Check Out: Matt McDonald and Equal Motion
Matt McDonald has been around the skate scene for a number of years now putting out much of the video and photography from DB Longboards, Atlas Trucks and Cloud Ride Wheels and running the team for a while as well. While his skate media is on point, Matt has built an incredible brand with his talents under the name Equal Motion and gained a considerable amount of mainstream exposure. Matt and I have got to know each other and it is about time we got an interview together and shared more of him directly with you. He’s not just a talented photo and video artist, he’s a really great guy! Those that have had the opportunity to travel to events with him or just get to hang out know, there’s few people with Matt’s easy going and fun loving spirit, which is probably why he ends up getting so much great content. Anyways, check out Matt McDonald and his brand of media creativity, Equal Motion.
Matt! Stoked to do this interview finally. Can you give us your full name, age and favourite lens?
Thanks for having me Les! My name is Matt McDonald, 34-years old and the 50mm f1.4 is my best friend.
Where you from, where you living?
I am originally from Everett, WA. I spent 13 years in Bellingham and the past two years in Seattle.
How long have you been shooting photos and making videos? Actually, please separate them, being a good photographer or videographer, doesn’t necessarily transfer to the other. So did you hone them together or have they been separate journeys?
I have been making videos and shooting photos since the late 90s when I was in high school. For me personally, the two disciplines always go hand in hand. People also have a better chance of making a living in media creation if you can do both from what I have experienced. I do have to say if you do not have ample time, your photos and video will suffer if you try to do both at the same time.
You’ve gotten some premium exposure with your photos in the civilian world right? Some mega exposure on Space Needle photos and other Washington sights?
Haha, yeah. More or less I have a great view of Seattle from my roof and if something in the city landscape changes I post it like it is breaking news. People and the local news outlets love that. I also try and spend a couple hours every week venturing around Seattle to capture something unique.
Oh snap, you also made an epic video with your dog too… how fun is shooting your pooch? Easier or harder than skaters?
Haha, I can’t say it was epic, but you can see it right here:
Petco had me partake in their social media campaign and it was something I have never tried before. My dog was a shark and I was a kook aka shark bait. Believe it or not shooting with skaters is way easier than my dog. You don’t have to always feed skaters treats to do what you want for the camera. Although sometimes you do…
You’ve been working in skate for a couple? few? years now? How does a baller photographer get hooked into the dirt bag skate world? It’s usually the other way, dirt bag skater goes pro photographer.
I have always captured action sports. It is part of what got me into photography to begin with. When I was a photojournalist for The Bellingham Herald every other week or so I would come into the office with some skateboarding, kiteboarding, snowboarding or skimboarding photos. It’s something I have always loved and luckily an opportunity with DB popped up.
You’re taking a step back from DB right now, doing more freelance, taking a trip to europe and such right?
Yep. Summer is over and I have to test the waters and see what else is out there. I have been taking on some different freelance work, which has been a great change of pace and challenging at the same time. My girlfriend is also finishing up at her veterinary technician program and she has always wanted to go to Europe, so we made the trip over in October to explore a bit and we happened to get engaged as well.
Hey congrats! Definitely a reason for some change ha ha. Adulting. What’s it been like jumping in the van and making it happen as media man for a skate company?
I do have to say I think if I was 25-years old still I would have been more fun in the van for the team riders. The pressure of having to create media that actually sells products and keeping everyone focused on that goal always made it challenging and stressed me out. For the most part, it was a blast and something I will look back at and be grateful I had the opportunity to go on trips like that.
What were some of the fun parts of your job?
Naturally, shooting photos and video, meeting new people, being outside and having more time to skateboard myself. Along with being able to give feedback on new products and designs.
What were some of the challenges to your job?
Making media that served a purpose while also juggling social media, marketing, web updates, team management and customer service. For the media creation end of things you can only make so many montage edits of people riding before you are just creating the same thing over and over. Trying to come up with new ways to expose longboarding to the general populace was a huge challenge and goal for me. I think with my last video of Spencer Smith and my video with Devon Dotson were two of the videos I was actually happy with at the end of the day.
You haven’t been only progressing your photo and video game, you’ve also been pushing your skating as well. How’s the journey from casual skater to dancing, tricking, bombing and such been going?
First off, there is a reason I have always been the media guy and not a pro-skater. I was never that good. I love it, but never that good. Haha. I used to longboard and skate a lot in Bellingham. I probably was one of the first people with a longboard at WWU where I went to college even. One horrible fall in 2008 and two shoulder surgeries forced me to step back including since I need my arm to work. When I took the job at DB though I started skating a lot again. One day after shooting with Spencer in Seattle I went back and took a run myself. My shoulder was not a fan of me shutting down and popped out again. Since I need my right arm to take photos I started to focus a bit more on the freestyle aspect of longboarding and enjoyed it quite a bit. Skateboarding has and will always be part of my life. Just not always in the same way.
With DB, you’ve been doing some of their skimboarding media as well? What are some of the parallels and differences from Skim and Skate?
Yep. I pretty much was the web/team manager/social/media guy for DB Skimboards, DB Longboards, Cloud Ride Wheels and Atlas Trucks. So, there was a large focus on both skate and skim media. For the most part, both industries have small communities full of people that are really passionate about the sport they partake in and they love new media. Longboarding has a much larger audience and following than flatland skimboarding though. With skimboarding media you don’t have to wait for cars or film follow runs, so it is a lot easier from my experience. With skimboarding you have to deal with people actually being able to land a trick. Skimboarding looks easy, but it really isn’t.
I saw a massive skim event you covered. What could the Downhill community learn from the Skim community?
Yeah, that was the DB Pro/AM skim contest at Dash Point. DB has been putting that on for years and it always gets the local community out. The main thing the downhill community can take away from that type of event is make it fun for kids. If kids are not going to events and getting stoked it will not help create a new generation of skimboarders and skateboarders. Everyone always wants to focus on the gnarly aspect, but if there isn’t enough fun ways for kids to get involved (and for parents to think it is OK for their kids to do it) you are missing out.
You did some solid van life with the team and out to events, do you have any favourite stories from the road?
One time I drove to Utah to go skimboarding with 8 skimboarders. That was fucking silly. I will never do that again mainly due to pot smoking skimboarders and how it is a felony in Utah (Smoking pot is fine. Just not in the open in Utah). Giant’s Head with Devon Dotson, Michael Adams and Hunter Ollom last summer was a super fun trip where I got to witness Giant’s Head first hand and all of the antics that come with it.
What are some of your favourite skate events to shoot?
Well, Whistler was one of my favorites to capture along with Maryhill. It’s always fun to try and capture an event that has been shot over and over and put a new twist on it. 2015 Whistler Longboard Festival in the rain will always be one of my favorites:
Are there differences to taking photos of skate and other subjects? Or does it all kind of transfer and apply as “photography”?
Normally, I would always try and fill my frame with a subject, but with longboarding it’s good to get the road and where the rider is going in the photo. That took awhile to get used to including coming from an industry where the photo editors would drill “there is too much dead space” into you head.
What’s your camera quiver like? Bodies, lenses, toys…?
For DB I was using a Canon 7D Mark II. Now that I am solo again I am using my Nikon D500 and a Canon 5D Mark II. I also use a mix of lenses, but for skate my 50mm, 10.5 mm fisheye, 70-200mm and 17-35mm are my main lenses that I use.
Any camera gear you’re stoked on and have been drooling over?
I am digging the new Canon 5D Mark IV and will probably upgrade my 5D Mark II when I get enough cash stacked up.
Can you give some of the budding photos out there 3 tips for taking photos?
1. Learn to shoot in manual. If you don’t know how to use manual get off my lawn.
2. Use prime lenses and learn how to use your feet instead of zooming in and out. A vast majority of my best work has come from a fixed prime lens and using only a 10.5mm and 50mm for 2 years really impacted how I see everything.
3. Never stop shooting. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that 10,000 hours of appropriately guided practice was “the magic number of greatness.” With photography that still is not enough time to be a great photographer. Hell, I don’t even know what I am doing half the time still.
How about 3 tips for getting your work out there? You seem to kill it at getting exposure?
1. Use all of the social media channels and run an active blog. I try to post a new photo on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr everyday. It’s a lot of work, but it shows you are dedicated to the craft and gets your work out there.
2. Send your work to websites, local news sources and other influencers. Getting your work published and out there for people to see goes a long ways.
3. Don’t give up. I have been doing this since the late 1990s and I have had a lot of discouraging moments and tough times. If you keep working on your skills, keep pushing yourself you can make it as a photographer or videographer.
Famous last words? Shout outs?
Hard work, passion and creativity pays off in the long run. If a company is willing to pay me to make a video of my dog there is no reason you cannot get paid to make media also.
Thanks Matt. I hope we’re still going to be seeing your photos and videos in downhill. Congrats again on the engagement!
Thank you Les and SkateSlate! I don’t plan on going anywhere and am already plotting on some new photo ideas to work on with some of the local skaters. I also plan on working to help cover the Seattle area and maybe even help with some web development work Skate[Slate] (wink wink?).