Getting it Done Down Under – Finding the snow with Simon Dumont and friends

September 18th, 2009 by

Simon Dumont, TJ Schiller, JP Auclair, Peter Olenick and Colby West join Freeskier magazine and Chase Jarvis for a Photo Shoot in New Zealand.

Stepping out of the plane and onto the landing strip in Queenstown, New Zealand, the first thing I see are The Remarkables. Covered in snow, these mountains live up to their name on first impression and make it clear that I am arriving in winter. It is admittedly getting on toward spring down here – but coming from Colorado in September, it definitely feels like winter. The peaks are covered in white.

My long time friend and renown photographer Chase Jarvis and his crew greet me at the gate. True to their modus operandi, they come with cameras blazing and video rolling, every moment of life captured in RAW and HD. Hugs, back slaps and laughs ensue. I meet Phil Turner, our Kiwi producer and fixer, and we’re off to the heli pad with a quick brief on our mission en route.

Within an hour we are buzzing around the Southern Alps in a helicopter, scouting for locations. We’re looking for the perfect spot for Chase to shoot elements of a new SanDisk campaign that we have decided will feature skiers JP Auclair, Simon Dumont, TJ Schiller, Peter Olenick and Colby West.

Thousands of feet above the valley floor, the late afternoon light paints the green hilly landscape with golden highlights. Long soft shadows creep onto the shore of Lake Wakatipu. The water’s surface is scintillating at the base of snow covered peaks that sit high above this harmony of color and geology. This country is truly an incredible sight.

Check out this little video from the front of the heli with my point and shoot camera to get an idea of what I’m struggling to describe. Words really dont do it justice.

New Zealand has always been a dream destination for me. I’ve never been. So when Chase called and told me he was headed to New Zealand on a last minute commercial shoot for SanDisk, and needed Freeskier to help coordinate the skiers, Freeskier was ready to oblige.

Chase and I first met years ago when both Freeskier and Chase Jarvis were fledgling endeavors. He was a Steamboat, CO photographer and I was a ski magazine editor looking for photogs who could deliver a story with their photos. Two birds with one stone. Chase always delivered both with ease and we went on to share numerous adventures in the mountains before the quality of his work and vision drew the attention of some of the world’s biggest brands. For his latest project, a campaign for memory card maker, SanDisk, he is focusing on shooting high speed sequences. So he needed some talent who could push the limits of his equipment and image capture capability.

Freeskier has a few friends who immediately came to mind.

So we made some phone calls and corralled a half dozen of the best names in the game, jumped on some long flights, and met up where it is winter to make some photographic magic.

After scouting the mountains around Queenstown, which is basically flying around the set of Lord of the Rings for two days, we started shooting in earnest. A 13 hour day at Snowpark (Thanks to Sam Lee and his team who helped facilitate the shoot) produced rain, sun, sunset, clouds and some pretty sick rail photos.

TJ, Colby, Peter, Simon threw down and worked from bell to bell. We hit the lodge at dark and were happy to find JP Auclair and Anthony Boronowski bellied up enjoying the local spirits. Before long Chase and Simon were eying up the stairway feature outside the Snowpark base lodge. 25 minutes later Peter and Simon were slaying the rail and Chase and crew were set up with two high-powered Broncolor strobes. Crushed it! Tail presses, 270s on and off, switch-ups, and for the finale …Simon went for a switch –on trick but caught his tails and went head over heels onto his elbow and head in a scary moment. True to form he shook it off; although I could feel the small bone chip floating in his elbow, there were no complaints from the Bethel, ME native. We called it a day at that point.

The next day we grab Peter and JP and pile into a heli to search for some corn snow and cliff drops. We had trouble finding good snow and light and consequently ended up chasing both with the helicopter for a good portion of the day. Running into JP the night before was a serendipitous turn of events. Who could be better for a sequence-shooting mission in the backcountry? Sometimes things just work out.

Cardrona home to the only 22-foot wall super pipe in existence from June-September was our next stop. Blazing sunshine and a pipe full of the best trick-ditch skiers and snowboarders on the planet made for another strong day of shooting. It was photography paradise and Chase and his team were in a candy shop shooting Simon and Peter’s corked out doubles and Colby boosting ridiculously huge all day.

It has been a superb trip to this beautiful region of the world. Thanks to JP, Simon, Pete, TJ, Nick and Colby for throwing down for the cameras and having a great attitude the whole time.

Check back for more photography from this week and make sure to take a look at the magazine in the coming months to see some of Chase’s sequences. Great stuff.

Big Ups to my homies of Common Market for the music – they always crush it. Check them out here on iTunes.

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