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Welp, Zimmerman went on vacation this weekend and left his laptop at home, leaving me to moderate this shit show, I mean photo contest. It’s been a fun couple weeks, but our friends from New York met their match in the champ. I didn’t want to get too deep into the street rail rut, so I figured I’d shoot for a fisheye theme, and you guys can pick which one you like better. Yay!

The Champ

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The Challenger

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Think you can do better? Then quit your bitching. The Firing Squad is a weekly photo competition. Winners of a single battle will receive a pair of Da Kine gloves and should a photo survive 4 weeks, the photographer receives a place in the Champions Gallery and a Da Kine Camera Pack, as well as a chance to compete in the year-end Ultimate Champions battle. To enter your own photo in the Firing Squad, check out our submission guidelines.

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This is from the 90s. I was sure I would “make it” and be as cool as JP was soon!

If you are reading this site, there’s a good chance you do now, or at one point, wanted to be a pro snowboarder. I know I did. All the glamor, travel, and most importantly free stuff seemed mighty tempting. For me an injury essentially ended my “career,” but for most life just happens. One day, you wake up and realize you’re in your mid 20s and 17-year-old kids are way, way better than you ever were or ever will be. But don’t fret. The dream doesn’t have to die with your desire to do a double cork. Here are a few suggestions for keeping the dream alive.

1.    Start a video production company. It’s totally legit to film your semisweet skills if you are part of a “crew.” Sure, you personally are nothing that special anymore, but since you and all your buddies are “making it happen” it’s totally cool that you get a short part in the film. Since you’ll likely be overshadowed by others’ sweeter skills in the video, be sure to re edit your part to make sure you keep those free boards flowing! (Love you Pat!)

2.    Get an industry job. Those industry guys get tons of free stuff, after all, they are the ones who give it out. But be warned, the best jobs, the ones the include travel and the most free gear, usually go to ex pros who’ve already lived the dream. If you don’t have any real skills, customer service is probably the best you’ll do, but at least you can tell people about how cool the company you work for is. (Love you Nate!)

3.    Get a camera. There is tons of money in snowboard photography. You will be making so much of it you can go to the store and buy whatever you want, whenever you want, which is truly the dream. (Love you Robbie!)

4.    Date a pro. Obviously this is easier for girls than boys, but there are a few single somewhat lovely ladies who will totally hook you up with their hand-me-down gear when they get rid of it. If that’s not a dream, I don’t know what is. (Love you Shaun White’s girlfriend!)

5.    Work for a magazine. Sorry kids, print is dying, better not get your hopes up for this one. You could probably start a blog though. I’ve heard it’s not that hard. (Love you magazines!)

6.    Just go snowboarding for fun.  Be a smart shopper and buy a new board when you need one. Get exactly what you want. Have the most fun.

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Ahh, snowboard photographers. Chicks love them, dudes want to be them. Oh wait, that’s the actual pro snowboarders. Snowboard photographers are the ones with cold fingers and (probably) massive debt who, let’s face it, probably weren’t very good at snowboarding. But a few lucky and talented individuals have had the pleasure of living the dream (at least for a little while) thanks to a camera and a photographic eye and Summit Country-based Dave Lehl is one of them. That’s not to say he goes home and rolls in piles of money, but Dave is what many want to be: a professional snowboard photographer, traveling the world and (usually) getting paid to do it. So what does it take to make it in the tough world of photography? Dave, like everyone else, is in someways still trying to find out, but that’s no reason not to put him on the spot and ask about it.

Who is harder to shoot (and get good photos of): cooperative girls or dudes trying to film their sweet video part?

Oh man, I’d way rather shoot a motivated chick.  I like shooting with the girls!  They’re always fun and the stress level is usually lower.

Have you shot with any girls who were especially impressive?

Jamie Anderson always charges so hard, I always love shooting with her.  Although I didn’t really see her this last season, MFR cracks me up all day long.  The shit that pours out of her mouth is pure comedy gold.

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Jamie Anderson, model/snowboarder. Photo: Lehl

Who is your favorite person, in general, to shoot with?

That’s a toughie, I’ve got a ton of people I like to shoot with.  I love shooting with (Dan) Brisse because you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time while he’s doing  life threatening shit.  Marius (Otterstad) is always fun to get out on the sleds with and bang out some gnarly shit.  He’s also really fun to feed booze to every once in a while

I hear you are going to be on HGTV soon. What show and when can we see your debut?

Actually the show doesn’t have a name yet, we’re the pilot episode that gets shown to focus groups and junk.  As far as I can tell it’s going to run in July some time.

What was it like filming home improvements, is it as much work as it looks like, or do they have goons to do the heavy lifting?

Shiiiiit, not on my show!  It’s a show where I do all the work, and then at the end, if I can fool a panel of General Contractors into thinking I spent more money than I actually did, then I win some money.  It’s been kind of a nightmare actually, because we’re on a pretty gnarly time schedule.  Abbra and I have been working until 11 p.m. or midnight pretty much every night this week.

How bitchin’ is your house now?

It looks a goddamned middle eastern war zone at the current moment.  I’m not done yet.  The reveal date when they film the final shots is two days before Christmas and I’ve got a lot of holes to patch.

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Only a real grown up would pull this shit. Dave (top left) Easter Bunny, Jon Kooley, Piere Minhondo, Manchild, Ryan Thompson.  Anchorage Alaska.

Speaking of, I assume that means you are a homeowner. How does one afford to purchase a house on a snowboard photographer’s salary?

It’s because I’m a money hoarder.  For the past 10 years I’ve never taken a vacation or bought anything that I couldn’t pay cash for.  All I did was stash it away and save it,  and with the way the housing market is and interest rates are right now, I’d have been dumb NOT to buy a place.

Are you still the staff photo guy for Rome?

I still have no idea what’s going on with that.  I’ve talked to Runke and they just don’t have that part of their marketing plan for the season worked out yet.  I’m hoping they hire me again, because that was the best season I’ve ever had!  I had so much fun hanging with all the guys (and girl).

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Nick Visconti, Denver Colorado

How does one go about scoring an awesome staff photographer position?

Shit, you tell me!  Not partying like crazy doesn’t help, I’ll tell you that much.  Everyone wants to be around party-guy.

What’s the best part of living in Summit County?

The best part of living in Summit County is that you’re no more than 15 minutes from a ski area.

The worst?

The worst thing is everything else.  Freezing cold, tourists constantly in your way whether you’re driving or in the super market,  ski and snowboard doofuses everywhere.

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Summit County good times. Ryan Thompson, Vail Pass, Colorado

Do you know Jesse Csinsack? Is he as big of a douche in real life?

Actually I don’t care what anybody says about Jesse, I like him. I used to be a big hater just like everyone else, but then I got to know him.  If you can just sit down and have a normal conversation with him over a couple of beers, you’ll see he’s not a bad guy.

I’ve heard rumors that certain people don’t like you. Do you think it’s important to be liked to be a successful snowboard photographer, or can you be a dick, like in fashion?

Like I said before, everyone wants to hang out with party-guy. I don’t think being a dickhead ever helps out anyone’s situaton.  The guys in question just thought I was cranky because I didn’t want to shoot stock shred spots and because I wasn’t too into 3 a.m. fireworks extravaganzas in my hotel room.

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Ninja shit. Dave and Harold.

Why do you think so many people want to “break into” snowboard photography? Any especially-not-glamorous parts of it you’d like to share?

Oh my god, I seriously have NO idea why so many people want to be snowboard photographers!!!  I don’t even know why I wanted to be one.  First of all, you’re cold ALL of the time, you’re constantly up at 4 in the morning looking over your shoulder for cops. You can’t ever just go snowboard and have a good time because you’ve always got two backpacks filled with 50 pounds of shit, and to get one good shot, you have to build a jump for about 8 hours.  And then at the end of it all, it’s a total crap shoot as to whether the shot you just spent all day getting will ever even see the light of day.

At the same time though, I love getting out there on the sleds and playing around in the backcountry and catching some mind blowing shit!  It’s tough as hell, but still totally worth it.

I see you have a SpoT photographer profile, are you trying to break into skate photography?

Yeah, I saw that on there too a while ago.  It’s just some random shot I got of Steve Reeves when I was shooting for Windell’s a couple of years ago.  I wish I could shoot skateboarding, but Colorado isn’t exactly the place to do it and I’m not about to move to California.

If you could be a successful pro photographer in any field, what would it be, and why?

I used to assist on a ton of catalog shoots, and while it wasn’t exactly always super action packed, we always went to sick places and partying with the models every night didn’t suck.  Natty Geo photog wouldn’t be bad!

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Dylan Alito, Red Mountain Pass, Colorado

What is the worst thing, photography-wise, you’ve ever done for free?

Back in the day I shot some super lame fashion show shit that I never got paid for. I haven’t done anything for free in a while. Zimmerman’s the best at giving you the worst guilt trip ever for giving away free photos. I think I’m still on his shit list for letting TWS run a gallery of my shots like a year ago.

It seems a lot of people get into shooting photos/video because they are bad at snowboarding. Is that the case with you? What tricks can you do?

Oh man I suck so bad nowadays!  At least I can say I USED to be good!  Back when they just came out in like 95, I did a backside rodeo over the motocross gap at Copper.  I don’t think that means shit to any kids these days, but that was about a 50 foot jump, which was really big at the time.  I’ll bet Otterstrom knows which jump I’m talking about.  I boardslid the 100 foot rail at Copper once, too.  Between the bindings all the way, not one of those sissy nose slidey things.

Remember when you successfully pulled off all four one’s in Japan? Was that your life’s greatest accomplishment?

The ones were good times and you know it!  Nobody else did them that week!

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On the job in Gilman, CO

What’s worse: shooting events or shooting sketchy backcountry?

I’d MUCH rather shoot sketchy backcountry! Contests are the most boring things of all time! Practice is alright, because it’s like boom, boom, boom, dudes are going for it but when the contest starts, you’re sitting there for 10 minutes between runs and you just sit there and freeze.

How often do you go snowboarding without a camera?

I used to go all the time, but it seems like if I’m not shooting snowboarding I’d rather go snowmobiling than shredding.  I used to be the WORST snowmobiler ever, but through the intense disgust and tough love of Trench Ludwig (Rome/Quik filmer), I got to where I could actually do some shit, and now I love it.

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Jonas Michelot, lipslide, Quebec City, Quebec

Check out more of Dave’s work at Davelehl.com

Zimmerman hates mini shred so much, that he’s not texting back with his photo pick for this week (either that or he just started bike mechanic school.) So it’s up to me, and I figure well-lit mini shred needs to go against more well-lit mini shred. Yeah,  there is little consequence for either rider in this week’s photos, but guess what, this is a photo contest, not the Olympics. So now you choose, which shot is better?

The Champ

The Challenger

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THIS BATTLE IS NOW CLOSED

The Firing Squad is a weekly photo competition. Winners of a single battle will receive a pair of Da Kine gloves and should a photo survive 4 weeks, the photographer receives a place in the Champions Gallery and a Da Kine Camera Pack. To enter your own photo in the Firing Squad, check out our submission guidelines.

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Jess and her new little one.

Everyone is a photographer these days. It seems like any idiot with a camera can luck into a cover, but it wasn’t always so. For Jess Mooney, who has been shooting since the days when images were captured on film (by everyone), there was no luck involved. She works hard, shoots amazing images, and has established herself as one of the best snowboard photographers out there.

It might seem like breaking into a male-dominated facet of a male-dominated sport would be the hardest part about being a female snowboard photographer. But for the Aussie lass, the tribulations of her early entry into photography had little to do with her gender. The biggest problem was sacrificing great days on hill. “When it was a sunny day it was hard to shoot photos,” Jess said. “I went through a transition period of probably a couple of years, and then it just became shooting because I could sell the photos in the Australian industry.”

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Jess Mooney Photo.

Growing up in Sydney, snowboarding was a luxury, but after being introduced to it at 17, and meeting her then boyfriend who loved the sport as much as her, she would drive the seven hours to the mountain every weekend of the three-month season. She became embedded in the snowboard scene through her boyfriend, and after about three years riding she and starting to shoot photos. Though she wasn’t studying photography officially (she was an art major at UNSW in Australia) she had learned to shoot in high school. “I just was in touch with all the pro snowboarders in the scene so it just kind of made sense,” she said. “I was traveling, I had a camera, it just worked.”

Selling her first images was easy in Australia, mostly because the riders she shot with needed photos for ads. But with the short Aussie season and small scene, it would be nearly impossible to make a living off photography, so Jess traveled back and forth to Whistler, B.C. during school holidays. In Canada she was able to sell images to OnBoard and Snowboard Canada, (provided they were they were good, and of the right people.)  But breaking into the US market was harder. “It was a more cliquey scene and no doubt more competitive,” she said.

Even living the endless winter and shooting as much as she did, Jess worked several day jobs to make ends meet, including “cheese expert” at a fine foods store and cleaning vacation rentals in Whistler. It wasn’t glamorous, but it paid the bills.

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Frederick Klabermaten. Jess Mooney photo.

Jess got her big break in the US through Dano Pendygrasse, who she knew from her time in Whistler. He was familiar with her work, so when he took a job as Photo Editor for Future Snowboarding, he gave Jess her first travel budget. Getting out of Whistler, and seeing different people and things, helped her career tremendously, and also had another, less anticipated benefit. It was on a trip to Stewart, B.C. for Future that Jess met up with Jeff Curtes. The legendary Burton staff photographer was actually tagging along on her shoot, and the two hit it off. Only a few months later, they were married.  “He’s just great and really inspirational,” she said. Being in the same field, the couple often works together.  “We assist each other a fair bit and that’s where a lot of people probably think it would be quite unhealthy, we manage it rather well. We find each other’s process a little bit frustrating but at the same point you learn a lot along the way.”

Jeff has helped Jess meet even more of the right people, such as filmer Mike Hatchett, but connections are only part of the battle. In order to shoot backcountry film trips, as she often does, you have to be able to keep up. That means riding a snowmobile, something Jess said was almost more difficult than proving she was able to take great photos. “It’s really physical. It genuinely was hard to prove myself in that capacity. Being not a terribly strong girl didn’t help me out back then, but now I’ve been doing it so long, and guys have said complimentary things about my snowmobiling.”

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Jussi Oksanen. Jess Mooney photo.

To be a photographer, the images are the most important, but to be successful, there’s a lot more too it. People have to want to work with you, and Jess has taken the slow and steady approach to making it happen. She works hard and with her quiet, humble attitude, she’s made plenty of friends in snowboarding.

“She is a real trooper out there. She can sled up to stuff that half the pros can’t,” Jess’s recent cover-subject Jussi Oksanen said. “She is awesome to have around, super easy going, always helping out building jumps and she takes sick photos.”

For Jess, the best part of her job as a photographer has to be the travel, but ironically it’s also the worst part. “The people and places you meet and go to along the way (are the best),” she said. “But the lack of routine and dragging heavy bags in and out of awkward places gets old. Another big buzz kill about the job is getting money earned out of some companies.”

After over ten years shooting snowboarding, Jess’s advice for someone who wants to get into photography is simple. “Shoot as much as you can on and off the mountain — the more well rounded you are will pay off along the way.”

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Wolle Nyvelt. Jess Mooney photo.

So you want to be a real snowboard photographer? Here are a few suggestions for getting going.

Put Yourself in the Right Place. “Go and live in the mountains and get the snowboarding out of your system so you don’t feel a compromise between shooting and riding,” Jess said. Also being in a photogenic place, with people who are good at snowboarding, will  greatly improve the quality of your images.

Learn To Shoot Action. Shooting snowboarding is definitely a different skill, and there are a few things you will have to learn as you go. “Getting in close enough to the action, what angles made things look bigger as opposed to making something look lame,” Jess said.

Work with Your Subjects. “Learn the fine line between encouraging your subjects and ‘pushing’ them,�? Jess said. You don’t want to be known as the photographer who always wants riders to try things they aren’t feeling, but you need to be able to get people to try something if you know if will make a great shot.

Pay Your Dues. Making it happen will take time, and you’ll have lots of times where you shoot all day and come away with nothing, but it’s all part of the job.

Check out the full gallery of Jess’s images. Click any thumbnail to enlarge.

Welcome back to Canada. So you’re not lost, you should convert all your money to Toonies and read Parts one and two.

I had decided to give this one more day—after all, I wanted to get at least one saleable photo out of the deal. The first plan of attack was to hit the People ledge—a down flat that was in Mack Dawg’s movie last year. The good news about this spot was it had already been hit, so no digging was required, but the bad news is that one of the crews that had hit it was the Runway Crew. Although it seems like that would negate its value for a men’s snowboard video, the guys assured me they’d do “way better tricks” on it.

AS SEEN IN PEOPLE

AS SEEN IN PEOPLE

Since Mike was hurt, he didn’t even put on his snowboard gear. Looked like I was going to have to make due with Kalle and Josh… The worst part about being a photographer on a film trip is you can’t really set anything up. The filmers take precedence, and you’re mostly just there to capture what went on. This is fine when you have motivated and talented riders who make snowboarding look good, but it’s a little more difficult when no one is making any effort. Luckily, the session lasted several hours, so I had plenty of chances to try out different angles, and at least this ledge had interesting scenery around it.

Check out this sweet aerial!

CHECK OUT THIS SWEET AERIAL!

THIS WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PHOTOS I TOOK. I PROBABLY COULD HAVE JUST QUIT AND KEPT MY HANDS WARM

THIS WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PHOTOS I TOOK. I PROBABLY SOULD HAVE JUST QUIT AND KEPT MY HANDS WARM

I could bore you with the names of both tricks that went down, but I don’t really remember. Towards the end of the session, Nova decided he would ride after all, but by that point I was cold and over it. I did take one photo of him from the van that’s actually one of my favorites from the spot.

SHOT FROM THE CAR

SHOT FROM THE CAR

One of the things we’d scoped out the previous day was a wall ride that was definitely doable—in fact, I’m pretty sure JP Walker hit it in some video. The best part, though, was that it would require very little building and would look really rad in photos. Of course, after an hour of debating it, they decided not to bother doing the wall ride. Instead, the idea was to build a kicker on the top of the parking garage next to it and do airs onto the giant snowbank below. Of course, since our van probably wouldn’t even fit into the parking garage, Josh planned on recruiting Max to drive tow-ins with his car. Poor Max was pretty much our bitch the entire trip, given we were a bunch of Americans in a French-speaking country, so thanks, Max—and sorry for running up your phone bill!

JP WALKER DID IT. WE DIDN'T.

JP WALKER DID IT. WE DIDN'T.

As with pretty much everything on this trip, the build-out was the biggest part of the process. This time though, instead of removing snow, the guys were trucking it in. Of course they picked the one surface in the entire city of Québec that had been scraped clean, so it took a few hours to build a kicker. I knew that they probably weren’t going to end up hitting it that day, and I had figured out where and how to rent a car to get home. I just needed to get to the airport.

I asked Josh what the chances were that they’d actually hit the gap today. He started giving me some long, drawn-out answer, but I stopped him and said, “If you might not hit it, I’m getting out of here.” He said, “We’re going to hit it. Stay.” I guess it was a lost cause anyway, because no one was going to give me a ride to the airport. I sat miserably in the van, which was nearly out of gas, so we weren’t allowed to keep it running to stay warm. For awhile one of the Justins joined me, and asked why I was leaving. I explained I wasn’t really getting anything, and I just wanted to go home. Then he asked me how I wanted to cover my part of the van. I laughed, perhaps for the first time on the trip, and told him he should probably talk to Josh about that one.

SWEET KICKER BROS

SWEET KICKER BROS

A few hours later, everyone climbed into the car. Even though I didn’t need to, I asked, “So, are you guys going to hit it?” Josh replied, “No way—the light sucks, and we’re all way too tired, anyway.” Fine. “Can you take me to the airport, then?”

Even after I’d put up with all their shit, paid for hotel rooms I wasn’t even using, and got the dudes a girl’s number at the sushi place, I was not going to catch a break. “Yeah, yeah,” Josh said. “Max is just going to show us one more spot.”

Now, I am actually glad we took this last little detour. The stop was The Citadel, a crazy old building with the only original city walls in North America still intact. Ten feet of snow that had drifted up, and made for insane urban snowboard possibilities; there was even a potential road gap. Of course, the guys were just there to check out a rail. (The same rail, mind you, that the Runway Crew had shot on the day before.) I know, because I saw the photos. I’m sure they were going to do “better tricks,” but if I had any doubts about leaving, this took care of them.

TOTALLY DOABLE ROAD GAP

TOTALLY DOABLE ROAD GAP

BUT HERE'S WHAT WE WERE SCOPING OUT (BEEN DONE)

BUT HERE'S WHAT WE WERE SCOPING OUT (BEEN DONE)

Back in the van, I’d finally lost it. I just started chanting “airport” under my breath. After ignoring and or insulting me for most of the trip, the guys finally decided it was a good time to start joking around. “Oh, I think we’re gonna go back to the hotel and take showers first, haha.” I bit my tongue—the airport was only twenty minutes away.

As we pulled out, they asked where I needed to go. I had no idea, so I had them drop me as close to the entrance as possible. I got out of the van and gathered my stuff. The filmers and Nova exchanged the requisite niceties. Good to meet you, see you around, etc. Not one “Thank you” for me, though. But, I guess, what could I expect?

It turned out I’d been dropped at the wrong terminal. I dragged my gear through even more snow, and finally found the rental cars. Thank god they still had one! $97 a day, but whatever! It took a little while to get it ready for me, and I sat in the airport eating gravy fries. When they finally called me over to tell me my car was ready, I jammed my stuff in and sped off. As it turned out, the windshield washer fluid didn’t work, and I had no idea where I was going. After a scenic tour (that I couldn’t see) through upstate New York, I finally made it to the Burlington airport, where my dad picked me up. I recapped the trip, and he simply said, “I would have left them when they didn’t pick you up from the airport.”

TOTAL COST OF ITEMS OTHER THAN FOOD ON A TRIP “EVERYTHING WAS PAID FOR:” $337.92