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.

 

Having your lens filled up with snow deep in the woods of Japan is just another day in the office for Andy.


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.

Packed up and ready to go in Andy’s f-stop Tilopa camera bag.

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.

Riders: Scott Wittlake & Mikey LeBlanc
Location: Uintah Mountains, Utah
April 2005
This has long been a personal favorite for several reasons. First and foremost this is 2 best friends (also 2 of mine) in a moment of pure, unstaged riding. No stunts, no trickery, no one got upside down or took a foot out — just simplest game of following each other through the woods. Second reason is that I could never convince my photo editor at the time to run it so anytime I’m asked to put together one of these lists of photos, I’m sure to include it.

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.

Rider: DCP
Location: Park City, Utah
April, 2010
Halfpipe is definitely not my comfort zone — both shooting and riding. It was snowing so hard at the end of this day airs were out of the question and this turned out ot be a blessing in disguise. This classic lay back slash was the perfect trick for the conditions and has a shelf life infinitely longer than any above the lip trick could have.

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.

Rider: Joe Sexton
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
December, 2010
After having grown mindnumbingly bored with down rails after years of shooting them I tried to start a campaign of pyschological warfare on riders in hopes of discourgaging them from always wanting to hit them. It failed miserably. If you can’t beat them, might as well join them. That season I tried to approach shooting this type of feature in new ways, and really digging deep into some creativity. This is probably my favorite example to come from this attitude adjustment.

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.

Rider: Austin Smith
Location: Logan, Utah
March, 2011
Shooting in the trees, especially on a sunny day, can be one of the most frustrating situations to try and get a great photo. The temptation is to break the back and bring out flash gear in hopes of overcoming the shadows. Or you can be lazy and hope nature throws you a bone for a moment or two and make the most of it. The star aligned perfectly this morning, and on the first hit too! I must have done something really good to deserve this kind of rare luck. If only I knew what so I could repeat it.

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.

Rider: Eric Jackson.
Location: Sonnenkopf, Austria
February, 2012
This resort in Austria is world famous for it’s side-country kickers but amongst lensman it is most reknown for it’s lighting. Mid-day sun is typicall the worst light, but when you’re low enough to shoot directly into it, some dramatic effects can be had. It’s a great way to maximize the day while waiting for the long shadows and soft glow of the late afternoon sun. Best you use your live view on the camera for shooting so you don’t fry your eyes balls.

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.

Rider: Gigi Rüf
Location: Haines, Alaska
April, 2013
Wind is the harshest element to deal with because it’s the most unpredictable. It can destroy foot upon foot of precious powder rendering the mountain an ice block overnight. It’s also the most annoying to try and work in. You can’t communicate, the camera and lens and constantly needing wiping down and multiplies the cold factor exponentially. But on the rarest of occasions, it can actually be a good thing. All that blowing snow softens the light and really gives the photo a sense of depth or even movement. There’s a cold and barren feeling conveyed and it’s usally quite represntative of what it was really like out there on that day. I don’t think this photo needed a lot of help from the elements, but I was happy to take it, and even happier to be on my way home after it was shot.

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.

Rider: Bode Merrill
Location: Odgen, Utah
December, 2013
There were no bad angles to shoot this from, which should sound like a good thing. I mean it’s certainly better than the opposite being the case. But when there’s so many options sometimes it’s really hard just commit to one and be confident you are in the right place. This is espeically true when it’s a high consequence feature that the rider isn’t likely to over again if you’re not pleased with the results. I will admit this wasn’t my first angle choice, I don’t even know if it was my second or third. But once I stumbled into it, there was no doubt whatsoever I was in the right place. That is the best kind of feeling when shooting. It took him hours to do it perfect and I was never bored for a second. As a result I have stacks of photos from this day. All A-grade photos from several angles. It was an embarrassment of of riches. Of all the shots though, this is the only one that matters. There were no takers on the other shots, and I wasn’t suprised. Those are good problems to have.

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.

Rider: Marco Feichtner
Location: Dolomites, Italy
March, 2014
This natural gap in the Dolomite mountains of Northern Italy was perhaps proof of the existence of higher power that appreciates snowboarding. Or it was just really good luck. I’d never seen anything quite so perfect shaped by nature. The only problem is that is was completely in the shade, and nothing looks worse IMO that photos taken in the shade on sunny day. You have to blow the exposure out so much for the shadows that the blue sky turns a pale white and none of the other colors end up looking quite right. In face they look sickly, and that’s usually how I feel when I’m shooting this type of situation while looking around at all the beautiful light everywhere but where we happen to be. This jump was extra special though because it offered a perfect chunk of white snow to frame the rider in, which would make them pop out enough so that I could expose for the proper color of sky (which would make everything in the shadow appear dark, much like it was in real life). It took several attempts by both parties to get this line up just right, and in the end it was even better than I had envisioned.

What’s your favorite TransWorld cover of all time?

  1.  Jon Foster photo of Jamie Lynn, November 1994 — Most iconic photo of the most iconic rider of his generation. Would be a cover today.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Rider: Dan Brisse
Location: Cold Springs, Minnesota
December, 2014
There has long been a satirical hashtag on social media attached to photos of ridiculous features to snowboard on called #brissespots. Much like our president, Brisse has never been one to be outdone by satire. There’s a reason #brissespots exists and nothing in fantasyland is any more ludicrous than this feature here. I have I have shot many, if not most, of the hashtag inspiring spots Dan has hit over the years. This one is my favorite. The death deying gaps and close-outs from hell all came with more consequence, but none had the colors, the lines, the creativity of this one. And even with all of these obvious things going for it, the most unbelievable thing happened before single shovel of snow was tossed. Dan walked right through the front door of this quartz counter top factory and convinced the owner to let us do it. And it didn’t even take that much verbal judo. Brisse is a unique snowboarder, with an undeniable talent, but his ability to make things happen I respect the most.

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.

Rider: John Jackson
Location: Haines, Alaska
April 2015
Everyday is a good day to be in Alaska, but ones where the light is good, the winds are minimal and the snow is deep and stable are hard to come by. You can go there for weeks, even months and not get all of these factors to line up. I’ve paid my dues over the years, as have most who have ventured there. This shot was unique in that it was literally our first day of a nearly month-long trip. The weather broke mid-day and we were put on top of this line with perfect late afternoon light and helicopter waiting at the bottom. This photo could have just as easily been Blair Habenicht or Kazu Kokubo, but John won the romchambeau at the top (or maybe he lost it?) Either way he was first and his line the only one on the face while riding which is always going to be the shot. Side note: that was the best shot of the trip and the next 3 weeks were spent battling all of the elements mentioned in the first .

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.


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