To be an action sports photographer, we recommend three out of four of these defining characteristics: 1. Be an artist; 2. Be a masochist; 3. Be extremely patient; or 4. Have the endurance and skill of the subject you are shooting. Blake Jorgenson has mastered all of these. Sooner or later, someone was going to document his unmatched skill and perseverance in the field of photography, and SmugMug films was the first to the punch. Prior to the release of “The Cold Open”, we sat down with Blake to to get to the root of what drives his relentless pursuit of perfection.
Words: Ben Osborne. Photos: Blake Jorgenson
Tell us about your new film. Where did the idea spawn from?
A few years ago the photography website network SmugMug reached out to me and said they would love to make a short profile film on me and what I do as a photographer. They really were into celebrating photography and showcasing the stories behind amazing images. I said come on out, I will show you an adventure in the backyard of Whistler. I met up with videographer Anton Lorimer during a massive snow cycle in Whistler and we went on a deep powder adventure to shoot some skiing with James Heim and Michelle Parker and some sledding with Dane Treadway. It was wet and miserable and nothing like Anton had ever seen—I think it left him wondering how it was possible to work in conditions like this.
I read an interview where you said, “Nobody is an expert photographer— they are an expert in what they photograph.” How did it feel being the subject of the movie?
I feel that the connection with good photography is understanding a particular genre, something you are passionate about and invest a lot of time into. That’s where people connect with your shots; they see and share similar insights and make a deep connection. It’s hard to do that with things you are not an expert in. You can observe things in interesting ways but it’s not the same as being immersed.
“That’s where people connect with your shots; they see and share similar insights and make a deep connection. It’s hard to do that with things you are not an expert in. You can observe things in interesting ways but it’s not the same as being immersed.”
I imagine you don’t typically spent a lot of time on the other side of the lens. Did you learn something about capturing images from the role reversal and being the subject?
I’m not very comfortable in front of the camera. I don’t think many photographers are, but it’s nice to be recognized and to be able to speak about photography from such a large and passionate company like SmugMug.
What was your favourite part about being part of making the film?
My favourite part of making the film was showing Anton around. Showing somebody the amazing visuals and experiences that Whistler has to offer was the best part for sure. That and talking about photography. I don’t like to talk much, but I love to talk about photography.
“I don’t like to talk much, but I love to talk about photography.”
Would you ever consider stepping into the film realm further? Or are you entranced with still imagery?
Film seems to be coming in more and more. I just directed a 30-second spot for Mazda and it was a great experience to work visually with a team of people as opposed to on my own. I can see myself doing it more and more as well as continuing to perfect the still image.
Is there a specific moment you can point to in your life where you thought about photography and said, “This is what I want my profession to be.”?
I think the moment when I finally decided that I wanted to be a professional photographer was when I went on a trip to Turkey for Kranked 3 with Richie Schley, Wade Simmons, Brett Tippie, Bjorn Enga, and Christian Begin way back in 2000, I think. After that trip, I was like, “This is what I want to do. Now I just have to figure out how to do it!”
Shooting action sports is a tough job—the risks involved are great and the reward you reap is much different and less tangible than for the athletes. What motivates you to wait for hours in the cold just to get one shot that might make a magazine cover?
What motivates me to stand in the cold to get the shot is passion. It defies all logic and common sense and the main ingredient you need for success. It’s the fire that will keep you fire during even in the darkest hours. If you can keep your passion and energy up, everything else you need will come naturally with time.
“What motivates me to stand in the cold to get the shot is passion. It defies all logic and common sense and the main ingredient you need for success. It’s the fire that will keep you full during even in the darkest hours. If you can keep your passion and energy up, everything else you need will come naturally with time.”
For aspiring action sports photographers, what is the No. 1 tip you would give them?
Be patient, everything takes way longer than you think. I worked for over 10 years, full time before it felt like I was really getting anywhere. I still don’t really feel like I know what I am doing but I know that I want to do it.
Any exciting plans for the near future?
Keep the passion, and always try to raise the bar with my craft. I search for projects that fit into new ideas and things that I want to achieve; they just seem to happen when you put your mind to it.
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After a decade-plus on top of the game, photographer Blake Jorgenson recently premiered a passion project film at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. The Alchemists follows Blake on an introspective dirt bike ride into the mountains behind Bralorne, BC, a nearly abandoned mining town where time itself even seems to slow down and take an extra minute to enjoy the scenery… Watch video