As an action sport photographer you might be surprised to know that capturing this moment brings me equal satisfaction as photographing a whip, a drop, a hit or a climb. Yes, I love the ferocity of the moment born from punching the throttle and executing an epic stunt in the back country. The thrill and excitement of immortalizing a single second saturated with adrenaline, skill and athleticism is what I live for.
And oh yeah, when the rider pulls up alongside me after performing their badassery to ask if I “got it” and I know I have something special in my camera I get goosebumps every single time. But this moment right here proceeds the magic we all flock to social media to see. This moment; the before.
The before can happen anywhere, anytime, any place. It can be impromptu heading up the trail, in a bowl, or happen with a specific cliff destination in mind. The before forces a rider to be introspective and ask themselves dozens of questions in a short period of time. For me, as a photographer and observer, I can practically see the questions a rider silently asks themselves as their eyes track back and forth assessing the terrain; Is this in my skill set? If it’s on the edge of my capabilities can I push myself outside my comfort zone? What angle will I need to approach this to correctly execute the maneuver? What does my landing look like? Is that tree in the way? How much speed should I attack this with? If this doesn’t go as planned what are the repercussions? Is there avalanche risk? If I don’t hit this is my buddy going to do it and make me look like a pussy? How bad ass is this going to look when I nail it and post the photograph on Instagram later? The only verbal answer required - either “I’m going to do it” or “nah, let’s move on” - does no justice to complexity of the decision making process and how the rider arrived to the answer.
In the before some riders seek advice and opinions of their peers – another perspective and a fresh pair of eyes can shed light on things not previously considered - and some riders remain silent arriving at the decision to proceed or not without counsel.
There is no specified time limit in the before and depending on the complexity of the terrain, the maneuver, the light, the conditions and the individual it can take a blink of an eye or several minutes. The before for the rider, the mountain family, for me is filled with anticipation and when “Yup, I’m doing it” rings through the air and I am instructed to get out my camera the excitement becomes palpable and I can’t wait for what comes next; The Doing.