After a busy 2013 season, with the release of the highly anticipated Into the Mind and the successful launch of the FlyOver Canada project, we were left wondering what could possibly be next for the Sherpas Cinema crew.
We finally have our answer: the new project, Sculpted in Time, is a four-part series highlighting some of the big characters of the Canadian Rockies. In collaboration with Ski Big 3, Banff Lake Louise Tourism, Travel Alberta and Parks Canada, the series will take us through Mount Norquay, Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Banff National Park. The first episode launches on September 29, but the newly released trailer should keep you satisfied until then.
Most mountain lovers would do just about anything for a behind-the-scenes pass to a Sherpas Cinema shoot. Whistler-based action sports photographer Reuben Krabbe was lucky enough to get one, joining the crew for five days this past April to shoot stills alongside the film crew. Here’s what he had to say about his time in the Rockies.
ML: You’re from Calgary, and so are the guys behind Sherpas Cinema—though you all live in Whistler now. What was it like to return and film and photograph in your own backyard?
RK: For me, the biggest thing was the different perspective that I now have as someone who is experienced in the backcountry. I now look at mountains that I previously thought were un-skiable or just really, really gnarly. I would say, “That’s beautiful”– but I would have never looked at it and said, “Oh, that’s how I would ski it.”
I think all of the Sherpa guys had actually done proper backcountry skiing in Alberta, so they’ve had that mindset for longer. But for me, it was this big, eye-opening experience of “oh man, I want to come home and ski now!” which was definitely the first time I’ve said that.
ML: Had you been back there for skiing since you moved out to Whistler?
RK: I had been back during Christmases and I would see a couple of lines and start to think about them, but not until this year had I gone back and spent much time at the different resorts. I hadn’t started to look at all of this backcountry areas as, “Oh yeah, I could go ski that”.
One really funny thing was when we shot at Sunshine, the first day before opening we went straight up to the top of Delirium Dive, and growing up, my parents had told me, “You’re not allowed to ski that area until you move out of the house”– not that I really needed to move out or anything, but they just wanted to delay it since I was a 12 year kid saying “I want to go ski everything!”
So I actually got to go ski this run for the first time, with a camera bag, pre-opening, and everything was perfectly fresh. It was an amazing run.
ML: Did you tell your parents that you finally skied it?
RK: Yeah, and then I texted my brother and he was jealous, too.
ML: Have you worked on projects with Sherpas Cinema before? What’s it like working with them?
RK: It’s very interesting following a film crew that’s looking for such specific concepts, that they’re bypassing other things. If you’re like, “there’s a sweet powder turn there,” you can end up shooting way too much filler type stuff. They’re very specific about the concept that they have in mind before shooting.
It’s helped me adopt a vision of photography with a long-term, larger goal rather than tons of tiny little shots here and there. Rather than getting 100 Instagram shots, I’d rather go get one good concept.
ML: That’s interesting, because I remember reading for Into the Mind, they started off with a concept that ended up evolving a lot by the time they got to the end.
RK: The concept started very strong, and they shot towards that, but then in the editing suite, you find out that there are slight differences and you need to modify around that.
Since you’re working with elements that you can’t control, you can’t go back and re-shoot stuff like you would in a Hollywood movie where you can just rebuild the set or go back to the set that you have, and bring the characters in and put them in make up, and all of the sudden it’s the identical scene. That’s not possible with skiing. They had it written, for the most part, ahead of time, and shot towards that, but then you have to work with the actual footage that you have.
ML: As the photographer joining in on a film project, what’s it like? Is it the same as a regular photography session, or are you working in the background while they’re filming?
RK: 80% or 90% of the time, I get to play second fiddle. The film angle or film concept is prioritized.
They also understand that I’m shooting for the same client as them. When I see something that’s great for me, I can speak up and say “Hey, let’s go do this”.
As soon as you speak up to say, “Hey, let’s go fly here”—all of the sudden, you’re spending heli time. You choose very wisely when and where you’re going to pick those moments. It’s little moments where you can take over, but you try to make sure that you let those guys do everything that they can and that you really aren’t getting in the way everything else.
ML: Sculpted in Time is about taking a closer look at some iconic Rockies ski characters. What do you think it is about mountain towns that draw in people with such huge personalities?
RK: Mountain towns are great refuges for people who are very eccentric. When you travel and move differently, you don’t travel with the masses to a large metropolis. I think that’s why you end up with all these interesting characters like Eddie Hunter and Hoji. Eddie moved to it, Hoji is crafted by it, and when you diverge from the norm, you end up being embraced by the community. People are looking to support it.
[In the series,] Eddie Hunter is the character that they will be using to explore Norquay. In the very first slideshow competition that I did three of four years ago, I shot and used Eddie Hunter as a character. I was trying to show a lifetime of skiing through people of different ages, and he was the perfect older guy shredding Norquay and skiing really, really exceptionally well. It was at the very beginning of my photo career. Then, three years later, I got to come back and chat with him about all the different ways our lives have gone from that point, what we’ve skied since.
ML: Do you think the people in the Rockies are different from people in other North American mountain towns?
RK: I would say that most mountain towns do end up carrying influence of the general area. Banff definitely feels like Alberta; Whistler feels like Vancouver.
Other than some of that influence, I would say that it’s still the same thing—a bunch of people who are making certain sacrifices in their life, personal or relationships, to try to live in a certain place and achieve certain things. Everyone still is a ‘mountain type’ person.
ML: What about the mountains themselves – do you think the Rockies have a different feel than other places? What’s the “personality” of the mountains?
RK: I think a lot of that comes down to the natural place itself: the Rockies are a continental snowpack. Skiing there, in the backcountry, is much more difficult and much more dangerous. During the summers, the topsoil is very thin — almost non-existent — so you don’t see mountain biking being born there, but you do see it starting in Whistler.
You don’t see the backcountry ski destination happening as much in Banff, but you do get a bunch of international tourists because the mountains are so beautiful and aesthetic from every angle, whereas in Whistler, you don’t see alpine from the valley. In the Rockies, you see alpine and glacier from absolutely every angle. There’s a whole bunch of differences that carry from the landscape and the natural weather there.
ML: When you were there, what were conditions like?
RK: Things were starting to get good, but it was still quite spooky. In general, everything is more spooky there than out here in Whistler.
The weather sort of bounced back and forth and we got skunked two days in a row on different heli shoots, getting overcast light. There was a lot of stress going on, because you’ve got a helicopter out there and you’ve got these resorts that are trying to accommodate you, but if you switch your plans day to day, that means a massive shift in the way that the day plays out for the resort staff.
Check out more of Reuben’s work on his website, reubenkrabbe.com. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the trailer for Sculpted in Time yet, here’s your chance– and don’t forget to check out the first episode on September 29, 2014!