Bag Check is an all-new TransWorld SNOWboarding series dedicated to the many photographers and videographers we work with on a daily basis to bring you the premier snowboarding media that you have come to know and love. Each week we will be showcasing a different contributor by taking a look under the hood of their camera bag to see what each of them rely on in the field, before diving a bit further and tapping their brains about what it takes to create the work we celebrate. Make sure to check back next week for another installment of Bag Check with today’s leading photographers and videographers.


In our fourth installment of Bag Check, we catch up with professional photographer, Andrew Miller. Since his start in Southern California, Andrew has traveled the world with the best snowboarders of the time, to destinations both near and far. From the peaks of Nepal to the mind-boggling spines of Alaska, Andrew has managed to provide a unique vantage point that lends a profound and rare relatability to his images. Most will never have the opportunity to experience the places he photographs first-hand, yet his images allow the viewer to share in the experience. For Andrew, sharing this is the ultimate goal. Continue below to see how he does it.

The look of experience.


How long have you been shooting for, and how did you get involved with shooting snowboarding?

I have been messing around with cameras since high school, but it’s been 11 years since my first paid photography job, and for the past 5 years I have been 100% full-time shooting snowboarding. Growing up in Southern California, I was skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding from an early age. As the years went on, snowboarding became my main focus and led to some brief sponsorships and dreams of going pro. I destroyed my knee overshooting a jump at Mammoth in 2006 which completely shifted my focus. I wanted to still be involved and just happened to have a decent camera. And my friends were really good too. I would just hang out in Main Park shooting them and any pro that was lapping through at the time, which eventually led to selling my first photo. Things went slow, but every season I would get more and more jobs and sell a few more images. Eventually, over the years it led me to be able to quit my full-time job as a Laboratory Assistant in a Hospital and just shoot photos.

Packed and ready to go

Which photos/videos that you saw inspired you to become a photographer?

A lot of skate and jib stuff. I grew up in Southern California going to Bear Mountain, so I couldn’t really relate to all of the pow and big mountain riding. In middle school, I was watching movies like The Resistance, Neoproto, Robot food, Nixon Jib Fest, The End,and Fulfill the Dream. My group of friends was always making little edits and shooting photos on disposable cameras of each other skating and snowboarding to try and copy what we saw in the magazines and videos. I always had the goal of being a pro snowboarder, and it wasn't until later when I got hurt that I even considered becoming a photographer.

List and describe what camera & other gear that is featured in the overview image.

 

Rider: Blair Habenicht
Location: British Columbia
March 2015
This is a perfect example of what I want my photo style to represent. Depth, layers, beautiful natural light, large landscape and small rider. When all those things come together naturally it is a beautiful thing. This shot of Blair is a personal favorite of mine taken during the filming of Absinthe films “Heavy Mental.”

What's your go-to setup?

It always depends on what I'm going to do, so my kits vary a lot. But usually just for day missions one body and two to three lenses 15mm, 24-70 & 70-200. For me, I think more gear just makes things more complicated and I always try to bring less if I can.

Anything you are looking to add to the collection?

I'm pretty happy with what I have and I'm not really a huge gear head. But a few really nice primes or a few lighter f/4 lenses to lighten the load on big splitboard days would be nice. A Leica M6 has been on the list for a bit.

Rider: Forrest Shearer
Location: Oregon
December 2014
This was shot during my first time up to Mt Bachelor and first time to the top of the mountain. All credit goes to Jake Price for grabbing me and Forrest and sneaking us away from the crowd to this rad local zone. They said this feature never looks like this that early in the season and it was calling for somebody to just carve it like a wave. Jake went first and I did a handplant on the side and then Forrest dropped and just rode the wall surf style. The clouds really make this shot what it is. I don’t think it would have the same effect with a clear blue sky. Another personal favorite of mine.

What’s one piece of gear (apart from camera gear and avalanche gear) that you couldn’t live without in your pack?

I'm a minimalist when comes to gear, but a headlamp, Multi-tool and for sure a ton of ski straps are always a lifesaver. You can pretty much use those for everything, to fix skins, hold shit together, broken binding straps etc. I always hide an extra snack in the bottom of my bag for an end of the day treat, usually some chocolate or almond butter.

Why do you carry that selection of lenses to shoot snowboarding?

Well, it always differs on where I am and what we are going to do; but for how I shoot, the range of lenses from 24mm – 200mm covers just about everything. Most often, if I am going to AK or shooting a big line in the Sierra, I will bring out a 400mm for those far away angles. Sometimes I will only bring out one lens to challenge myself to find more creative angles or force myself to stay close with the crew for the day which can be challenging and sometimes a little scary when you’re out splitboarding or hiking lines.

Rider: Griffen Siebert, Blake Paul, Sam Taxwood, Jeff Richards
Location: Utah
March 2016
I love shooting follow-cam photos. I usually just throw on my 15 fisheye or 24-70mm, wrap my camera strap around my wrist and just try to keep up. This always helps keep the flowing going especially shooting at resorts where it’s hard to try and stop and set things up. Luckily this morning we got a pre-public tram and had the whole cirque at Snowbird to ourselves for 45 mins. This photo always gets me stoked to ride and hopefully translates to that view you have riding with your homies on a pow day.

What are your most exciting environments to shoot in?

Anywhere that I can be the most involved as possible. I always consider myself a snowboarder who takes photos. I want to be out there taking runs, being apart of the decision-making process, helping pick out lines or navigating terrain in new areas. Whether on foot, splitboard, resort lift, snowmobile, bike, boat or helicopter, I tend to gravitate to the more adventurous expeditions, to new places or camping missions. Those always seem to be the most productive, fun to shoot, and experience.

What environments are toughest on your gear?

For me, I have had the most issues with gear in British Columbia, Washington, Chile, and Alaska. Usually, it's just the dramatic temperature shifts and weather in these zones. It's always tough to deal with lens and mirror condensation. Shooting in heavy snow that turns to slop and then back to super cold, mixed with some wind and everything on your camera freezes over is pretty much a day ender. Trying to keep your bag dry is key, and making sure everything completely dries out each night is so important especially when snow camping or shooting multiple days in soggy and super snowy weather. If things didn't totally dry you’re dealing with instant fog in the lenses, and that can totally shut down and ruin your day for any type of shot.

Rider: Travis Rice & Escher Low-Burns
Location: Galena, B.C.
March 2017
These days its important to show the young the right path to preserve the soul of snowboarding. Spending his winters growing up off the grid in Trout Lake B.C., No-boarding neck-deep pow in between his parent’s legs by day and playing leggos with Travis Rice by night. Its safe to say Escher Burns-Low is on his way to an unconventional path in the snow. This is a look of a kid who has seen the light. It’s not always about the action. Shooting the in-between moments is something I have really tried to focus on more in the past few years and this shot is another one of my personal favorites.

How do you protect gear from these elements?

Besides temperature and moisture regulation, I really don't do much. Maybe some basic rules like don't ever bring your bag in the warm lodge after shooting in the cold snowy temps, especially if you still want to go back out and shoot. I trust my gear is as weather sealed as they claim. Camera gear is meant to be used and get the shit kicked out of it. You should never be scared to pull out your gear due to weather. I have a rule if you ever feel like you shouldn't pull your camera out, it’s usually the best time to do it. If it breaks then that's what insurance and warranties are for.

Any packing rituals the night before a big shoot?

I'm usually fully packed with everything besides batteries early the night before. Everything from my bag, to shred gear, to clothes to food and water. The more dialed you are the longer you get to sleep in. Every extra 10 minutes counts when you’re getting up at three or four in the morning.

Rider: Mat Schaer
Location: Champery, Swizterland
February 2015
I had always wondered how all the Euro photogs always had such amazing light in all their photos. The first time I went to Switzerland it all made sense. This was shot in the famous Absinthe Zone in Champery where it felt like visiting a snowboard outdoor museum or something. So many legendary tricks and video parts have been filmed here it was cool to see it all in person. The light gets real nice in Le Zone in the afternoon and I’m always a sucker for shooting into the sun and getting as many trippy lens flares and sunbursts as I can. This was shot with Absinthe during the filming of “Eversince.”

Flash vs. Natural Light

For me, hands down natural light. I rarely shoot much flash. Most of the stuff I'm doing I want to have less gear, shoot super fast and keep a good flow going. Hard to do that with a big set up and dealing with pocket wizards not working. But if a specific shot or location calls for it I'm always game to get the strobes out.

Any favorite people to shoot with? Why?

I'm stoked on any motivated person who has a good turn. That being said, developing relationships and trust with people over the years is huge. Particularly when out shooting in the backcountry where things can easily go wrong and you can find yourself in a life or death situation in which you have to rely on your crew and the collective experience to keep somebody alive. I want to be out with the kind of crew who knows their shit. I rarely go on trips or missions with a totally new crew and people I don’t have prior experience with. My list is pretty short but those guys know who they are.

Rider: Manuel Diaz
Location: Haines, Alaska
April 2016
I think drop in images like this almost have more of an impact then the actual action riding the line photos do. For the viewer, they have the chance to really spend some time looking at the image and put themselves in the riders place to try and figure out what line they would take or where they would go. I love that, especially in a place like Alaska where the terrain is mind-boggling. Spines are so epic to shoot and this particular day with Manuel Diaz is one I will never forget. I have this shot blown up massive in my house and every time I walk by it always trips me out he rode down that maze of snow.

What projects have you been working on this past season?

This year I spent the most time at home that I have in quite a few years which was nice especially since my daughter is now three. I'm on staff now with Jones Snowboards which has been awesome and keeping me busy. I shot with a few film projects and have really just been doing way more of what I want to do. I have been pretty selective about what companies and riders that I want to support and align myself with these days, and I got a lot of days riding without a camera pack which is super important to me.

First cover shot/ favorite cover shot?

My first and only TWS cover shot was in 2014 of Jeremy Jones riding a 21,000ft spine in Nepal. I don't think I will ever shoot anything that comes close to that image and the crazy adventure and effort it took to get that shot. It was a 40-day expedition that almost didn't work out at all. By far a trip and shot of a lifetime for me.

Rider: Jeremy Jones
Location: Nepal
October 2013
This was an adventure of a lifetime for me. I credit this trip and image for really kickstarting my career in the snowboard world. This was shot during a 40-day expedition to the Khumbu Region of Nepal with Jeremy Jones during his movie “Higher”. There is nothing easy about trying to snowboard in the Himalayas let alone at 21,500ft. We waited three weeks to be able to get this shot. Our barbie angle was on a glacier at 19,000 ft and it was quite terrifying watching Jeremy ride this face. But luckily everything went well and I knew right away when I uploaded the shots that if I ever had a chance at landing a cover this image was it. Couple months later I was surprised with my first TWS cover. I doubt I will ever shoot another image that will even come close to the story behind this one.

What's your favorite TransWorld cover of all time?

  1. 94' Jamie Lynn Road Gap by Jon Foster. I was only 8 at the time but looking through all the classics this shot always caught my eye. I just love a good road gap and that gritty black and white. Both Jamie and Jon Foster's styles are some of my favorites as well.
  2. 08' Photo Annual: Pat Moore and Jake Welch by Ian Ruhter. For whatever reason, I really loved this issue. I still have it in my collection and Ian Ruhter's feature from Chile just really drew me in on how he integrated the landscape and culture into the images with such a unique style and editing at the time. Also, just a clean cover not overly designed and minimal text which is something I miss. Nothing worse than a bunch of text and random graphics on a rad photo.
  3. 10' Photo Annual: Stevie Bell by Cole Barsh. Hard not to enjoy a nice silhouette…something that you don't see that often on rails. The shot is so clean and simple and I remember really being blown away at that whole series Cole did with bringing massive studio backdrops into the park. I miss photo annuals so bad!

Style is important in both riding and photography. Tell us how you identify your own personal style with photography.

Style is everything and always has been. But it’s so much more important in this day and age of quantity over quality, and particularly with the visual overload that is always at your fingertips. It’s kind of crazy to think of how many photos you scroll through on a daily basis, and what it takes for an image to actually stop that scroll or page flip of a magazine. It’s hard to get an immediate reaction of, “WOW that image is amazing,” and have the viewer dive in and really explore a shot for a while. These days I think it takes way more to get that reaction and for me, the ultimate accomplishment for a photographer is recognizing a shot based on the photo style of the person without seeing their name or credit first. I can only hope that my images have the same effect on others, that so many photographers have had on me. I have always operated with more of a photojournalistic style approach with a tendency to have looser compositions and I'm drawn to more vast landscapes with a smaller rider in the frame. I don't like to set up much and usually like to be in the background shooting so the group almost forgets I'm there documenting. Shooting follow-cam photos is one of my favorite things to do. Just telling the rider to go for it, slow the shutter down and try to keep up and not stop. I hate stopping. Creating a flow is key and usually when the best shots happen.

Legs: Andrew Miller & Justin Hostynek
Location: Haines, Alaska
April 2016
For me nothing compares to shooting doors off out of a helicopter. I feel like it’s a right of passage in Alaska and something you need to put your dues in first before you get to experience. There is no other person I’d rather be hanging out of a heli with than Justin Hostynek. Learning and watching him calmly direct the pilot to find the best angle all while coordinating with the riders at the same time can often be pure chaos. It’s a very delicate dance that is extremely hard with so many factors that have to come together to get an epic shot and Justin is the best at it. It’s usually freezing cold, super loud and your eyes are watering from the wind making it super hard to even see through the viewfinder. I always seem to kinda of blackout and let my instincts take over and hope I get an in-focus shot. It’s extremely stressful and expensive but very rewarding when you get a truly unique image.

What influences your approach in photography?

The love of doing what you love to do. For me that is snowboarding, traveling to new places, and documenting the journey along the way. That will never get old, and the list of places to check out will only get longer. Looking at guys who have been in the industry for a long time both in front and behind the lens, and are still finding ways to keep things new, and the passion alive is extremely influential and inspiring to keep it going.

What’s the best line or trick you’ve nailed with your camera pack on?

Most of the shooting I try to do involves staying close to the riders and shooting from either the top of the lines or on a slope, partly to try and get a more of a dynamic and layered angle and most importantly to get a run in. Some highlights have definitely been in Alaska with the Absinthe crew. There is always plenty of leftovers after the boys have handled business. Hard to beat getting a run on any type of terrain out there, but there is something incredibly special about getting to ride spines.

Rider: Alex Yoder
Location: Southern Chile
August 2013
Sunsets in Chile are like nowhere else in the world. This being my first trip down south I had only heard stories and wasn’t sure what to expect. We kinda got skunked most of our trip but the last night we opted to try and catch a famous sunset waiting on top of Volcan Nevados for the show to start. As things ramped up the colors went full mental and so did we. We had kind of frantic dance to get the shot lined up. Forrest dropped first and went out of frame totally missing the shot. I remember screaming at Yoder to go farther down and faster as the colors were peaking and he luckily nailed the right slash. The feel you get after basking in the glow of something like this is hard to explain or even capture in an image. A sunset of this vibrance and magnitude could only be fitting to happen in the Pacific “Ring of Fire.”

Who are some of your favorite photographers / filmers?

Too many to list and I enjoy looking at tons of images but some personal favorites and guys that I really respect their work are Oli Gagnon, Chris Brunkart, Endo Tsutomu, Mark Gallup, Andy Wright, Tim Zim, Cole Barash, Ian Ruhter, Matt Georges, Jerome Tanon, Todd Glaser, Woody Gooch, Jake Price, Nick Kalisz… the list goes on.

What's your Instagram/ handle and website?

@andrew_miller www.andrewmillerphotos.com

Make sure to follow Andrew’s website and social to keep up with his work.


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