A couple months ago Evil Editor hit me up about shooting a girls trip – I was initially hesitant as I had heard from various photographers about how different, and in someways difficult and frustrating, it is to organise and shoot a banger female snowboard trip for publication. For the last few years I’ve just been shooting a bunch of guys, most of whom were my friends before I was a “Senior Photographer”. But when I heard that I wouldn’t even have to travel outside of home-base Lake Tahoe to shoot Nitro/3CS’s Jess Rich and Roxy’s CP (Courtney Phillipson), I started to warm to the challenge and opportunity to have some pretty faces to look at instead of Ben’s heinous red beard.
And when CP rolled up ready to rock: quickly buying a plane ticket from Colorado, booking a motel, hiring a car, and bringing her own shovel even, it was a welcome change from some of the penny-pinching guys I’ve had to shoot over the last few years. Too bad Jess was holed up at Squaw Valley, with only the hourly TART local bus to get in around vast Lake Tahoe…but we’d find a way to work around that.
Just as CP was flying in, a major storm had just dumped a foot of snow in town, and with blue Saturday morning skies we jumped in the black panther Chevy Tahoe and headed up the road to Donner Pass. It was epic! Perfect sunshine, but crisp, cold conditions (rare for mid-March) keeping the foot and a half of light dry powder in perfect shape. Darragh, Longy and Ben came along for the ride, and helped set up a couple of jumps (which were left over by others from previous storms, just needing a reshaping) so the girls could just save their energy for the numerous hikes back to the drop-in zone. Not only was this Jess’ first proper photo shoot, but her first time in the backcountry, first time hitting a hand-made jump…and first attempts (and stomps) in powder! It was a great first day, getting to know the girls better, being impressed by their strong riding and “can-do, will-stomp-it” attitudes. And to round out the day I managed to snap a couple shots of the boys and even get to hit one of the jumps myself (for a change). (And thanks to Ben for some of the shots I stole from his blog)
The girls were here to shoot for four days only, and so I revisited some rails around the lake (finding one chained up and unhittable…unless we went to buy some bolt cutters), and had a day at Northstar to round out the article with some park shots. And another first for Jess: her first urban rail, first attempt at a backside 50-50…which she nailed first go! I think seasoned vet, CP, was a little stunned.
Before the girls arrived I was trying to come up with some sort of concept, or at least a “visual hook” to try and make the article look different, and to make it relevant to a two-girl photo shoot. I like to have a theme, or concept to all my magazine trips just to give me something beyond the regular to try and focus on. So I started to think about Jess vs CP, and Snow White’s “Mirror, mirror on the wall…who is the fairest of them all?” refrain. Mirrors, two good-looking girls, doing their makeup in front of the mirrow, one regular, one goofy-footer etc etc…with the idea that I would try and shoot all the features from opposite, but equal sort of angles (where possible) so that if the photos were side by side, they would almost look like mirror images. This also gave me a theme for some “lifestyle” photos to accompany the action based on legendary (and slightly creepy) Australian-German Vogue photographer, Helmut Newton, who must have drawn some influence from Velazquez’ Baroque masterpiece (click in the hypertect links to see these visual references). But I can tell you that you won’t see any Newtonesque naked shots of CP and Jess in Australian-NZ Snowboarder…I saved those for my personal collection!
After all said and done, I was really pleased how the four days panned out: the girls threw down, impressed me greatly with their riding skills, weathed the bumps and bruises, and they were always positive and smiling (and only failed on one super-gnarly rock-exposed rail that had me shit-scared just looking at it, and only because they lacked the speed to get onto it properly). So feeling like we had pretty much got all the shots we wanted (and enought to keep Evil Editor happy), it was nice the next few days to be able to get back to just shredding The Star with the (somewhat-uglier-to-look-at) boys and celebrate Darragh’s 24th Birthday co-inciding with St Patrick’s Day down at Stateline. Tomorrow we’re off to June mountain for a night or two for my last session of photo-taking for the season…it’ll be nice to pack the camera in the bag at the end of it and know that I’m done for 2009-2010 publication shooting season.