Josh Thompson gets Schooled

Josh Thompson is an accomplished snowboard photographer who has had his images throughout frequency: TSJ, including the cover of issue 2.3 and a section in the 2005 photobook. Although shooting snowboarding has its perks, he recently went on a two-year hiatus to pursue other forms of photography via formal education. This is his story.

The only class I had ever taken in photography was a beginner level intro to darkroom technique back in 1995 at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, which didn’t really teach me much about shooting. After that one semester, I took my camera to the slopes and never went back to school. Picking the brains of other snowboard photographers along the way, I was able to learn enough to get by and get shots published around the globe. Shooting snowboarding has been an amazing journey and has taken me on some truly unforgettable adventures.

As fun as it’s been freezing my ass off, living in wet boots, and dealing with never ending weather days, I always had a longing for something more. I mean, I’d never trade the gamey smell of 10 dudes packed in a one bedroom cabin for anything, but there just seemed to be something missing in my life. I’d wake up giving one of my homies a full leg wrap while dreaming of being some big time, high fashion photographer rolling deep with beautiful girls and celebrities. This dream popped to the forefront of my mind every time I got home and looked at my (empty) bank account.

Finally, I took a long hard look at where my life was going and I realized I really needed to make a change. It’s all fine and dandy to fantasize, but I didn’t want to dream my life away. Becoming a highly sought after fashion photographer may be a little far fetched but making some real money with photography is not.

I knew my photography skills where limited and with the transition of film to digital came a whole new world of technology that I knew very little about. I’d already read many “how-to” books and looked through photography mags to check out the latest tips and gear but there was always so much information and it was constantly changing. That’s when I really started to think that maybe I should go back to school.

I researched schools around the country for a couple years before deciding on Seattle Central. It turns out that it is rated one of the top three programs in the nation and it is right here in Washington where I was already living. I knew I’d have to sacrifice two years but that in the end it would be worth it.

On June 14th 2008, I graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Commercial Photography. I walked away from the program with two entirely different portfolios, one sports and one fashion. One of the biggest benefits I took from the program was learning all the technical lighting skills. I now have the confidence and knowledge to step into any situation and shoot it. As a class, we learned the newest software available and in some cases actually helped test and improve beta versions that hadn’t yet been released to the public. This last year I’ve been shooting everything from fashion to sports to product and I’m now ready and available to rejoin the workforce as a full time photographer who still shoots snowboarding, but can also work in other venues.

I’d like to thank my instructors, Robbie and Tomas for never letting me give up and Karli who has been there for me through thick and thin. I’d also like to thank all the editors out there who encouraged me to do this and assured me that it would benefit me greatly. Last but not least, thanks to all my friends and family who supported me along my journey. It was well worth the effort.

Josh Thompson


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