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I am a professional adventure photojournalist from Jackson, Wyoming. I live in the heart of the Teton Mountain Range and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In 1993, I shot my first photograph, which went on to become the catalyst to pursuing a career focused on adventure.
I now photograph and write about participating in adventure sports worldwide. While my main focus is skiing and mountain biking, if I am approached by a client with a project that incorporates travel, adventure, and people, I am pretty much on board by any means possible.
I have a bachelor degree in architecture. Architecture taught me about music, art history, design, and different creative periods throughout the history of the world, so it really isn’t a surprise that right after college I latched on to photography as a personal creative outlet.
I feel that I became a successful photographer when I realized that there was a connection between designing a structure and designing a photograph. I started seeing the world as design elements that I could organize in my viewfinder, adding the drama of light, to illustrate a new take on my environment.
While photographing and writing are the way I earn a living, this profession offers much more to me than a simple paycheck. Photography allows me to express myself. I was an extremely introverted child and young adult, but the love for photography opened up the world for me. Photography gave me something to talk about with others.
When you become a business owner there are so many other concerns that come into play. It is really easy to forget why you started in the first place. My refresh button has always been and always will be grabbing the camera and heading out into the wilds to shoot something, anything. It immediately rekindles any dying flames.
There was a point in my career where I was all about the latest and greatest gear. The better my photographs became though, the more I discovered that the newest gear was much less important. This forced me to hone my kit down to the simplest gear list I could get away with for the types of photos that I wanted to create.
Another extremely important concern about the gear I carry is its weight. I cannot ride a mountain bike 50 miles with a hundred pounds in a backpack. So I often pare my kit down to just a single lens and body for speed and efficiency. This ShotKit list would be what I would bring with me on a trip to a location like Thailand or Patagonia to shoot for a major client. Every day before heading out to shoot I choose the gear I need achieve the photos on my shotlist and then pack accordingly.
Also, I use a carbon fiber tripod by Gitzo with growing infrequency so I did not include it. I love the ability to move through scenes quickly and create as many different composition options as possible. I feel the tripod really slows down this style of photographing.
Dakine Backpack – I am going to say that carrying my gear is my photography crutch. It is really hard for me to find a pack that works for mountain biking, skiing, and photography. I have tried them ALL. I will tell you that in my opinion none of the camera backpack manufacturers understand what a mountain biker or backcountry skier needs. Mountain biking demands mobility, especially behind your shoulders. While backcountry skiing needs a treasure trove of snow safety gear and a proper ski carrying mechanism.
I have literally owned hundreds of packs over the course of my career. This Dakine ARC 34 is no longer made, but it was originally designed specifically for backcountry skiing. I have retrofit it with my own camera block and it has been working well for me for the last two years for both skiing and mountain biking. It offers great weight carry support with an internal aluminum frame, and has tons of storage for any additional gear that I would need to support riding or skiing with it. Dakine now has a new version that I am pretty excited to own called the Poacher RAS 36 that includes avalanche air bag safety technology.
Canon EOS 1DX – This is my workhorse body. I use it every day that I photograph. It allows me to create publishable photos at the higher ISOs than I usually shoot at. It renders publishable shots at ISO 6400. I always carry an extra battery with me for this camera, although I do get about 4000 photos on a single charge. The backup stands to cover my own stupidity. I also use a side grip strap on my camera in lieu of a neck-strap that always seems to get in my way. There is also a Kirk Photo Arca-Swiss tripod plate attached to it for quick mounting to the Acratech ballhead on my tripod.
Canon 8-15mm f/4 Fisheye Zoom – While I don’t use this lens on every occasion, I definitely love it for aerial coverage of mountain biking. Especially when I am on a trail that has a lot of switchbacking corners.
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II Zoom – A solid wide-angle zoom. Whenever I am looking for a composition that has a close foreground subject and wide view corridor I grab this lens. It is probably the second most used lens in my kit.
Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS Zoom – Hands down my favorite go-to lens on the planet! When I can only bring one lens, this is the lens. The range is perfect for just about any composition. Because it has Image Stabilization it is really easy to use hand-held in much lower light than you would expect.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II Zoom – This lens is really sharp but also really heavy. However, with my 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters, I have up to a 400mm that I can handhold. That’s really cool! Also has a Kirk Photo Arca-Swiss tripod plate attached to the lens collar.
Canon 1.4x III Teleconverter – This is my favorite teleconverter to couple to the 70-200mm. It yields a 40% increase in magnification and is perfect for those long distance, compression compositions.
Canon 2.0x III Teleconverter – Many believe that adding a 2.0x converter to any lens degrades the image too severely. While I know this was the case during the film days, with lesser quality optics and the grain apparent in the film itself, this version of Canon’s 2.0x converter is really sharp when combined with their newer hi-end telephoto lenses.
Two Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density Filters – One is a Galen Rowell 3-stop, hard-step and the other is a Daryl Benson Reverse 3-stop. My clients typically don’t accept work that isn’t entirely produced in camera, so I use these filters right at sunset to darken my skies.
Leica M3 Film Camera & Accompanying Light Meter – This camera was loaned to me by a friend and every time that he asks about it I change the subject. I love this camera! It was manufactured in 1955, (Leica doesn’t even know the specific date) it is unbelievably well made and super simple to operate. It has me thinking more and more about modern day Leica cameras. Hint, Hint.
I haven’t told anyone about photographing with it, well, until this very moment. Nor have I showed anyone what I am working on. Good things come to those who wait…just know that this camera is inspiring me all the way back to my film days, but in a much different way.
2 – Pocket Wizard Plus IIIs – These guys allow me to remote trigger my camera. You can use them to trigger strobes as well, but that’s not my gig. They have a 1600-foot range too! I know they make them in black, but high visibility yellow and pink never get lost. Pink goes on the camera and yellow stays with me attached to my wrist when using them.
iPhone 7 Plus – The greatest camera ever attached to a phone. I crank Metallica on an hourly basis. At times, I may even listen to Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Machine Head, AC – DC, and Judas Priest. Plus a few others – key ingredient – HEAVY, LOUD, and DISTORTED.
I am also addicted to Instagram. It is hands down the best social media platform out there. I mean I am a professional photographer and all.
Every once in a while I will take a call or respond to an email too…
Jaybird X3 Bluetooth Headphones – If you don’t like to listen to Metal, I don’t take offense.
20oz KleanKanteen – While I have a sponsorship with KleanKanteen, this specific bottle has personal meaning for me. I actually found it buried in leaves on the side of a trail here in Jackson, while walking my 14-year-old Samoyed. It’s a testament to how recyclable a product like this is, my dishwasher brought it back to brand new in one washing. No one in my house is allowed to touch it! My logo, the skull, gets attached to anything it will adhere to and water bottles are an easy target.
Custom Benchmade Griptillian Knife – They custom built this knife just for me. I love pink, got a problem with that? The blade is engraved with my name. It is in my pocket 24/7 and used for just about anything a knife would be used for and then some. You cannot beat FREE lifetime sharpening either.
Moleskine 5 x 7 College Ruled Notebook– I write everything down and I have to do it with a Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil. That’s just the way it works for me. Every client project has pages of notes associated with it, but also anything that comes to mind when traveling and roadmaps to my personal projects also get added to these notebooks. If I am in need of a pencil sharpening, my Benchmade knife takes care of that too.
The #pimpmobile sticker began as an Instagram campaign, but now resides on all of my bikes, skis, cars, and anyplace else they will adhere to just like my skull.
Crank Brothers M19 Multi-Tool – This tool works on anything, skis, bikes, even camera gear at times.
Crank Brothers Mini Pump – Perfect for random mountain biking flats if no one else has a pump with them.
2-Way Radios – While just about everyone I ski and mountain bike with has the BCA BC Link radios, and that is my radio of choice, I carry a spare old Kenwood 2-way model in case a radio goes down. This beats yelling across a valley during a photo shoot.
Inside Jay’s camera bag:
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