Six ski photographers went head to head in Jackson, WY for the 2nd annual Arc’Teryx Jackson Exposed Photo Competition. While only one photographer can win the event, as the audience, we all won.
They all had three days to shoot and edit a 3 minute slideshow. The weather during this time was bringing a now famous storm for the town of Jackson. This certainly gave the photographers some epic powder shots, but brought some extra challenges as well.
We connected with each to get some behind the scenes insight on what it’s like to compete in such a tough competition. But first let’s take a look at the slideshows!
1st Place – Aaron Blatt
2nd Place – Elise Sterk
3rd Place – Greg Von Doersten
|Such stiff competition among all the photographers. Have you ever done anything like this before and did you come into the comp with a specific plan or did it evolve as you went on?
Aaron – I think a lot of shoots I do for brands in the mountains can be similar to this shooting environment. So yes I’ll say I’ve done this kind of thing before. Our team had a general plan – cut the edit to a track we made, shoot some solid slashes & airtime, shoot at night at least once, and hustle.
Elise – This was my first time participating in a ski photo comp and I definitely did a lot of careful planning and was very specific when choosing athletes. We had a plan and mostly stuck to it, but as always, things are pretty condition dependent and we were flexible with weather and avy danger.
Trevor – I’ve never done an event like this, and didn’t really have a set plan in advance. There were a few specific images / locations I wanted to try and get, but due to to weather, safety and other factors many of them didn’t work out.
Jared – Honestly, this was my first real competition in the photography world. I’d say I’m pretty fresh to the game as far as the winter photography world goes and was stoked on getting an invite to the event. I knew I had a handful of local riders that know the surrounding Jackson terrain super well and are also amazing athletes so my plan originated with who I was going to select for my team. With a competition like this Id say the plan evolves as the days pass because you never know what weather or elements your going to face.
Were there any unseen hiccups or random challenges that came up?
Aaron – My laptop stopped working right when I started to edit. Newer laptop too – that was harsh… but Michelle leant me hers, and I got the job done on that.
Elise – The biggest hiccup was having somewhat high avy danger the day we skied in Grand Teton National Park, which prevented us from doing our original objective. We made it happen with another, safer line and managed to still come away with some great shots!
GVD – In any photo event there are always unseen challenges which are the real beauty to these projects. We had to shuffle athletes through the week due to availability and while the big storm was nice presented some changes to are locations. We received 24 inches of snow on Feb 5th which took away the big mountain element in Grand Teton National Park where most of the big lines are located. We decided to concentrate our work around Jackson Hole which proved to deliver some great shots but might have prevented us from telling more of the story I had originally envisioned.
Trevor – The biggest challenge was probably the amount of snow and the weather. It made it difficult to move around and set up the exact shot. Often times I would sink to my chest and just end up shooting from where I fell. We also couldn’t get to a couple locations we had in mind due to conditions, so we made the best of it.
Sofia – Yes, one of my teammates came in a day late because of the storm. Her flights were canceled because of weather and she ended up having to drive all day to get to Jackson.
Jared – I wouldn’t say any hiccups really tossed me for a spin but the conditions at times were challenging. The first day was super stormy but because it was nuking snow so it made for a fun day shooting. Trudging through over waist deep snow at times was exhausting and made it difficult to get into primo positions for composing a striking image. Also, my last day was spent in the sub zero temperatures up in Grand Teton National Park and I got frostbite on my thumb and shooting finger, not ideal.
Any zones you were hoping to shoot but couldn’t because of time or conditions?
Aaron – We kept to smaller manageable terrain, we played a pretty conservative game based on our view of the snowpack and hazards. Would have been nice to pick off some bigger slopes, but you’ll never see me pushing a crew to do anything based on pressure.
Elise – As mentioned before, we couldn’t do our original objective in GTNP, but we also weren’t able to get the night skiing shots we wanted due to timing and not being able to borrow a strobe that we thought we would have access to.
GVD – As mentioned, I would have loved to get on some of the big peaks in the park where there are some great ski mountaineering lines but it wasn’t in the cards this week. In the end no photo competition event is worth risking injury or possible harm so we were conservative in our terrain and location selection.
Trevor – I was sick and completely drained of energy on day three and asked my team if they would be ok with calling it and not making it to our destination, so that was a bummer.
Sofia – Yes on the second day we were hoping to shoot in Grand Teton National Park, but two of my athletes had some unforeseen circumstances come up that pulled them away in the morning. We decided to shoot on the pass so they could join us later.
Jared – I had a few zones that I originally wished to shoot but with the amount of snow and the visibility it just didn’t work out. One of them was a couloir in the Park that required a repel into that I had some shot ideas for that my Exum guide Ben Hoiness and I had discussed and the other was a side country run off the resort whose name is most commonly known from a classic video game.
What was the most photogenic zone you were in, and which one was the most fun?
Aaron – I love the side country off the resort, big slabs of rock, boulders, & pines – always beautiful up there. We found some open spaces in the backcountry too – I love that minimalist option when it’s available, Michelle painting a blank slope, or Carter with the sun, so fun for composing an image.
Elise – I think the most photogenic zone we went to was a beautiful burn area. The minimalistic look of the tall, thin, branchless trees really made for a stunning backdrop. As for the most fun area, I think the athletes seemed to enjoy the day in Grand Teton National Park. There were so many fun little pillows and hits and everyone was having a blast jumping off of everything!
GVD – The side and back country of Jackson are hard to beat and provided the bulk of our work.
Trevor – The most photogenic in my mind is almost always the most fun. I’m not a landscape photographer and I want to show people having a good time doing what they love. The biggest smiles came from the pillow zone in GTNP that our guide Jed took us to. I think that was the most fun and most unique zone to shoot.
Sofia – I think the last day was the funnest day for all of us. We were able to get some really great trick shots, the sun came out for a bit and then we got fun goofy shots.
Jared – I’d say my most photogenic run came off of a north facing couloir in the park and the high alpine ridge leading into it. As those that have seen the Tetons know, they can produce striking images. My most fun run would have been my first run on the first day when my athletes stomped some Jackson classics (two sending Goal post, backflip off nightmare and a huge shifty off daydream).
Do you feel like you had time to let your personal style really shine through or was it a bit of a rush to get as many good images as possible?
Aaron – Yeah always! Gotta be shooting stuff you like. Gotta push your style, especially when under pressure.
Elise – It was definitely rushed, but I still think my personal style naturally came through!
GVD – The event provided plenty of time to shoot and get great photos but only has a 12 hour window to edit 1000’s of photos. We suffered some set backs on the day of the edit with a power outage which didn’t allow the time I needed to put together the story I had in mind. That’s what makes these events fun yet challenging because you can shoot a whole series of images and story line and then have to be very quick at putting together a great edit.
Trevor – Things definitely felt pretty rushed, but I think that’s par for the course in events like this. I had a lot bigger plans to show off my ideas, but due to a few factors it didn’t work out that way. I think all the photographers felt the same. Looking back I wouldn’t spend a full two days in the park because when you spend time getting to your location it means less time getting riding shots, and the judges didn’t really take into account the backcountry aspect of the slideshows.
Sofia – Yes, I made a point to stick with my personal style and vision. I’m new to ski photography and my style is evolving. It’s more about telling the story of an adventure and sharing personalities of my athletes. I tried my best to balance that while also getting epic action photos.
Jared – The competition for me was a bit stressful, but I wanted to make sure that I could produce the best images that I could given the weather and time constraints. I think that I portrayed my style of shooting and I believe that each photographer in the competition did as well. The coolest thing about the comp for me was seeing what everyone was able to produce is such a constricted amount of time. That goes with shooting, editing and putting together a slideshow to music in just 4 days.
Now that the competition is over are you going to actually get to ski? Or are you off to somewhere else?
Aaron – Haha, I’m writing this from a plane to go shoot with a crew in Japan. I’ll get to ride though, always do!
Elise – I have a few projects coming up in the near future, but I’ll definitely make time for what’s important
GVD – I’m taking the day off and going into the back country with out my camera or phone-just taking in mountains and some great snow!
Trevor – No skiing for me in the near future. Off to the desert in Arizona for the next shoot.
Sofia – Heck ya I’m going to ski! The snow in Jackson keeps getting better and better and I am ready for more.. maybe after a couple days of hot yoga 😉
Jared – Now that the competition is over Im going to get to ride this next storm cycle for a few days before getting back to work. Im excited to return to work our winter project called This.is.us.in with local riders Cam Fitzpatrick, Mikey Marohn and Rob Kingwell as well as Rich Goodwin the video maestro. Ill be spending a bunch of time in Jackson but hoping to get over to Europe before the season ends.