I had the privelage to do a Q&A with TJ David (@TJ_SKIS), an avid big mountain skier & filmmaker. Other than scouting out the best backcountry terrain, David produces and creates short films highlighting his athletic skill and outdoor experiences, enhancing his visuals with timelapse photography.
Emily Carino: How did you get interested in timelapse photography and film? What attracts you to these film projects?
TJ David: I’ve always been interested in photography, specifically timelapse photography, because unlike a single still, or video, it gives a much more unique and dynamic perspective into an event or landscape. You can capture even the slightest changes in a landscape; whether it is movement, changes in light, or colors over time. Each timelapse almost tells a story in itself.
As a professional skier, my sponsors are constantly looking to me for content for their websites, marketing campaigns and social media outlets. Therefore, it’s important for me to be filming and compiling content for them. Taking on a film project, for me, is just another way to show my creative side. It’s really fun and timelapse photography plays a big role in my projects and helps to increase production value and keep people engaged in my content.
EC: What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of timelapse photography?
TJ: Timelapse photography is always a challenge because it’s time consuming. In order to capture changes in an environment, each timelapse requires the photographer’s attention for the entire duration of the shoot. This means if your shooting a sunset, you may be engaged in that particular shot for an hour or even two, because the changes in light and colors happen over a much longer period. I also find it changing to find unique perspectives on subject matter that is often over used in the ski industry. These challenges make it really exciting and very rewarding, specifically when you’ve found a subject to shoot and your timelapse comes out great.
EC: What do you find most challenging about working with professional photographers as an athlete, specifically skiing?
TJ: The biggest challenge when working with photographers, as an athlete, is in communication. I always find it easier to work with photographers you’ve shot with before, because the communication between photographer and athlete are much stronger. You both know what each other are looking for, the photographer knows how the athlete will perform and the athlete knows what the photographers expecting. When the athlete and photographer are communicating well and in tune with each other, you get the best shots.
EC: What about filming outdoors do you enjoy the most?
TJ: I really enjoy filming, whether it’s behind or in front of the lens because it offers a chance to capture a few brief moments in time. An athlete performing at his/her peak, the passion in the people of a local community or even amazing landscapes.
EC: Where have you had the most memorable experience shooting a short film? Do you have any stories as an example of why it was memorable?
TJ: I shot at a variety of different places last winter and I’d have to say I enjoyed shooting in Revelstoke, BC the most. Revelstoke has the widest variety of in bounds and backcountry terrain of any resort I’d previously skied. Not to mention great snow, making it easy to shoot the amazing terrain. This, combined with the fact that I was shooting with my closest friends, made for a great time.
EC: What about Chile makes it your favorite mountain to ski at?
TJ: Skiing in La Parva, Chile this past summer was an experience unlike any I’d had before. The people, the local culture, the mountains, they were all truly amazing. It’s great to ski in a place where the local culture and its people appreciate the beauty in their surroundings and celebrate it everyday with smiles on their faces and a warm welcoming spirit. Their eagerness to share their culture and their love for the mountains was truly great. Not to mention, the possibility for big descents and huge lines, visible everywhere.
EC: How long have you been a dedicated skier?
TJ: I’ve been a dedicated skier my whole life.
EC: How long have you been making films outdoors?
TJ: I’ve been focusing on producing creative, short films for about a year. But I’ve been involved in filming outdoors for three or four.
EC: You say on your website you have “devoted [yourself] to studying snow.” What do you do specifically to study snow?
TJ: There are always inherent risks when skiing in the backcountry. I constantly work to understand my surroundings, the snow and terrain I’m skiing on, and mitigate the risks by studying snow. Whether it’s taking an avalanche course at the beginning of the winter to refresh my skill set, or continually skiing in the backcountry while evaluating the snow I’m skiing on, and learning from more experienced backcountry skiers, it’s all part of the study.
EC: How has moving to the “Wasatch opened up a field of limitless opportunities”, as you say on your blog?
TJ: Utah is a great place. From deep snow, to a limitless opportunity for backcountry lines and descents, tons of awesome photographers and great skiers, it’s really a Mecca for big mountain and deep powder skiing, here in the states.
EC: What publications, websites and/or individuals’ work do you admire, take interest in, or think is worth checking out?
TJ: I really enjoy “The Ski Journal” for their outstanding photography and photo essay’s, Mike Douglass’s “Salomon Freeski TV” episodes and Jordan Manley’s “A Skier’s Journey” webisodes, both for their interesting story lines and cinematography. I also really like Sherpas Cinema for their cutting edge cinematography and admire the uniqueness of Sweetgrass Productions.
EC: What have you found is the best way to network with other photographers, bloggers, outdoor enthusiasts, fellow skiers and boarders?
TJ: For most of use, I think the best way to network has been social media, specifically Facebook, personal blogs and twitter. People in the industry are constantly traveling, with changing contact information and home locations it’s the easiest way to keep up with what each other are doing, because these channels usually state constant. It’s also sometimes the easiest way, other than calling on the phone, to get in touch with each other and try to connect with photographers or skiers when your in their area
EC: What are five important attributes you think should be present on a beginner’s online blog or portfolio, such as myself?
TJ: I find the most important aspects to having a great blog are:
1) A common theme for all your posts
2) Exciting visuals and catchy headings to draw people into viewing your posts
3) Keep post length reasonable, 250-500 words…if it’s too long people might lose interest
4) Always include photos and/or video in your blog updates to attract people and keep them interested
5) Constantly updated with interesting content based on your theme
EC: If you could write yourself a letter when you first began as an athlete producing film, giving advice, what would you say to yourself?
TJ: I’d tell myself to be patient.
EC: A beginner myself who wants to photograph outside and work with athletes, what advice could you give me?
TJ: If your passionate about photography, dedicated and patient, I’d say make the investment, buy a digital SLR and a decent lens. Get outside and start shooting. The more you shoot, the more confident you get with your equipment the better your photos will be. Start by shooting your friends. Build your portfolio.