LIGHTS, CAMERAS, ACTION!

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The title of this article says it all; “lights cameras action!” and that’s just what it is when working in the non-mountain world of snowboarding. Can you go snowboarding in a place absent of mountains and hills? Sure!

Snowboarding consists of ‘sub-cultures,’ riders who prefer one type of snowboard terrain to the other. All is fair; all is fun whether you’re in the backcountry, resort, terrain park or anything outside your front door. Snowboarding is snowboarding no matter where you take it, it’s all about having fun, and that’s what I’ll talk about while shooting in the urban environment.

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Documenting snowboarding in the urban environment allows you to carry as much equipment as you’d like to each photo shoot, as you’re accessing each location via the automobile. For the snowboarders, the possibilities are endless for terrain choices because you’re in a city with a couple feet of snow on the ground, working in a place not intended for snowboarding, but perfectly suited for this very activity.

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Every mission starts with a barrage of texts and phone calls between the crew, sorting out flights, lodging, rental cars, generator, lights, a winch and various other tools. While all of this is happening, I’m sorting through the information and making a photo plan; shot ideas, lighting styles, flash types, strobes or no strobes, how many tripods to carry, magic arm count and of course not forgetting the ever trusty Super Clamp collection! Once the trigger is pulled and flights are booked, I’ll pack three Burton wheelie bags weighing in at 65 pounds (29 kg) each and get ready for a week of non-stop activity running through all hours of the day.

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A ‘street mission’ as it’s commonly called, is all about searching for unique and usable locations, spots where a snowboarder can take off in one spot and land in another, slide down a hand rail or propel himself up a vertical wall. Once a spot in located, the prep work begins by moving snow around to create transitions that help the snowboarder to execute his planned maneuver from start to finish. As with any snowboarding photo shoot, everybody pitches in to get the job done as a team, efficiently as possible.

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Once the set-up is nearing completion, I begin to arrange my flash units in such a manner to achieve the look of the photo I’ve been thinking about as I was moving snow alongside the crew. Flashes and strobes take their place using the Manfrotto 190cxPro3 Tripods, 1005BAC Alu Ranker Light Stands, various Magic Arms and Super Clamps; and remain secure in place until I create a different lighting scene for the next snowboarding maneuver.

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Once the lighting arrangement is complete, your next step is testing the light by snapping a few frames and making the minor flash adjustments needed to secure your intended image. After that, the call out of “lights, camera, action” is heard and the riding begins.

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Now the session is happening and you’re firing away frames at a rapid pace as the riding picks up momentum. Things move quickly and as the photographer, you need to be on point and have your shot list ready and your plan tight in hopes of getting everything out of this window of opportunity. Any landed maneuver is rarely tried again, so you have to get the shot when it counts, there’s no turning back the play clock!

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Once the riders are satisfied with their film clips and photos, we pack up the gear, clean up the location and move onto the next. This cycle of search, build, ride, shoot and clean repeats itself all hours of the day, until the fuel runs dry in the snowboarders gas tank. If it sounds like a lot of work, it definitely is! Not to worry though, there’s plenty of entertainment, laughter and hijinks happening ever step of the way!

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Dean Blotto Gray
Principal Photographer Burton Snowboards

Instagram: @deanblottogray
Website: blottophotto.com