Steep Shot Photo Road Trip: Whistler to Todos Santos
For 8 weeks between August and November I drove over 8,000km to Cabo and back with a guy I’d met for 3hrs at my birthday party a few days before leaving. The aim was simple, photograph awesome people doing what they love. Here is some of the story…
I have to be careful I don’t go off on random travelling tangents and stick to the skating. Like that time we had a tire stabbed in Nor Cal, or that time we woke up in the Redwoods, or that time I hooked up with a less than attractive German chick in Cabo (thanks Tequila). Fuck I should’a written my own blog. But honestly with all the shooting I just ain’t got the time!
On to the skating, I promise.
Firstly, J and I have been blown away by the kindness and generosity of everyone we’ve photographed and hanged with on this trip. I can’t wait to pay it forward.
We started with Jackson Wells in Seattle; we had about 3hrs on a sunny afternoon. Not ideal shooting conditions but we made it work. My favourite shot is of Jackson pulling this manual tailslide. Not only was it beautifully executed, he managed to get his wheels right on a random line of paint that leads the eye right to him (this was of course planned, cough):
On to San Fran where we met up with Andrew OBG. Full of energy and a smile you couldn’t smack off his face if you tried, Andrew showed us some classic SF spots. I know as photographers we’re meant to be finding new locations but being my first time shooting in SF I was determined to bang out some iconic frames for my portfolio. Andrew delivered again and again:
The next day none other than Mr. Santa Gnarbara himself, Tom Flinchbaugh rocked up with a posse of riders and we hit a couple of awesome driveway spots:
A couple hours later America hit back in classic fashion…a cop car rolled up and ticketed everyone with a board. Andrew warned me to take out my SD card in case they tried to confiscate my camera. Fair play and thanks for the warning but fuck that, I know my rights. I shot the whole ordeal and came out with one of my favorite shots of the trip, Tom’s eyes say it all really:
Oakland was a hop skip and a jump from SF where we met up with James Kelly and Liam Morgan. Their new skate brand, Prism had just launched and we were stoked to get the opportunity to create some content for them. We got of to a late start due to a messy night before (this is why I find it hard to call myself a professional) but managed to bang out a couple of product and action shots:
Eager to produce some better work for Prism we rocked up to Santa Cruz to shoot with Tom again. We were planning the shoot at Tom’s…again I wanted iconic California sunset cruise shots on the pier and boardwalk. It all looked dandy, we had boards, male and female talent and the weather was looking prime. However I was unprepared for the apparently notorious coastal fog…we got to the boardwalk and you could barely see 10 meters in front of you! Fuck! There goes my classic sunset shots! We thought on our feet and decided to just go ahead and shoot it anyway. This was the most pressure I felt on the whole trip; all in my own head of course but I really really wanted to get some bangers for Tom and the Prism guys. Luckily with some post production magic I think a few came out quite nice:
We continued our journey down the 101 and 1 coast roads, which I have to say are absolutely stunning. Each turn revealed a new jagged vista, the adventure had truly set in:
Santa Barbara was our next port of call, home to none other than downhill legend Kevin Reimer. I’d met Kevin a couple time over the summer at races but this was the first time I’d had the opportunity to shoot one on one. His friendly face and easy going attitude put me at some ease as we set up the hill. Unfortunately someone had driven off a cliff so the place was crawling with cops and rescue teams. The shoot was a no-go, so instead we had an impromptu shoot with Patrick Welsh, who was going for surgery the next day but threw down anyway:
Kevin suggested we camp on top of the mountains. I love camping in the mountains so it was a no brainer. Oh dear god it was one of the best camp spots the whole trip! We woke up at 6am to shoot the sunrise and watch the clouds roll in. Absolutely magical:
Luckily Kevin was free to shoot the next day so we went back to the spot. Again the fog was a dense mistress. I was starting to think I’d lost this opportunity. But I don’t back down that easy, fuck you fog! I picked a seriously wide angle and opted to create a composite of four shots to get this image below:
Onwards and downwards we headed to the ample rolling hills of Malibu to hang with Noah Fischer. Noah showed us some classic Malibu spots, including the famous Tuna canyon. The light had passed by the time we got there BUT there was a 10min slither on a nice lefty; I bashed out the speedlite and scrambled to get the angle while Noah ran up the hill again and again. This one defines shooting under pressure:
Shout to to Noah and his family for cooking us a real tasty dinner and breakfast. I’ve said before but hope you’re ankle is healing well my friend.
After being in urban areas for the last while we needed some wild abandon and headed for Joshua Tree National Park in the Coachella Valley. Unsurprisingly there was no skateboarding here, but there are some nice rocks:
After finding out what the word ‘hot’ really means we darted back to the coast to stay with my family in Oceanside. By this time I’d accumulated 100’s of GB’s of unprocessed photos, so we took a few days to chill and catch up with ourselves. The hustle never stops though and we set up a couple shoots with Jeff, Jacko, AJ and Adrian of Sector 9. I got mixed results from the first shoot; I was determined to get an ultra-wide panning shot, which took a million attempts but got one banger of Adrian:
To be honest I started to think my shots were becoming quite same same, and considering the opportunity to shoot with Sector 9 I had to step up. Not knowing the area made this difficult but luckily my eccentric wheeler dealer of an uncle had an old military Hummer in his possession. This was my chance to produce something a little different in an unfamiliar environment:
Having been in the San Diego area for 10 days or so we were itching to continue south, but as I’m sure the geographically savvy amongst you will realize that’s where the USA ends and the scary, dirty, criminally insane, rapey, murdery country of Mexico begins….
I jest obviously. The scare tactics of the US media don’t put me off travelling anywhere, and they shouldn’t stop you either. Be sensible, stay aware and you’ll be fine. We drove to Cabo and back with no issues, skating and meeting wonderful people, locals and travellers alike. I highly recommend visiting!
To be honest this is where the skate story ends for now. Having shot skating for 5 weeks or so we decided to take a break to focus on surfing and landscapes…and of course stuffing our faces with $1 tacos!
After a few weeks in Baja we started to ponder what the hell we were gonna do when we got home. I started applying for jobs in Whistler, J started to reach out for video work back home in the UK.
We spent a few days relaxing at the Bahia de Concepcion in the Gulf of California, then started our 3,500km drive back to Vancouver. Having run out of money and crying every time I looked at my online banking, we decided to take the boring but economical route that is the I5.
The drive home was bittersweet, we checked out some cool spots, and had some interesting encounters, but with the days shortening, the weather turning and our wallets well and truly empty, perseverance became the aim of the game.
After greeting the Canadian border agent with a still a little drunk, “Good Afternoon!” at 10.00am, we were back in BC (amazingly). Vancouver is always a sight for sore eyes, I never tire of returning here after a long journey.
Having no home, or money, I turned to the one thing that makes me rich, amazing friends, thanks Jimmy and Ellie. Waking up the next day it dawned on me that the trip was over but the journey had only begun.
On a closing note of gratitude, a huge thanks to everyone who came out to shoot, who gave us food, beers and shelter…you guys made this trip!
EM: craig @ steepshotphotography.com