“Something new, something different. . . something new, something different. Take what I’ve done, and push it to the limit of what I think might be possible, and see if it works.”
This is the thought process of every progressive snowboarder I know, and it’s my thought process as a photographer. Just documenting whats going on around me with a camera doesn’t satisfy me like it did when I was still learning the ins and outs of cameras and light. In my own experience, photographic everything nonstop has a way of devaluing those precious hours and minutes of my life, separating me from being in the moment. Some people believe that when your photo is taken, a bit of your soul is taken too, so that puts me in a precarious position as a photographer. Thats why I think less is more, and why I like shooting action photos the most is because I’m capturing the essence of someone’s soul at the apex of its existence here on Earth–a moment when it is flying the highest, when it’s completely at peace, focused on what it loves.
I want to be present and enjoy myself as much as possible, and when I pick up a camera, I want to absolutely send it. I strive to make putting a lens in between my life and my eye worth it for the viewer. The world hardly needs us to create anything more than what we already have, unless what we create is truly unique, and doesn’t harm the environment.
I’ve been playing with this photo technique for five or six seasons and it’s been a slow process getting it dialed. This past season I conceived a new technique to execute this, To get a decent image so many different puzzle pieces need to come together: blower pow, perfectly functioning transmitters & strobes (which are notoriously finicky in the cold), good communication with a rider who’s comfortable blasting full speed in the dark, and being ok with post-holing around for hours in the freezing cold. Shooting in the backcountry is a challenge during the day, so it requires some pretty crazy and confident individuals to go for it at night. Riders like Marc Frank Montoya, Ross Baker, Gray Thompson, and Eric Messier have all put in hours as I honed this technique, and this cover would not have been possible without their help over seasons past (thanks dudes!). Navigating to the right terrain, correctly exposing the image, anticipating when and where the moment would occur, having the camera focused properly and having all the flashes work requires every ounce of photographic instinct, knowledge and experience I have.
So, I convinced Forrest Shearer to come out with me to try it. Forrest has some of the best soul shred style in the game, and the snow was perfect; my excitement was at the top of my threshold as we worked our way past the boundaries of Brighton Resort. Temps were around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and three feet of unsettled snow had fallen the day before. It was a risky mission, so we took our time moving around. Our first test shots with the 50mm on low angle slopes came perfect, and we started working our way deeper onto steeper terrain. After we made a few more images from a safe distance, I set up for a full throttle slash with a wider lens. It was a bit risky with how close to him I’d to be, and how much narrower the margin for catching the moment would be.
Forrest called dropping in 5… I held my breath and waited. When you go into the backcountry at night all your senses are heightened, it’s the quietest setting you could imagine, and I’ll never forget the sound of him ripping this turn, the clack of shutter, and the blinding light of the flash. Chunks of snow were still raining down on me when I opened my eyes and checked the LCD. Forrest was way below me on slope, casually and quietly being the boss that he is, and I was screaming at the top of my lungs.
Nothing energizes me like seeing a photographic dream turn into reality, and in this case I thought it was more beautiful than any dream I’ve ever had. Forrest’s style and the energy of the snow in this frame sums up what I personally love about snowboarding. Freeriding in pow is a transendental experience, there’s nothing like it on earth and my goal has always been to capture just how all the chaos of life disappears when you’re riding powder, in a single moment. If I had to choose one thing to do for ever, it would be life as a goofy footer, smacking blower powder as hard as I could and making high speed bottom turns from here to heaven.
Forrest Shearer shed some additional light on the night shoot:
This idea of shooting at night has been on the mind, especially for Sean. Every time we’ve seen each other over the last couple of years it comes up. I was into the idea. Theres something about an artistic vision and bringing it to fruition. We were both up for the challenge and decided to go for it. I found that time slows down at night. Especially when darkness sets in. You lose that sense of where you’re at on the map. It’s like your not there physically. For me, snowboarding at night was something that was all feeling. Muscle memory and that intuitive reaction kicked in. Have you ever rode with your eyes closed? Sub conscious pow turns anyone? More night riding please…