Spot Searching with Kevin Carlton
Kevin Carlton has been snapping photos around the Pacific Northwest and sharing his perspective with us over the past year and has had a number of images featured as an #SKSInstabanger on the Skate[Slate] Instagram feed [here]. Kevin also managed to snag a Check Out feature in the 2015 Photo Annual highlighting riders James West and Ryan Ricker as they ripped through the region. We asked Kevin to share some of his thoughts on photography and encourage you to check out his new website and instagram. Be sure to say Hi to Kevin and his lens at events up and down the West Coast and in and around the North West.
I am very appreciative for the opportunity to be featured in the 2015 Photo Annual. When I was asked if I wanted to do a follow up, I thought it would be great to share some of what motivates me and gets me stoked. Hopefully this inspires you too!
My love for skate photography is all about the spot, location, location, location. I love exploring, adventuring, anything that gets me out into unknown territory. Half the fun of shooting is watching what my homies do with their imagination and creativity in a new space. It’s a constant grind to keep finding new spots, not blow up old classics, and balance what spots you show with the spots you know. That’s the other half of the fun though, I live for the journey to the next destination. My favorite shoots are at an unknown spot (preferably in the woods), during magic hour, with a few of my friends charging. That said, I’m without a doubt a city slicker. Give me a steep hill and a friend in any city and I’ll be hyped to go shoot. Despite my love affair with the PNW, San Francisco has my heart. It’s a mecca.
I think etiquette is important and very often forgotten, so I want to make a point of it: RESPECT THE SPOT. Regardless of the spot, or whether you ever plan to return, treat all the neighbors as if they were your own, a wave/ smile goes a long way; and leave the area better than you found it. I recommend the following two articles on Skatepark and Downhill Etiquette by Max Dubler and Arian Chamasmany respectively. Even if you think it’s just skateboarding blah blah blah… respecting others, and the spot, is part of what enables us all to ‘just skate’. Have a read! 1. The Longboard Guy’s Guide to Skatepark Etiquette; 2. A Skateboarders Guide to Proper Downhill Etiquette.
Etiquette aside, from the perspective of the camera operator, I want to make sure that I not only capture my friends talent and the beauty of the spot, but also the vibe. Are we feeling moody in downtown Seattle, or sunny and stoked for a barefoot run on a cliffside overlooking the ocean? I approach those locations totally differently because I use different light, composition, and depth of field. Regardless the vibe, it’s always my goal to match the shot with the location and the rider. If I can get the location to stoke out the skater(s), mission accomplished, I just have to capture it.
I’m constantly searching for that new spot, the one that will blow my mind. I love stumbling on a DIY spot someone made at the end of a fire access road. I love going up hills, questioning if the run is going to keep going after each corner. It will forever be an ongoing search, there’s always a bigger fish. I’ve found a few gems in my 25 revolutions around the sun but there are so many more to discover. For me, it boils down to a love of skating, shooting and exploring. Get outside, get stoked.
I’ll leave you with some Pro-tips for skate exploration that I’ve been given and appreciated:
- Above all else, preserve the spot. I touched on this above, I know. It’s always better to leave a spot knowing that you slayed and left the neighbours applauding.
- Findhills.com and Google Earth should be your new best friends. Before I even get pants on to go out and explore, I’m on the computer examining it. When it doubt, Google it out.
- Roll with a crew, two sets of eyes are better than one. Spotters are always recommend and more often than not, it’s friends that help find my favorite spots. Make a day of it, picnic that ish.
- Document your search, take pics/ video. Frequently, I find gems while going through shots from the previous days exploration that we simply overlooked.
- Gear up! Bring anything and everything you need to skate and shoot in case you stumble upon that unicorn of a run that you’ve wet dreamed about all your life.