Skateboarding wouldn’t be where it is today without photography. Ever since skateboarding came into existence in the ‘60s photographers have been there to document the shredding, and the culture. Whether it’s Pool, Vert, Street, Cruising, Downhill, or whatever else people do on their shred sleds; the photographers have always been there to get “the shot”. If you’ve been involved in skateboarding for any length of time then you already know this, and you know that there is a long list of legendary photographers who have played their role in inspiring skateboarders the world over. But even if you haven’t been around long, you probably at least know of a couple shutterbugs whose images inspire you and make you want to grab your board and go ride.
Over the past two years there has been a major growth of awesome photography in our particular corner of skateboarding. At Wheelbase, we believe that photography is the shit, so we decided to sit down with a few of the raddest photographers involved in our scene, in order to celebrate their work and gather a bit of their unique feedback and insight. The following images and thoughts are an ode to the art of skateboard photography and the photographers who bring it to us. Get stoked, go shred!
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“I’m from Portland, OR and I’ve been into photography since I was about 13 years old. I started skateboarding right around the same time I gained an interest in the art of capturing the world through the lens of a camera. My photography has gone hand in hand with my skateboarding. Like most skateboarders, my friends and I always loved to try and document the new tricks we were learning. From the beginning, we would always make photos and video of our newest kickflicks, boardslides and grinds. I think what makes skateboarding photography so much fun is that when you are not skating yourself, you can collaborate with the skateboarder and capture his or her artistic expression.
As a photographer, I need to have a good sense of what the skateboarder is doing in order to properly represent the trick. I really feel like I’m a part of the skateboarder’s expression when I make an image of a trick. Timing is everything. Composition is critical as well. Great lighting (subject to various conditions) is quintessential. Preparation and patience is a prerequisite for proper photos.
I’ve always been inspired by Atiba Jefferson’s photos from Transworld Skateboarding and later the Skateboarder Mag. He always amazed me with his immaculate lighting and ability to capture the gnarly moments from skaters at the cutting edge of the industry.
I think that the power that images have is the reason why companies buy photos to represent their company. Sometimes a product sells themselves through word of mouth or through the visibility in the community. Many times though, an image of a skater pushing the limits or looking super stylee sells products more than anything else. I think this power that images have is the reason I have been pushing for the “longboard” industry to understand the value of images and up their investment in them.
The field of skate photography has always been saturated with eager shooters. Many skaters naturally have an artistic eye and the yearning to document shredding. Some have all the expensive equipment with the help of mommy and daddy and some earned their keep over time. Others still make it work with what they got. If you do it, do it out of love and passion for it. Shoot, shoot, shoot; analyze; think critically; re-shoot. Have fun. Think about what you like in other photos and try to emphasize those qualities in your photographs. Yet be original and try for something different. Do what you can with whatever equipment you have. Right now I’ve been shooting with my cell phone camera. Ha ha! Big ups to PDXDownhill.com. Thanks for the love.”
“What’s up everyone! Right now I’m still a student at CSU Chico but my hometown and true allegiance is in the East Bay. From a young age, I’ve always had a fascination with photos, but since I was always spending my money on skateboards I could never afford to buy a camera. I remember I used to get so stoked on taking pictures with those little 1×1″ cheapo cameras that exposed on small band-aid like strips. It wasn’t until about 2 years ago I took a college photography class which got me to buy a Nikon D3000. The class inspired me to change majors and focus more on photography and film. Since I have always been a skateboarder, and all my friends were skaters, it came naturally that I would photograph skateboarding.
It’s definitely a challenge capturing skateboarding (especially longboarding) which I think makes it so much fun. No shoot is ever the same, and you have to learn a skater and their style before you can really shoot them well. It helps to also know the sweet spots in a slide or corner that make for the epic shots. A lot of people focus too closely on the skater and often forget about the surrounding environments. So many times skating takes you to beautiful and remote areas, and to be able to capture the vibe and scenery, along with the action, is what truly makes an epic shot.
Before I dived into photography, Jon Huey was the photographer whom I aspired to be like. I would study all of Jon’s photos on his Zenfolio over and over, trying to figure out what made each one so epic! Around the same time, Adam Colton was doing some great work with the Loaded crew down in Southern California. His photos were always very colorful, well composed, and captured the true vibe of the Malibu mountains. More recently, I’ve been very involved with Caliber Truck Co. and have a lot of face-time with Dustin Damron. He’s always giving me pointers on the photoshoots and it’s been great to see first-hand how a professional approaches each challenge on the field.
As far as photographers propelling someone’s skate career, its really a win win for both the skater and the photographer. As the skater gets more recogniztion and more media opportunities, so does the photographer. It’s cool to see hometown shredders that you regularly shoot with start getting more exposure, as it usually motivates me to push my work with them to the next level.
Getting started with skate photography is easy, especially if you have a lot of friends who skate. Really, all you need is a camera and a subject. The hard part is pushing yourself to learn new techniques and to get out of your element. So many times I catch myself in a “cruise control” mode of photography, so I have to remind myself to look for different perspectives and challenges. It’s also good to practice shooting anything and everything from portraits to landscapes so to broaden your abilities. Photography is a long and endless learning process where there’s always something more you can do. If there’s one thing that sucks, its having to tell the skater to walk back up the hill because I didn’t get the shot. . . so try to get it the first time! As of now, I’m shooting with a Canon 7D which is awesome for both film and photo. I just got a new 50mm lens and flash in today that I’m way stoked to test on the hill. The other lenses I’m using is a Canon 28-135mm and a Tokina 12-24 wide angle. The Wide angle is great for hand cam filming and I’m starting to like it more and more for stills. Progression is key, push yourself every day but stay safe, and stay within your element. The last thing you want from a photoshoot is your shot in a stretcher.
Lastly I’d like to give a shout out to all the Berkeley and Chico rippers coming up with all that fresh talent! Word.”
“I’m based in São Paulo, Brazil, and I’m over 2 years into skate photography. It’s so fun do skateboard shots because skateboard is such a part of my life, as is photography. Capturing a moment that no one’s ever shot is something I strive for—a moment in time that touches people’s soul and inspires them to go ride! I don’t really have one favorite skateboard photographer, we have tons of guys in Brazil, but the one sports photographer that inspires me the most is: Bob Martin.
In Brazil, I think we do not have much photographer empowerment yet, but we can see things growing fast. If all of us work together (photographers, brands, skateboarders) with the same purpose, all can win and have a good life (personal and professional) doing what we love. Skateboard for skateboarders is a serious thing! Shoot skate photography if you really love it, not just to be on awesome hills chillin’—being a professional photographer is harder than people imagine. As for equipment, right now I’m using the CANON 7D with multiple lenses.
Thanks for the recognition!!! I wish skateboarding and Wheelbase Magazine a long life!”
“Been living in OC most of my life. Lived out in the Virgin Islands for about a year and then migrated up the Coast to SB for a few years and back down to LA. I’ve been stoked on cameras since I was pretty young but I really started digging in around 3 years ago. Skate photography is a nice change of pace for me. It’s cool to take a day, hit up some nice scenic areas and hang out with the boys. I dig the challenge of being limited to the surroundings I am in, and being forced to come up with something artistic. Keeps me on my toes. I think it’s great that a profession quite different than action sports itself can be so influential to the growth of a sport. Marketing and advertising are fascinating to me, and it’s been a ton of fun throwing my two cents into the mix. If I could offer any advice to an up and coming photographer it would be: Do what you think is cool, keep hustling, and own it. Camera’s are important, but they only perform as well as the operator. A lot of people think that if you go spend 5 G’s then you become a professional. Without having the proper understanding of your equipment, you are limiting yourself from being able to have absolute control over your final product. Before investing in some crazy mondo camera…buy yourself a 35mm film camera and learn the mechanical side of it. It will help you view all photographs (especially digital) differently. I prefer my Hasselblad 501CM over any of the fancy digital backs on the market. There’s a quality in film that cannot be achieved any other way. Word to your mom. . .”
“I’m from Kelowna BC, Canada, the heart of the Okanagan and home to many rad shredders. Been shooting photos for going on a solid 11 years now. Skating’s been a huge part of my life and has changed it for the better. I shoot photos to help give back to the community what I’ve taken from it. I get stoked to spread more stoke. When I’m framing a shot, I’m usually looking to show off the rider’s peak action with a rad location. I’m not a fan of cramming riders into frames, if you’ve seen images of a rider blasting a smooth standup or railing a corner and that’s all you see, that could be anywhere. There’s always a different angle, there’s that old saying “zoom with your feet.” Some of the dudes that have inspired me are guys like: Jon West, Brian Cassie, French Fred, Dylan Doubt, Joey Shigeo, the list goes on and on. . .
I’m definitely conscious of the the power of photography in the culture, seeing friends come-up through the street skate scene after getting coverage in mags is a quick thing in that end of skating. With us it takes a bit longer, but it’ll definitely be a more pronounced thing as the scenes and companies get bigger and bigger. I think I’m doing the right things with the power given in that. Progress the sport.
When taking skate shots don’t look at everyone’s gear around you. Shoot with what you have and master that shit. Enjoy what you do. Right now I’m working with my Nikon D700 and my Hasselblad 500c, I try to shoot as much film as I can afford. Hand developing my own negs is one of the most rewarding things I do.
Much love to the dudes back in the valley, Blake Soneff, Graham Collingwood, Kyle Mackenzie at Roggs, my beautiful wife and the Switchback Longboards crew. Those dudes are always killin it, be it trying to jump the shortbus, rollin in the limo, or murdering hills. Cheers guys.”
“Encinitas, CA is where I rest my head. Been living in the same house for over 15 years now. Good beach break out front with reef breaks near. I’ve got 4 skateparks within a 2 mile radius and the hills in San Diego are awesome—never want to move anywhere else. I’ve been into Photography for about 5 years now. I was on the other side of the camera for years so that helped me with positioning and framing the riders. The best thing about sk8 photography is the people; there’s a great community in this industry. I really think it’s the rider that make the shot. Nowadays, anyone can take a picture and look at it instantly to see if the colors/focus is right, but if the rider has no style then the picture looks poopy. Also, lighting is where it’s at, if you can get that picture in the golden light, it’s on! The photographers that really stand out in my mind are Daniel Harold Sturt and Dave Swift. They have been taking photos that have been on skater’s walls for years. Daniel is a mastermind behind the camera—if you get a chance just Google his name—the Gonz only shoots with him. That says it all. I really think every skater needs a photographer that they can relate with. Every rider has his or her own style and you need to capture that in the image. When working with the same photographer they know when you are at the peak of your trick and can really capture the rider’s style. If you only have crap photos of yourself no one is going to publish your shots, therefore you get no exposure.
To those wanting to get into skate photography, I say don’t do it—we have enough competition already. Ha, ha! Just kidding. Get out there and find some subjects to practice on. Skaters love to have their picture taken. Also, look at magazines and see what angles people are using and try to put your own style on your photo.
Currently I’m using the Canon 7D for a majority of my images. I do a lot of filming/photo’s with it and the Canon glass is the shit! Get a big memory card because you will be snapping away once you get this Cadillac. Thank you skateboarding.”
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This is a tribute to the art of skateboard photography and to all the photographers who have paved the way. We’d like to take a moment to tip our hats to a few of the photographers who have inspired us over the years through their bad-ass skate shots:
Skin Phillips, J. Grant Brittan, Sue Trinh, Mike Ballard, Chris Ortiz, Neil Blender, Bryce Knights, Daniel H. Sturt, Ed Templeton, Jaya Bonderov, Deville Nunes, Joe Krolick, Mark Nisbet, Mike Blabac, Anthony Acosta, Dave Swift, Michael Burnett, Lee Brooks, Jim Goodrich, Ted Terrebonne, Glen Friedman, C.R. Stecyk, Mofo, Warren Bolster, Joey Shigeo, Giovanni Reda, Glen E. Friedman, and many more. . . Respect!