Mount Shuskan, North Cascades Nationwide Park, Washington.
“My private motto has all the time been, ‘If I can create photos that make myself or most people wish to spend time within the mountains or wish to go ski or mountain bike, I’m going to achieve success’. That’s the type of stuff we’re all the time in search of. What’s going to entice as a skier or mountain biker to wish to go do it? Many of the manufacturers that I work with actually perceive that.”

It may very well be argued that Grant Gunderson’s photographic philosophy boils down fairly merely: His purpose is to have enjoyable whereas making never-before-seen photos. Seemingly born with a deep love for snow snowboarding and mountain biking, he has turned these passions right into a thriving profession. Nonetheless, he’s cautious to not let the laborious work outweigh the journey.

“I be certain my work is enjoyable, clearly,” he says. “I inform everybody I could make a helluva lot extra money doing anything in addition to images. I’ve an engineering diploma that I might use, however by no means have. I do that as a result of it’s enjoyable, and I’m obsessed with it, and I wish to be on the market doing it. If we’re not having enjoyable, we’re completed for the day. There are all the time a handful of days through the 12 months when it’s going to be nice snowboarding, and I’ll say, ‘I don’t care how nice it’s going to be to shoot right this moment, we’re going snowboarding.’ And I depart the digital camera bag within the truck.”

Gunderson’s fun-loving demeanor is extra than simply lip service. He truly has stored himself from plunging headfirst into extra mountain biking assignments—a comparatively new addition to his portfolio—for concern that this private ardour may flip into simply one other job. However when biking purchasers see the standard of his work, they inevitably need extra.

© Grant Gunderson
Rutherford, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.
“This picture is out within the again nation, and we had recognized about that spot for a couple of years, however it wasn’t actually in the perfect form to go do it safely. We occurred to be out that day and the situations have been just about good, the avalanche situations have been very low. We had been in that space for some time so we had a historical past of the snow and we knew it was steep sufficient that the highest layer of snow as going to slip little or no, solely three or 4 inches of snow that really slides. So we knew we might get a little bit bit, we knew it might be dynamic wanting, however the danger of avalanches was one of many large obstacles. It’s most likely 60 toes. And from that state of affairs and it’s not simply me and Josh. Now we have 4 different guys there so in case one thing occurred, we had a rescue crew with us, mainly.”

“It’s the one factor I’ve discovered that offers me the identical rush as snowboarding,” he says of mountain biking. “I’ve gone all winter snowboarding, the very last thing I wish to do is flip my summer season ardour right into a full-time job, as properly. I’ve actually been resisting it, and it’s on the level now the place I’m, like, okay, it’s time to do that.”

Know Your Sport

One have a look at Gunderson’s lovely photos, and it’s clear why purchasers hold calling. It’s not simply his knack for capturing peak motion and decisive moments, it’s his potential to place the athlete in context—to indicate an attractive forest or mountain scene with an athlete in movement. It’s an strategy he was lucky to choose up early on.

“I believe skiers have all the time loved seeing the mountains and the atmosphere,” says Gunderson, “and there simply so occurs to be a skier in there. I’m often promoting an escape. I’ve discovered there’s a whole lot of curiosity from skiers on the East Coast, locations the place there’s not the perfect snowboarding. It’s the common skiers who wish to exit West for 2 weeks a 12 months.”

© Grant Gunderson
Mount Baker, North Cascades, Washington.
This is likely one of the only a few pictures for which Gunderson used autofocus. “On that specific shoot, I used to be working with a movie crew on the identical time, so it’s rather a lot tougher to arrange one nonetheless shot that manner. I used to be taking pictures much more auto focus as a result of the motion is rather a lot longer. For me it’s all in regards to the 1/1000th of a second, it’s bought to be good. For them they want the lead in, the pre motion, the lead out so it will probably mix collectively. As a result of we’re taking pictures a for much longer lane, or for much longer interval of snowboarding, I’ll do much more of auto focus and observe focus to ensure I’m not lacking a secondary second, and generally the secondary moments are simply nearly as good as the first.”

No common skier himself, Gunderson made his title within the mountains as a child rising up in Yakima, Washington, the place he and his mates spent all their time snowboarding. They took turns photographing one another till it turned clear that Gunderson’s photos of them have been rather a lot higher than their photos of him. He was a pure, each on the skis and with the digital camera. In school, he bought his first pictures and was hooked.

“I used to be, like, ‘Wow, I can truly make a dwelling doing this,’” he says, “and it just about beats the hell out of being an engineer and sitting behind a pc on a regular basis.”

Break From The Pack

Gunderson based The Ski Journal, the place he served as picture editor for six years. It turned a possibility to encompass himself with the world’s finest ski images. He studied the photographs intently, studying key classes.

© Grant Gunderson
Revelstoke Mountain, British Columbia, Canada.
“Everybody all the time asks what my favourite lens is, and I all the time inform them my favourite lens is the perfect one for the job. As a result of it all the time modifications. I personal just about every part Canon makes, so far as lenses go.”

“As a photograph editor,” he says, “I’ve seen so many photos come by, all of it begins to look the identical. Except it stands out, it’s not going to get picked up. That’s why I’ve a whole lot of motivation to attempt to do stuff that’s completely different. For me, it’s about desirous to create a picture that somebody hasn’t seen earlier than. It’s very easy to exit and create actually lovely photos within the mountains as a result of the mountains themselves are lovely and all it’s important to do is present up. However, you already know, how can I do this in a manner that hasn’t been completed earlier than? For some time, I used to be taking a look at skateboard imagery the place they have been utilizing a whole lot of flash, and nobody had tried to carry large flashes into the backcountry. So we have been dragging 25-pound Elinchrom flash packs into the backcountry with us to shoot. Then, as quickly as I seen the remainder of the competitors was beginning to try this, I began doing rather a lot much less of it and I went on to doing different issues. I’m all the time making an attempt to give you one thing that the remainder of the blokes aren’t doing but, and attempt to be a step or two forward of the sector.

“The largest recommendation I can provide,” Gunderson provides, “is to attempt to be inventive and give you your individual type, your individual look. That’s what it’s going to take to achieve success. In case you simply exit and duplicate a picture that’s lovely, it’s already been completed and nobody is curious about buying it. It’s always making an attempt to be inventive and give you one thing new. I all the time have a look at what different photographers are doing—to not copy them, however to know what’s happening in order that I can do one thing completely different.”

One notably completely different approach Gunderson has employed is black-and-white imagery. It’s not one thing that’s seen fairly often in sports activities—snow snowboarding, specifically.

© Grant Gunderson
Monashee Powder Snowcats, Monashee Mountains, British Columbia, Canada.
To succeed commercially, you have to know the sports activities you’re photographing. “The satan’s within the particulars. For instance, you could possibly have probably the greatest wanting ski pictures you’ve ever seen, but when the pole plant’s a half diploma off, it’s most likely not going to run as a result of the competitors’s that top. That’s why it’s necessary to be an energetic participant within the sports activities you shoot. Since you’re going to see these little tiny particulars that if somebody’s not an avid skier, they’re not going to note. Shoppers have requested me to shoot issues I don’t do, like mountaineering, and I inform them I’m simply not the fitting man for it. I’m a very sturdy believer, particularly with motion sports activities within the outside, you’ll be able to’t actually doc it properly except you’re an energetic participant in these sports activities, to essentially know the nuances of what’s happening.”

“Snowboarding may be very lovely in colour,” Gunderson says, “and everybody actually needs to shoot in colour. It’s vibrant skis and vibrant jackets. That’s what was cool with the flash; in these darkish and stormy environments, I might get actually vibrant colour. However as soon as everybody else began doing it, I stated, ‘What can I do that might be completely different?’ So I went on an enormous black-and-white kick and shot nearly all black-and-white for a 12 months. Whenever you shoot in black-and-white, it’s important to assume extra in tonal vary than you’d in any other case. I believe doing that has helped me going again and taking pictures colour since then. I give it some thought each methods now.”

Suppose Security First

The principle factor Gunderson is considering throughout any shoot isn’t photographic in any respect, and it’s not notably about having enjoyable, both. Primarily, Gunderson is worried with making an attempt to maintain himself, his crew and his athletes protected. It’s the number-one precedence within the mountains.

“I believe expertise permits me to make safer choices simpler within the backcountry,” he says. “It’s simpler for me to stroll away from one thing that’s not protected. I believe that’s a ability that’s essential. I’m glad I lastly developed it. A clever previous mountain man advised me once I was actually younger that you simply begin your break day in mountains with a handful of luck and hopefully get a handful of data earlier than that wears out. That’s positively true. Security is an enormous issue, particularly with avalanche situations. Pace, a whole lot of occasions, goes with that. If I avoid wasting weight within the bag, I might get out and in of what may very well be a crush place manner quicker and decrease my time and danger.

© Grant Gunderson
Heliskiing in Seward, Alaska.
Even when on high-profile business assignments, Gunderson often works solo, and not using a large crew. “90 % of it’s me and two or three athletes. A number of occasions within the backcountry, it’s simply not protected to herald an enormous manufacturing crew. Undoubtedly there have been occasions the place I’ve labored with 30 folks, however that’s in a far more managed atmosphere, nearer to the resort, in bounds, the place ski patrol goes to ensure everyone seems to be protected. Many of the stuff I do is deep within the backcountry the place you’ll be able to’t carry an enormous crew of individuals.”

“I see much more folks going out and making an attempt to do what we’re doing,” provides Gunderson. “That actually weighs on me. I believe they see these lovely pictures, or they see this wonderful footage in a ski film, however they don’t notice the assist community that we’ve developed behind the scenes to supply a picture. For instance, everybody that I work with carries a VHF radio, and I’ve developed relationships with the ski patrol the place, if there’s an accident, I can instantly discuss to them. If we’re within the backcountry, I can instantly name up a helicopter for a rescue, or if we’re at a heli-ski operation, I’m going to be immediately with the pilots so all of them know we’re on the identical web page. The typical Joe doesn’t know that.”

Shield Your Gear

The opposite security situation Gunderson faces, whereas actually much less critical than life or dying, is not any much less necessary to the functioning of a images enterprise. Working in chilly, snowy situations might be perilous for digital camera tools, too.

“Moisture is an even bigger situation than chilly,” Gunderson says. “Mainly, if my gear is chilly, I can’t unzip that pack till I’m completed for the day. So, if I come inside, that pack both stays exterior someplace protected, or if it is available in with me, it doesn’t open up till we’re completed for the day. I’ve tried utilizing varied methods prior to now, placing stuff in Ziploc® luggage, then opening it up progressively, however when you open it, it’s completed.

© Grant Gunderson
Laguna del Inca, Andes Mountains, Portillo, Chile.
“That was type of a humorous deal,” says Gunderson of this picture. “We have been on a photograph shoot at a spot known as Laguna del Inca, which is true on the border of Chile and Argentina, fairly excessive up within the Andes. That individual summit after we have been down there didn’t get any snow, and it’s like what are you going to do? You’ll be able to’t ski with out snow. We came upon that the proprietor of the resort had sea kayaks on the lake within the afternoon. So we commandeered them and took them throughout the lake to seek out some snow. I used to be fairly pleased they have been yellow and orange, however I used to be even happier that I didn’t tip the kayak with the digital camera and all my gear in it.”

“I’ve gone by a whole lot of digital camera our bodies,” he continues. “I used to be nonetheless taking pictures the 1D Mark IV once I truly ruined two digital camera our bodies in someday. That was a really costly day. I attempt to hold every part zipped as much as decrease the quantity of snow that will get into the digital camera bag. The opposite factor I’ll use is mainly jackets on the cameras. For some time, I might make my very own. Then I came upon OP/TECH makes actually good jackets for the cameras. And it’s positively lower down rather a lot on the quantity of cameras I’m going by. Now I’ll put on them out earlier than the moisture destroys them.”

Observe The Gentle

When he’s not preventing with the climate because it’s making an attempt to destroy his gear and drive him off a mountain, Gunderson is battling altering gentle. There’s all the time an excessive amount of or too little, and solely not often is it excellent.


Canon EOS 1Dx
Canon 16-35mm f/2.Eight L II
Canon 24-70mm f/2.Eight L II
Canon 70-200mm f/2.Eight L IS II
Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM
Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8
Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II USM
Canon 15mm f/2.Eight Fisheye
Elinchrom AS Pace strobes with Sort A heads
Pocketwizard transceivers
F-Cease Satori packs

“Capturing snowboarding,” he says, “the most important factor you’re coping with, photography-wise, is that you’ve an excessive amount of gentle. With mountain biking, it’s the precise reverse as a result of you have got too little gentle. The perfect mountain biking appears to be deep within the forest. So the perfect days to shoot are overcast, grey days, extra constant gentle, however there simply isn’t a lot of it. However the factor with snow is, if in case you have an excessive amount of gentle, it means you most likely have an excessive amount of solar, so it’s not going to be good for snowboarding anyway. With snowboarding, good snow tends to observe good gentle. We’re type of in search of a mixture of each. The problem with snowboarding is that you would be able to set a shot up, however you solely get one likelihood, so if the athlete misses the mark or the flash doesn’t hearth, all that setup work is completed and it’s important to transfer on. It’s a fairly quick tempo of regularly making an attempt to be following the sunshine and being productive on the identical time.”

To see extra of Grant Gunderson’s work, go to

By William Sawalich, Pictures By Grant Gunderson –>

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