relates and resonates a quiet stillness with us all.

Luke Hinz on top of Mount Baldy, Alta, Utah, making his way to skiing all the lines mentioned in the book – The Chuting Gallery in a calendar year.

Have I done that?.. Not exactly. That’s why I keep at it year after year.

“This one’s for you.” Chris Hassig mans the backcountry beer chest, Meadow Hut, BC.

See you out there,

 

Louis

 

 

Thoughts from the Skin Track

Sebastien Trudeau tops out on the Fondue Bowl, Meadow Hut, Esplanade Range, BC.

March 7, 2017

Today ten things went wrong and everything else went right. It was a fantastic day! 

This was the journal entry for my fourth day at the Meadow Lodge – a backcountry hut located in the Esplanade Range of British Columbia. 14 of us were half way through our self-guided week and I was thinking about the nuances of winter backcountry travel. Snow is amazing in the fact that by its natural tendency it wants to stay put. And at the same time, it’s filled with unlimited variables, many which can lead to instabilities and movement.

Two skiers make their way back to the Meadow Hut after a day of touring, Esplanade Range, BC.

I believe the same can be said about business. How many things went wrong today at work? What went right? Navigating the business side of things is terrifying to me when I try to keep all the variables in view at once. With so many things that could go wrong it’s hard to venture out. But when you break it down and focus on the fundamentals it becomes a bit more manageable. For me it comes down to risk versus reward. What is the investment? What are the chances of return and at what level? What happens if there is no return? And can I cover the loss?

Jelibi and Caribou Peaks with corresponding slide paths, Esplanade Range, BC.

That day in the Esplanades I created a Wasatch-style skin track (f%&$@#!* steep) for no reason, pushed a line too far for comfort, didn’t bring enough food, forgot to reapply sunscreen, etc. The rights of the day; our group studied maps for safer passages, observed the terrain for recent activity, kept tabs on the weather, dug pits in the snow, communicated non-stop, drank plenty of water, we listened to each other, laughed often, had meaningful conversations, bonded, and skied powder all day long. Like I said, it was a fantastic day.

In my experience learning from what didn’t work or went wrong allows for growth, but staying focused on the positives and what went right is the key to forward momentum.

Meadow Hut Nights. A nearly full moon illuminates the hut and Cupola Mountain, Esplanade Range, BC.

This winter season has been a productive one filled with personal growth. We had ice climbing, skiing, writing, exploring, and I met a ton of new people filled with incredible energy. If you have ten minutes to burn follow this link to highlights from the last six months. As the season transitions I’m looking forward to creating new climbing, lifestyle, portrait, and running imagery as well as heading to Denali to document a ski expedition. So far it looks to be another busy season, but there’s room for more. Get a hold if me if you have any projects we could team up for.

 

See you out there,

 

Louis