Both Sides of the Lens
Rob Alford here, checking in with Mountain Sledder.
I have spent the last 20 years riding sleds, shredding pow and chucking big airs in BC’s backcountry for the camera. But in the last 10 years I have also been behind the lens, shooting photos.
One of my main reasons for getting into photography was in the hopes of getting good shots without having to deal with pro photographers who sometimes can’t ride or get stuck all the time. It’s tough when you’re on a big shoot trying to get the shots and the guy hired to take the photos doesn’t know the difference between the brake and the throttle, lol.
One photographer in particular wasn’t capable of driving down a road, and ran his new sled right into a telephone pole. Imagine trying to get backcountry shots in technical mountain terrain with him, haha. When this happens you have to resort to the “little Timmy” method as I call it—when you get the person to hold the front mountain bar and then you pack the camera gear and double the photographer to the location that is deemed best for the photo or film shot.
From a rider’s perspective, it is so much nicer to have top quality camera gear and the means to get to any spot with no issues. Learning to use a camera properly has taken 10 years of practice, and listening to top pros like Hans Wardell and Steve Dutcheshen has really helped.
My main focus has been capturing still photos, framed with sledders throwing down in wicked landscapes. I find it kinda cool to get back into spots where only few people have ever been. This is where I can get most of my really great shots.
Over time I have developed a better eye for angles and lighting and what I think makes a good shot. I try and pack my camera gear as often as possible, even though it weighs a lot. It is worth it though when you get a killer pic.
When the conditions are really good and I need to get some good photos of myself riding for sponsors and media, I’ll often hire my bro Greg Ryan to come out, pack lenses and take pictures of me throwing down. I normally set aside 3-4 days a season to get these types of shots. If you get into an untouched area with the right pow, with the right light, the results have proven to be pretty epic.
I usually find that organizing others when I’m taking photos is harder for me than just riding it myself. Trying to explain the exact spot to shred can be difficult to do sometimes. I think being a shooter and a rider has definitely helped me to understand what to look for in a shot, whether it be for still or film.
The cool thing about photography is that there is always a different way to get a cool shot—it’s never boring. And it’s pretty cool when you grab an issue of Mountain Sledder with one of your shots on the cover!