OC to Mammoth and back in 24 hours
A couple weeks ago I went up to Mammoth with the UCI Snowboard team to shoot their last slope-style competition of the year. It was supposed to be a full weekend trip but turned into sleepless 24 hour adventure. Actually, I slept a lot in the car, so it was actually more sleepless for the two guys I rode up with, Daniel and Justin.
On my previous trip to Mammoth, I brought my two Sunpak 555’s for lighting. I found that it was hard to aim such small flashes, and this time decided to bring my White Lightning X1600’s. I also borrowed a vagabond portable power-pack from a friend to power the strobes. Besides the addition of my bigger strobes, I had all my usual equipment (camera, lenses, rented fisheye, light stands, pocketwizards, etc.)
Anyways, we left Irvine at about 10pm on Friday night and like I said, I slept most of the way. We got there around 4am at which we brought our stuff into the rented condo and got ready to get a few hours of sleep before having to wake up at 7:30am.
After getting to the mountain the next morning and getting my free photographers ticket (the UCI snowboard team hooked me up), I gathered all my gear up and headed for the lift. Below, UCI snowboard team president Daniel Seo does some stretching in the parking lot before heading to the lift.
I had so much equipment that I even had Daniel and Justin helping me carry stuff throughout the day, including my board as we walked over to the lift in the morning.
Below, Daniel gets strapped in and ready for some practice runs before the competition.
Below, Justin checks all his equipment and secures all his gear before getting off the lift.
There were actually two parts to the terrain park. There was an upper part and a lower part. The upper part consisted of a few rails and two huge jumps, while the lower part of the park was where the competition was going to be held and had many more jumps and rails. I decided to set up at the upper part because the jumps were much bigger.
Once I got my lights set up, all I had to do was experiment with different angles and find what I liked. Below, two skiers do backflips synchronously.
I liked the sun in the background, but it always seemed to be getting in the way of the rider. It was hard to get it framed correctly so that there was separation between the sun and the rider.
After a while of shooting the first table top, I moved down to the next jump, which was a hip. I got my light set up again and was ready to shoot, although it was a little scarier this time because the riders were pretty much going right over me and I was laying down close to the lip of the jump. Below, Daniel flies by me after hitting the hip jump.
I pretty much shot anybody who was going big. Below, a skier does a 270 off the hip.
Having more powerful lights with bigger reflectors was great. I’ll probably never want to go back to using anything else. Using my friends vagabond power-pack was awesome too. I’m definitely planning on buying one soon. Below is the basic setup I used: a White Lightning X1600, hooked up to the vagabond power-pack, and triggered with a pocketwizard.
After more and more shooting I was able to frame the riders above the tress and below the sun. Below, a random rider launches high above the top of the jump.
I also tried to switch up my angles as much as possible. After shooting the same thing over and over it was very important to move around and see what other angles could offer me. Below, one of the few female riders does a huge tail grab off the hip.
When I think of sports like skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, and other alternative sports, fisheye/wide-angle is the first thing that comes to my mind. These are the sports where this view is used the most, especially in videos and magazines. Its hard to put the fisheye away and shoot something different. Anyways, after a certain point I felt like all my photos were starting to look the same so I put on my 70-200mm and moved down to the runway of the hip. This view shows height in a very different way, its crisp and its simple. Below, a random snowboarder tweaks out a grab as he flies high above the top of the jump.
Since I wans’t near my strobe I had to just aim it where I thought they riders would be and then hope for the best. I didn’t shoot all my shots with the strobes for this reason, but I still managed to get a few where the light hit the rider perfectly. Below, a skiing spins left to right as he does a 270 off the hip jump.
Below are three more shots from the same angle.
Before we left, I had the idea of lighting a semi see-through wallride using a blue gel. It was a good idea, the only thing was that it was 2pm with the sun almost directly over us. It would have definitely turned out better at night or while the sun was setting, but oh well. I’ll get it next year. Below, you can see my lighting setup as a snowboarder stalls on the top of the wall.
This is what it looked like from another angle. You can see the light coming through but it faint. Below, UCI Snowboard team member Justin stall on the middle of the wall.
After the wallride session we were all done for the day and ready to get some food before heading back to Irvine. Below, Justin throws a snowball at his teammate Daniel after taking off they’re snowboards and finishing up for the day.
Daniel and Justin are fun guys. They are the heart of the snowboard team at UCI and they are what keep it alive. Below, Daniel and Justin talk about the realization that they just made a 24 hour trip to Mammoth.
Like I said, this was the last competition for the UCI Snowboard team. It was my second time going up with them and hopefully not the last. Below, Justin (left) and Daniel (right) walk away from the mountain for the last time this season while carrying their boards and my lighting equipment.
Once off the mountain we stopped at a grocery store before going to get a meal. Below, Justin looks up and surveys the candy, trying to decide what he wants to snack on during the long ride back to Irvine.
It seems like everybody who goes to Mammoth knows about this mexican restaurant call “Jalepaneos”. Its good and its filling. Below, Daniel and Justin talk about thier day on the mountain before ordering.
I ordered a steak quesadilla. There was so much food that I had to be a box to go. Only thing was that I left the box on the table. Damn. Below, my quesadilla, lost and forgotten.
I think we all left full and satisfied. Below, our table after the madness.
During the car ride home Swedish Fish were my candy of choice. Below, Swedish Fish remained close by as they rested on top of my camera bag.
Below, Daniel fills up the car at a gas station on the way back to Irvine.
Below, Justin cleans the bugs off the windshield while stopped for gas.
One thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is getting different angles and framing. Its something that I want to get better at and I’m going to practice every chance I get. Below, Justin seems to be contemplating something as he makes his way back to the drivers seat after cleaning the windshield.
Nearing Irvine, it was about 10pm. Twenty-four hours later and we were back where we started. Yeah…we just did that. Below, thats not rain on the windshield….
This was by far my longest post. Usually I stick to just shooting the action and the sport itself. It is one of my personal goals to go beyond and capture these peoples lives away from the action. I want to show to people the human side of the athletes I shoot. I hope you like it.