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Chairlift Interview: Photographer Jay Beyer

Salt Lake City-based photographer Jay Beyer shoots and skis mainly in Utah’s Wasatch backcountry. But we found Jay recently riding the Collins chairlift at Alta ski resort. We spoke to him about what a backcountry skier was doing at the resort, why he switched from snowboarding to skiing, and tips for shooting photos on stormy days.
posted: 03/08/2010
Jay Beyer Self Portrait

Hi Jay. We're here at Alta, on the Collins lift. Mind if I ask you a few questions?
Right now?

Yeah, it’s a chairlift interview.
OK.

Can you please describe the weather right now?
It’s pounding snow, because we’re at Alta. It was really clear in the valley, but it’s dumping and windy up here.

Any suggestions for getting a decent photo in these conditions?
With photos in flat light or storm conditions, you need some sort of backdrop, something darker to give definition and depth to your photos. So shoot the skier in front of pine trees or aspens. That gives more your photo more depth. If you just shoot a person in snow when it’s dark light and storming, it tends to not look that intriguing.

What’s in your pack now?
A  Canon 5D, Canon 1D Mark 3, a fish eye, and a few other lenses. That’s my normal setup. I feel confident I can capture anything with that setup.

You ski in the backcountry usually. What percent of the time do you spend at ski resorts?
In a typical year, I spend 30 to 40 percent of my time at ski resorts. But this year, I’ve stayed inbounds quite a bit more because of avalanche conditions.

You grew up in Michigan. And I understand you had trouble loading the chairlift when you first started skiing?
I was 13 and in Michigan. I’d never skied before. My brother and sister took me out but they didn’t instruct me on how to ski or how to get on the chairlift. They got me in the chair—it was a triple but they wouldn’t ride with me. At the top of the hill, there was a slight decline, as there usually is, and one ski went one way and one went the other way. I straddled my skis and pulled my groin. Everyone stood around laughing me.

I assume you’ve figured out how to get off the chair now? Or should I help you out when we get to the top of the lift?
I still have troubles occasionally, but yes, I’ve got it dialed.

You’ve recently switched from snowboarding to skiing. Why?
Two edges are better than one. Skiing has been a little more fun for me personally.

What’s your favorite thing about riding a chairlift as opposed to hiking in the backcountry?
It’s a lot less tiring. It’s obviously less hiking. I tend to get a lot more vertical in at the resort. And chairlifts you tend to meet real interesting folks.

I'll take that as a compliment. Time to unload now...

To check out Jay's photos, go to www.jaybeyer.com.

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