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The Whistler Backcountry with Mountain Sports Photographer Blake Jorgenson

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“The reason that I love this type of photography is that I’m actively participating…You’re on the adventure…You’re on the slopes…”

— Blake Jorgenson

Blake Jorgenson is a Whistler-based professional mountain sport and lifestyle photographer who thoroughly knows the Canadian backcountry. Photo by Blake Jorgenson.

SNAP! The perfect photo of a backcountry skier caught high in the air over a jump, trailing snow behind as airborne crystals twinkle in the clear sunshine. SNAP! A snowmobiler captured in mid-action, snow flying every which way, and you catch your breath wondering how this scene could possibly resolve itself. How do people even take pictures like this, so vivid and real, and above all, being so close to all the action?

Meet Blake Jorgenson, the artist behind the camera. Blake is a Whistler-based professional mountain sport and lifestyle photographer who thoroughly knows the Canadian backcountry, having lived in it since the age of 18. The Whistler lifestyle is intimately entwined with the outdoors. It is the mindset of charging out into the backcountry every day to do something that makes one feel vibrantly alive. It is that immersion in passion for both nature and sheer adventure.

Mountain action photography is not the easiest nor most comfortable way to make a living. Blake relates his days out on the slopes, “It’s challenging, cold, wet, and strenuous, and I still love it.” To get the kind of shots he captures as a photographer, you need to almost be in the shots. You can’t get these views, these angles, from being a disinterested faraway observer – you must be right there, close up. You need to be a mountain sport adventurer yourself before you can connect with that lifestyle at this level. A certain dedication is a big part of making that work.

Blake first visited Whistler on a trip with his mother when he was 16, but he was immediately hooked. When he turned 18, he left Toronto to live in Whistler, getting his first job at a ski shop returning skis. He had few plans, but he knew he needed to be close to the slopes, the mountains, the sheer adventure of it all – that elusive Whistler lifestyle. Becoming a photographer, a real recorder of all this, was a perfect fit. Blake was drawn into adventure action sports photography mostly because that was what he wanted to spend his life doing. He used photography to immerse himself more fully into that lifestyle.

The mountainous Whistler terrain is breathtaking, challenging, completely natural, and intoxicating. For Blake, this connection with nature is synonymous with a connection to adventure – one easily leads to the other. Action photography puts you right in the middle of everything, and he loves to be actively participating. “You’re on the slopes… You’re not on the sidelines.” It’s the discipline of heading out time and time again, regardless of conditions, that sets him apart.

Snow covered trees at a ski resort in Whistler, Canada.

Guide to the Best Backcountry Skiing Adventures in British Columbia, Canada

Capturing amazing outdoor images is very satisfying in and of itself, but the great moments require a lot of patience. The day may start off somewhat dim and little catches your eye, but then without warning, “the clouds clear, and the sun pops,” and suddenly, there is that incredible moment you’ve been anticipating for so long. Most importantly, “you’re only going to see that and capture it if you’re there … those moments are the ultimate reward.”

The SmugMug Films video, The Cold Open, shows many of these perfect moments, with the snow and natural lighting somehow just so, as a downhill skier comes exploding through a snow-draped wall of pine branches, all captured from the right place, at the right time, by the onsite photographer Blake. There is stunning helicopter footage where Blake, airborne himself this time, follows a fearless skier careening down the endless mountain runs, a scene of both bravery and sheer enjoyment of the wild adventure.

Of his photography, Blake has discovered that “the environment is really the star,” and the people in these shots are what makes these environments come to life in completely relatable ways. “They’re not my photographs. They are our photographs. It’s a team effort.” And the environment can be a fickle star sometimes. Blake feels that it’s important to be in places where a certain amount of what happens is left to chance. Nature is not a predictable beast – anything can happen – and he feels that’s a necessary variable in setting up real, believable images.

It takes a surprising amount of set up for these adventure-sports shots – so much happens so quickly, so much is unknown. How might the snow shift, where would the sun be if it chose to peek out, how fast will the skier be going, and will the skier even be in control at this spot? And the importance of color is paramount. On the slopes surrounding Whistler, the backdrops will be mostly snow of varying subtle shades, the dark greens of the pines, and of course, the somber, moody skies. But into this quiet background come the exciting, vivid colors of the subject, maybe electric oranges or glowing neons, suddenly splashing through the formerly still scene, while you hear the rapid auto-firing of Blake’s camera taking dozens of shots a second as his lens quickly follows the skier shooting past.

Blake’s connection to both the natural environment and the action sports he participates in and photographs is a deep one. He speaks sincerely about his love for the Whistler mindset, which he obviously relates to quite deeply. The love of the mountains and the natural beauty, leading automatically to a love of the outdoor adventures in them. He distilled this idea as simply the “dedication to life and celebration.” That’s the bottom line of what it means to him personally. “The lifestyle pushes [my] photography and vice versa.” One couldn’t exist without the other.

Checkout Blake Jorgenson’s photo gallery.

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