Introducing Bag Check, a new TransWorld SNOWboarding series dedicated to the many photographers and videographers we work with on a daily basis to bring you the premier snowboarding media that you have come to know and love. Each week we will be showcasing a different contributor by taking a look under the hood of their camera bag to see what each of them rely on in the field, before diving a bit further and tapping their brains about what it takes to create the work we celebrate. Make sure to check back next week for another installment of Bag Check with today’s leading photgraphers and videographers.
In the very first installment of our new series, Bag Check, we talk to Andy Wright, who has been a senior photographer for this very publication for the last 16 years. From the early days of simply carrying a camera around for the fun of it, to ultimately becoming one of the most respected photographers in the game, Andy has seen it all. Continue below for his Bag Check.
How long have you been shooting for, and how did you get involved with shooting snowboarding?
I’ve been shooting for a little over 20 years. I didn’t have a photography background, I was a snowboarder who just bought a camera basically to shoot photos of my friends riding. I didn’t really have a plan to try and go pro, it was more of a hobby, but things sorta fell into place and I took advantage of the opportunities I was given and made the most of them.
Which photos/ videos that you saw inspired you to become a photographer?
I consumed snowboard photography anywhere and everywhere I could find it. In hindsight, I think I might have been a bit more obsessed with it than your average snowboarding fan when it came to staring at snowboarding magazine, catalog, poster, or whatever… This was obviously pre-social media and internet, so we relied on the printed page to fuel our stoke levels. I don’t know if there was a particular photo that lit the fire, it was more or less the collection of work from the guys who shot it well in those days — Justin Hostynek, Jeff Curtes, Jon Foster, Trevor Graves, Vincent Skoglund, Chris Brunkhart, Bud Fawcett are names that come to mind.
List and describe what camera & other gear that is featured in the overview image.
- Cameras: Canon EOS-1D MK4, Canon EOS-5D MK3, Hasselblad Xpan 35mm
- Lenses (all Canon): 300mm f/4, 70-200mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/4, 50mm f/1.4, 15mm f/2.8, 90mm Tilt/Shift f/2.8, 1.4x extender, Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5
- Lighting: Elinchrom Ranger 1100w, Elinchrom Quadra 400w, Sunpak 555
- Other: Lighting stands, tripod, pocket wizard radio slaves, walkie-talkies, avalanche safety gear, Verts snowshoes.
- Bag: f-stop Tilopa
What’s your go-to setup?
I shoot Canon DSLR 99.9% of the time. The lens choice is dictated by the circumstances, but I use my 70-200mm the most of any lens.
Anything you are looking to add to the collection?
A sherpa would be nice. Or a radio slave that works with some sort of consistency. Probably need to upgrade my camera body at some point soon.
What’s one piece of gear (apart from camera gear and avi gear) that you couldn’t live without in your pack?
I use a Hoodman Loupe to view the back of my screen to eliminate the bright glare of the sun or whatever else might be preventing me to see what I’ve shot clearly.
Why do you carry that selection of lenses to shoot snowboarding?
On the functional side of things, those lenses cover just about any situation I’m likely to encounter in the field with the option to get creative with a few specialty lenses. On the practical side, zoom lenses cover a lot of focal range at a slightly lesser quality than several prime lenses would but decrease the weight so I’m able to be able to get the places I need to be.
What are your most exciting environments to shoot in?
Backcountry snowboarding provides the best backdrops and is where the most inspiring riding happens.
What environments are toughest on your gear?
Wet conditions, where the temperature is right at (or above) freezing are much harder on gear than the most extreme cold weather.
How do you protect gear from these elements?
There isn’t a lot of protection available. You can minimize effects by shielding your camera in your jacket perhaps between shots or taking cover under a tree when available. I buy gear that has the highest weather resistance available so I don’t really have to worry about it getting ruined when snowed or rained on. This is usually why the gear is so much more expensive than similar camera and lenses but as a result, I’ve never had gear ruined by the elements.
Any packing rituals the night before a big shoot?
I’m usually drying out the gear from the previous days shoot and not packing the bag until morning just to make sure everything dries properly. I will make sure my batteries are charged and that I have card space for the next day, but honestly, I probably spend more time preparing my lunch for the next day than messing with my gear.
Flash vs. Natural Light
Circumstances dictate, but I will say it is rare that I take any shot of snowboarding in an urban sort of environment without lighting it. Backcountry lighting is rare, but a lot of that has to do with the logistics of getting lighting gear out there or the fact we shoot most of this stuff on sunny days where lighting would just be an unnecessary gimmick.
Any favorite people to shoot with? Why?
I like motivated riders who aren’t head cases the best. Also helps if they have really good style and few jokes up their sleeve.
What projects have you been working on this past season?
I’ve been shooting as senior photographer for Transworld for 16 years, so that is my on-going annual project of sorts. The editorial direction of the magazine dictates a lot of who I shoot, when and where. I also have a side hustle shooting for DC Snowboarding that keeps me quite busy. This year they teamed with Transworld to produce a series of in-season videos called TRANSITORS. Edits were made available right after a team trip concluded (rather than holding all the footage for compilation video at the end). I was present to shoot photos on each 2 week trip throughout the winter. I also teach a photography workshop each summer for a week through High Cascade Snowboard Camp. I’m always working on ways to improve this program which has been on-going for over 10 years.
First cover shot / favorite cover shot?
My first cover of Transworld was a shot of Jason Murphy in 1999 jumping over a giant backcountry gap in Utah called “Pyramid”. It is the little brother to the infamous “Chad’s Gap” but at the time, no one had jumped it. Lukas Huffman was actually the first one to do it that day, but Jason’s shot was better. Such is the breaks. Sorry, Lukas!
My favorite cover shot is probably the double page fold-out cover from 2014 of Arthur Longo jumping another giant gap, this time in France. I’ve never had a double page spread as a cover and when shooting the photo, I remember trying to think of ways to frame it vertically so it could be a cover. Nothing looked good, and I wasn’t going to compromise the “A” shot, just to try and force something. I went with my instincts and somehow it ended up a cover anyways.
What’s your favorite TransWorld cover of all time?
- Jon Foster photo of Jamie Lynn, November 1994 — Most iconic photo of the most iconic rider of his generation. Would be a cover today.
- Derek Ketella photo of Joril Ricker, April 1999 — Perfect balance of ambient and flash on a side hit that just captures the vibe of night riding. Would be a cover today.
- Bud Fawcett photo of Craig Kelly, January 2012 — Shot in the late 80s and proof of my statement in the last 2 photos that proof of a good photo is if it could be a cover decades later. Most of Bud’s catalog falls into this category.
Style is important in both riding and photography. Tell us how you identify your own personal style with photography.
For the most part, I just try to make it look like the skateboarding magazines that I grew up worshipping. I think riders that make it look like skateboarding make it so much easier for me. I shoot for the “wow factor”. I like it to look dramatic, dangerous and beautiful all at the same time. Surprisingly, this is rarely related to the biggest jumps or death-defying street feature. It’s somewhere in the middle, where the rider feels comfortable enough to do it with style and afforded a little wiggle room in choosing angles and not just the obvious one.
What influences your approach in photography?
Action first, every other consideration comes next. These riders are out there risking serious injury, even death. I feel like it’s my obligation to showcase that part of it. Or at least not choose an angle that takes away from it.
What’s the best line or trick you’ve nailed with your camera pack on?
Just getting down some lines in AK after shooting the riders can be challenging. I might have tried to do small tricks with the pack in my early days, but most of the time now I’m just happy to get to the bottom in one piece.
Who are some of your favorite photographers / filmers?
Anyone who is still in the snowboarding photography game in 2018 has remained because of an extreme amount of talent — Oli, Darcy, Blotto, Zim, Serfas, Stone, Blatt, Taco, Miller, Yosh, Bob, Perly, Silvano, Dominque, Jerome, Jolly, Nick, Erin, and Mary — you all inspire the hell out me.