Editor-in-Chief/Photo Director: Doug Schnitzpahn
Director of Photography: David Reddick
Photography Director: Keri Bascetta
Photographer: Liam Doran
What was your first paid editorial assignment?
It has been a while so I’m not totally sure, but I think it was a backcountry trip I shot for Powder Magazine. We got on the Durango-Silverton train and were dropped off in the middle of the Weminuche Wilderness. From there we would hike in six miles and climb a few thousand vertical, put in a base-camp and ski 14,000 foot peaks for a few days. When we got off the train, I had a fever of probably 102 and it was pouring rain. It was a brutal hike but I made it in, but my fever would’nt break for another 36 hours.
How many days a year do you travel?
I would guess about 150. I now have two young girls, Bergen 4 and Elsa 2, so being gone for long periods of time puts a lot of stress on the family. I am fortunate to have an amazing wife who very much supports my work and understands what it takes for me to achieve my photography goals.
For a shot like this there are no do overs. Are you stationary or also skiing?
During the shot I’m stationary of course but as a ski photographer you certainly have to be a very proficient skier.
How many locations did you scout for this cover shoot for Elevation Outdoors?
None really. The location is Coal Bank Pass which is between Durango and Silverton in southwest Colorado. My athlete Sven Brunso skis here regularly so he knew where the snow and light would be best. We were able to work about a 1,000 foot section of ridgeline from top to bottom and set up 8-10 different shots on the way down.
How long did it take you to skin up to this location.
( climbing skins are a tool that backcountry skiers use, to ascend the mountain ) We were moving pretty efficiently so I would guess about an hour maybe hour and a half.
How cold was it; does it affect your camera gear?
It was single digits when we left the car but as the sun came up it warmed to the low 20’s. I use a Canon 1DX and it has great battery life so the cold does not affect it really. I use Sigma lenses exclusively and they have never had any issues due to cold weather.
Where did you find the cover model, who is it?
Actually the athlete found me on this one. Sven Brunso called me up and invited me to come ski some of his favorite spots. We had a great shoot (this is our third cover together) and we continue to work together.
Since you’ve been doing this for so long, do you know you athletes limits?
I do…and they know mine!
For a fresh powder shots there are no do-overs. Do you train for ski season assignments since you are also carrying gear?
Fitness is a huge part of being a successful ski and outdoor photographer. I will do some ski specific training during the lead up to ski season but more importantly I try to maintain a high level of fitness throughout the year. You can’t concentrate on photography if you are exhausted from your hike up the mountain, so I am sure to build plenty of athletic time into my workweek. The few days a year that I get to ride/ski/hike without my pack I feel super fast!
How can you tell it’s time to call the shoot to avoid injury?
Unfortunately injuries are part deal in ski photography. They can happen anytime but usually it happens at the end of the day when everyone is getting tired. I have had numerous broken bones, deep lacerations, two blown knees and other injuries. Most of the skiers I work with have had the same or worse.
Tell us about the “Fresh” image for SKI, how does your equipment perform in those conditions?
This image came from a shoot up on Coal Bank Pass. I had just received Sigma’s new 120-300 f2.8 lens and was looking to put it through the paces. Sven Brunso (the skier) and I got up well before sunrise and drove to a spot on the pass that Sven had previously scouted. The 120-300 is a big lens so I can’t get it super deep in to the backcountry. Luckily this shot was close to the road. For anyone wondering the lens is stunningly sharp and we got a Photo Annual cover in Mountain Magazine and this full page for SKI the very first time I shot it.
Traveling through Monument Valley was not specifically part of the assignment but to get to Arizona Snowbowl from Breckenridge, CO this was the best route. We knew snow conditions would not be ideal and that the travel aspect of the story would be important and that’s what got me thinking about this shot. More specifically how to get an interesting shot that was not the cliché of looking down the road to the monuments.
Ha! Yes well convincing the wife to take her car was not too tough. I drive a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck and my skis and photo gear live in the bed while I’m on the road. To make this shot work from a storytelling perspective I would need to see the skis on top of the car. Since my wife’s car has ski racks it was a no brainer that I would need to take her car. By now she is pretty accustomed to my photo shenanigans and she was kind enough to acquiesce.