The Arc’teryx Backcountry Academy in Jackson, WY brings together world class ski & snowboard athletes and backcountry experts for 4 days of instructional clinics, seminars, film screenings, and social gatherings, all in the spirit of promoting education, innovation and safety for the mountain community. f-stop came in as the title sponsor for the photography components around the Academy, and brought me in to lead and support the events on site.
Words: Scott Markewitz
Photos: Scott Markewitz / Will McKay
The weekend started at the Friday happy hour with a Photo Social round table event, where myself and 3 local photographers, Jonathan Selkowitz, Cody Downard and Jay Goodrich, shared some of our favorite images and told stories of what went on behind the scenes to make these images happen. It was fun to share our experiences as photographers and engage with the crowd to give them a taste of what goes in to making great images. Every picture tells a story, but sometimes the story behind the picture is even more entertaining!
Next up was the Jackson Hole Exposed Photo Showdown, one of the most anticipated events of the weekend. Six photographers chosen by Arc’teryx each presented a 3-5 minute slideshow from three previous days shooting around Jackson Hole and the Teton backcountry to a packed house at the Center For The Arts. Myself and 4 others (list names?) were tasked with judging the show based on their technical expertise, storytelling ability and overall impression. It was impressive to see the quality of images and creativity that everyone put into their shows, and a real challenge to decide on the winner. It came down to the wire, but in the end, Aaron Blatt’s show with Michelle Parker and Mark Carter as athletes, including music they wrote and recorded themselves, took the top spot.
On Sunday, I led the Advanced Shoot Like A Pro photo clinic. I start every workshop with a short presentation to go over a few concepts and ideas that the photographers can take with them out in the field. After a short session in the hotel, we packed up our gear and drove over Teton Pass to a popular backcountry trailhead. It had been snowing all week and the conditions were ideal as we headed out on the skin track with pro skier Austin Ross and Exum Guides Mike Gardner and Jeff Dobronyi. After 20-30 minutes of touring, we found a zone with untracked slopes and nice cliffs where we could shoot a good variety of powder shots and big jumps.
My goal in a workshop is to work on skills development and guide people to expand their creative vision. While Austin and Mike hiked up to get into position, I worked with the group to go over camera angles, lens choices, communication with the athlete and other aspects of setting up to shoot great ski images. The snow was incredible and everyone was stoked after Austin and Mike ripped through the powder, snow blowing overhead as the cameras fired off some classic powder shots.
I lined up a couple more setups and showed the group a few tricks, then let each of them take a turn leading the group and communicating with the athletes to set up their own shots. Unfortunately, Austin’s binding broke after a couple of runs and he was out for the day. Jeff stepped in and he and Mike spent the rest of the day skiing powder and launching off cliffs for the group, giving everyone the opportunity to capture some great ski action.
After watching the guides rip through the powder all day, we all agreed that it was time for a free run before heading back to the vehicles. The snow was incredible, and after watching the athletes get face shots all day, we needed a taste of it for ourselves. With Jeff in the lead we climbed up the skin track for a short but sweet run that was good for the soul, and a fitting end to a great day in the mountains.
Back at the hotel, we gathered around my laptop to review everyone’s images. This can be the most valuable part of any workshop, getting instant feedback on the days images, seeing what worked and what didn’t work and understanding how it relates to the concepts we discussed at the beginning of the day. There were a lot of great images, and the stoke was high as we said goodbye, shaking hands and high-fiving to a great workshop and a fun day shooting in the mountains.