It didn’t take long for mountain sport photographer Blake Jorgenson to identify what he wanted to do when he grew up. At 16 years old, his mother took Jorgenson on a vacation to Whistler, British Columbia from their home in Toronto. The young man immediatly fell in love with the everything Whistler encompased. Wide open land, snow, incredible mountain ranges, and one of the world’s premier locations for mountain sports. As soon as Jorgenson graduated high school, he packed up what little he had and moved to the Whistler. Little did he know how that desicion would shape his life and career.
SmugMug Films “The Cold Open”
SmugMug has been known to make a pretty epic film or two in the days since they launched their film division, SmugMug Films. I was lucky enough to travel to Norway to work with their cinematographer Anton Lorimer to make the company’s award winning film on Chris Burkard. And Lorimer loved the way his cold weather adventure films came out, so he was always anxious to get back into a frozen backdrop. He followed Tim Kemple to Iceland to give us a jaw-dropping look at ice climbing on massive glaciers. So it was only natural that Jorgenson’s work as a mountain sports photographer in one of North America’s best snow sport destinations would be Lorimer’s next film. The filmmaker traveled to work with Jorgenson as he captured snowmobiling and skiing during some of Whistler’s notorious snow storms. The film is a beautiful and insightful look into what inspires the Canadian to venture into the remote backcountry when conditions are less than ideal.
Freezing the action with Blake Jorgenson
To accompany the launch of the film, the editorial team at SmugMug published a great interview with Jorgenson about his top ten tips on how to improve your mountain sports photography. In them, he talks about how his first job in Whistler was crictical in helping him establish relationships with local athletes. As a teenager, Jorgenson worked in the Blackcomb ski shop. He says that the lack of cell phones in those days really made the shop become the hub of the local action, which allowed him to embed himself in the community that has come to be so important to his work.
There’s a strong sense of community in Whistler. You have this combined interest in what you’re shooting, and that leads to developing relationships with the people you photograph. That ski shop and the community that shared my passion for winter sports really helped my career take off. This connection was an important foundation for what I do.
Spending Time in the Outdoors Gives the Most Inspiration
Jorgenson gives great advice as to how he maintains his creative flow and finds new ideas.
I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t love being out there all the time. It’s challenging, cold, wet, and strenuous — and I still love it. If I’m looking for ideas about skiing, I don’t sit in front of my computer and look at ski photos; I’ll go out skiing by myself. By spending lots of time out there, opportunities arise.
Composition is Key
Us photographers know it like the back of our hands. Composition is key to any dramatic and visually appealing photograph. But, we can never hear it from other successful photographers enough, as in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to often forget to focus on this critical aspect. Jorgenson told SmugMug:
How you set up your shot is incredibly important, and the slightest little movement of your composition, even by mere inches, can change how the viewer perceives what’s happening in that photograph. Ideally, your composition complements how that person is moving. Complementing the speed, the energy, the height, the style that the subject is expressing. Decide what shot you’re trying to create and then figure out how to compose and capture it.
While trying to work out your composition, don’t forget that this is action sports. Jorgenson says you should’t forget to get right in the middle of it all. And don’t get discouraged when you don’t get what you are looking for right away.
For action, get right in there. Get closer, get more dynamic. The energy is really displayed by being in your face. Just because you didn’t get it on the first try doesn’t mean you’re going to get it on the hundredth try, but the hundred and first might be the one.
Finding The Light
For me personally, I love photographing in the dead of winter. I love the drama of the snow, and the bright white fluffy powder makes landscape photos beautiful. But it can also be challenging to find good light during these months. But Jorgensen tells SmugMug what his favorite time is:
The best time of year to shoot is always in December, during the winter solstice, because the days are really short and you have this gorgeous sunset light all day long. There’s something magical about that winter solstice time where light skims the horizon and you have this cold, sparkly snow and air.
You Are Not the Star
Jorgenson gives what is prehaps my favorite advice to date from his excellent sit down interview with SmugMug. You are not the star. Your subject is.
In this day of social media and self-promotion, a lot of photographers are trying to be the star. Their subjects and who they’re shooting for can get lost in translation. I think that’s a mistake. So I stick to the advice of concentrating on what you’re shooting and what the purpose is. By doing a good job with that, you’ll get recognition.
Once again SmugMug hits a home run. The film by Anton Lorimer is beautifully shot, inspiring and makes us feel like we are right in the adventure with Blake, which is prehaps my favorite quality of Lorimer’s films. But on top of that, writer Kerry Ellis was able to find some diamonds in her talk with Jorgenson. We only touched the surface here, so head on over to the SmugMug Blog and read the entire interview and get inspired to get outside this winter and capture some adrenaline-charged snow sports!