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?
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?
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.
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.
Have I done that?.. Not exactly. That’s why I keep at it year after year.
There was a three to four-year period in my life where I spent about 30 hours a week on a bike. In addition to racing at the amateur level I worked and went to school full time. I didn’t do well at any of it so eventually I eased back from the wheels and stopped shaving my legs.
A few weeks ago Osprey Packs called and asked if I would be able to create some new imagery with two of their enduro mountain bike ambassadors, Syd Schulz and Macky Franklin. As luck would have it Syd and Macky were heading through the Wasatch on their way to a race in Sun Valley. So I offered them our spare bedroom and omelets for breakfast and they were keen.
We planned for two rides. One afternoon would be the Crest Trail, a Wasatch classic, and the second would be a few laps riding lifts at Deer Valley Resort. This would be ample time to make the images needed.
I’ve been fortunate to meet through life and work people who are talented and psyched to be doing what they love. It’s worth noting that yes, they are paid to participate in their sport, but that’s only part of the picture. As with most the athletes I know the “doing of the sport” is only half of their job. Syd and Macky are no exception and are not afraid to work. As we waited for afternoon to arrive and better light Syd and Macky were busy making calls, writing blog posts, building newsletters, making travel arrangements, and sitting down with local sponsors before we finally drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon and began pedaling at 5PM.
The Crest Trail runs at high elevations and until recently had snow drifts covering large sections. Our timing was near perfect as we ran into only a couple of snow patches and the rest of the trail was free and flowy. Syd and Macky went from work mode into full-on fun mode. 25 miles and about 1,000 feet of climbing later we were enjoying burritos at the house. Smiles all around.
Before now I’ve never really given much thought to how things may have turned out had I continued riding my bike like a fiend, but now that I have I’m sure I wouldn’t get to share as many cool experiences with great people doing amazing things in wild and wide open spaces.One more note on the work ethic of athletes. The day after the Crest ride we hit the trails at Deer Valley for a few hot laps before I set Syd and Macky free to ride at their own pace for an hour or so. They had a videographer to meet that afternoon and were scheduled to shoot some clips for an upcoming edit… Obviously it’s never ending.