At our next Powder7 After Dark event on November 10th, renown ski photographer, Casey Day, will lead a workshop on ski photography. I wanted to get to know the man behind the lens (who just so happens to be the same guy behind Powder Factory skis and the Front Range Powder Factory – a non-profit supporting those who suffer from mental illness). Read on to get to know a little about Casey.
AD: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Did you grow up skiing?
CD: I am a fourth generation Coloradan and grew up in southwest Denver. My parents taught me to ski when I was 3 at Loveland and Copper Mountain, and I spent much of my childhood chasing my friends around Mary Jane, Arapahoe Basin and Vail. I followed my passion for skiing to Canada, where I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts at ACAD in Calgary, Alberta. While exploring and photographing the Canadian Rockies, my favorite mountains to ski were Lake Louise, Fernie, Whitewater, Red Mountain, and Golden (now Kicking Horse). My pursuits in the ski industry have landed me in Silverton, Breckenridge, and currently Silver Plume, CO where I also run a small batch and custom ski company, Powder Factory skis.
AD: When did you start becoming interested in photography? Did you have any mentors?
CD: I have been interested in photography since a very young age, and was lucky enough to get my first DSLR camera, my dads old Pentax K-1000, when I was about 12. Shortly after, I began to work in the summertime as a sherpa for John Fielder, an accomplished landscape photographer based in Colorado, who took pride in going further, faster, and higher than any of the other photographers around, all while carrying large format, 4×5 inch glass plate camera gear. Sometimes it would take 5 sherpas, 3 llamas and weeks of hiking to get the shot he wanted. It really opened my eyes to what was possible, and what could be accomplished if you were willing to work for it.
AD: You’ve had a lot of cover shots in various ski magazines and publications. What was it like getting your first cover? When was that?
CD: It’s a little hard to remember back to my first cover, not that I’m that old, but it was about 10 years ago, when I was living in Silverton, CO. There was a lot of inspiration down there those first few years after they put the chairlift in, and plenty of talented athletes and spectacular scenery to make for some great shots. I remember being more excited for the skier than anything. Since then I have had over 50 covers of different magazines, trail maps, catalogs and publications throughout the world.
AD: Is there one shot that your most proud of?
CD: One of the shots I am most proud of recently was the January/February cover of Colorado Life Magazine, which I took while skiing in the San Juans. It was not the shot itself, or even the placement that I was most proud of, it was the fact that I was able to ski at all that day. When the photo editor called to see if I was available for the assignment, it was only 7 days after a debilitating hernia surgery, which had me bedridden up until that point. I had strategically scheduled my surgery for the middle of the winter, to take full advantage of the fact that I had also just blown out my shoulder jumping a cliff during an inbounds photo shoot at Loveland. I began the 7 hour trip down to the San Juans with a 2 hour car ride in the opposite direction, to get a special shoulder brace made for motocross jumpers, as it seemed like the best option to hold my shoulder in the socket for one more day. After 4 laps of chasing some of the fastest skiers I know up the skin trail, and enduring abdominal pain that may never go away, I had a few good shots to make the trip worthwhile.
AD: Have you had any harrowing experiences to pull off a shot?
CD: Some of the more harrowing moments I can remember were skiing in the Italian Dolomites. After a couple weeks of snow and bad visibility, the clouds finally parted and I was trying to retrace some of the couloirs that we had been guided down earlier in our trip. Even with great weather and perfect visibility, the terrain was so steep that you couldn’t tell which couloirs were skiable, and which got cliffed out, until you were at the crux. Most of the lines I had skied up until that point didn’t involve ropes, but it is not uncommon to have a 200ft repel in the middle of a route in the Dolomites, so you have to be pretty careful which tracks that you follow.
AD: What other photographers do you look to for inspiration?
CD: I’ve always found more inspiration in photographs than in individual photographers, but I guess I look up to photographers who forego fame to spread the beauty of the world and connect us with our surroundings. I look up to the unknown photo journalists, deep in a remote jungle, enduring harsh conditions for inspiration. As a ski photographer, I have it pretty good.
AD: What’s in your pack when you’re out on a backcountry day trip?
CD: Like most avid ski photographers, my pack is busting at the seams with gear, more than you can imagine, to the point where replacing the zippers on my pack has become a yearly tradition. My basic setup for a backcountry day trip is Black Diamond’s largest avalung pack with back panel access, loaded up with a Dakine Camera Cube containing a Canon 7D mkII with my go to 28-300L, 17-40L, 10-22, and 10mm fisheye. It’s easy to lose all the little bits and pieces of gear in the snow, especially when it’s really deep, so I always have a small waterproof pouch with my Speedlite, a few extra memory cards and batteries, and lots of shammies and lens cloths. In addition to camera gear, I carry a shovel, probe, skins, radios, down coat, and extra gloves and goggle lenses. If I’m feeling ambitious, and don’t mind exceeding a 30lb pack, I’ll throw in a water bottle as well, but seldom is there room.
For more information (and photos!), visit Casey’s Colorado Ski Photography Facebook page.