Top 10 Photos: Andy Wright – TWSNOW Senior Photographer This one checks just about all the boxes off the list: giant graffiti’d wall; high consequence action; sunset light. Anto Chamberland really came through on this shot in the final moments of daylight after a BIG day of shoveling. The plan was to hit the feature for a bit in the late hours and come back the next day for a full session. The following morning we arrived to find that the landing snow had been entirely removed by what I can only assume was a not-so-pleased maintenance worker. I’m so happy we had already gotten a shot but I felt bad for Mark Sollors, Jody Wachniak and Craig McMorris who all participated in the build but never got a chance to reap any rewards from their efforts. Such is life often times in shooting spots like this, where permission is rarely asked for, and is even more infrequently granted. But just one photo or video clip makes it all worth it. PHOTOS/Captions: Andy Wright There’s not a lot left to say about this image that wasn’t included with this photo when it ran as a spread in the November print issue of Transworld. Bode Merrill found this location within a mile of the hotel we sorta randomly picked on trip to Baltimore. No one in the crew had ever been to this city, so it was a bit of luck, to find this and just about everything else we hit in a 5-day span within this same radius. Bode has an eye for spots that few others share. I actually just gave up in trying to help him find stuff to hit because my brain doesn’t work like that. On this trip I landed a day later than the crew and upon arrival he told me he had something I was gonna like a lot. That usually means good things, but it was actually really tricky to shoot this in a way that tells the story of him threading the needle between the trees before hitting the rail. It took hours, (and a few mental breakdowns) and I needed almost all of it to find that sweet spot in the framing. This building has been hit just about every conceivable way over the last 10 or 11 seasons. It sits at the end of dead end road in Park City, has natural speed, always a ton of snow and is minimal bust any day of the week. To be quite honest I can’t say I was overly excited to go back here when I got word this was the chosen spot on a Monday morning in early January. “What else could possibly go down?” I asked myself while in route and questioning my decision to agree to come shoot it. As is usually the case when shooting Bode Merrill, he over-delivered once again with a text book perfect frontside invert – hand on coping; full extension; great lines framing the action; pants color sorta match the wall; no regrets. Hitting spots in the streets you never really know what you are going to get as a photographer. A lot of the stuff that makes the video isn’t exactly photo friendly, a lot of time you really need to get creative to make something work. This was not one of those situations. Like at all. I’d like to think this was payoff for the countless hours I’ve spent shooting down rails in empty fields. Thank you urban snowboarding gods for this little nugget. And thank you Frank April for distracting the not-so-happy manager of this recreation center while Louif went up for one last try, which was this shot here. There is a lot more to be said about this session, and I would like to direct you to the December issue of Transworld for further reading and to see it printed in it’s glory. Sometimes the most basic of photos can turn into something special when a rider goes above and beyond with their style. Gigi Rüf checks the style box on every run, but on this particular windlip he really went above and beyond. There’s something mesmerizing about this photo to me. It’s so basic but I can’t stop staring at the little flair he adds to this frontside 3. It makes me really want to be back in that same spot and going next. Alaska, windlips, powder, blue skies, the helicopter waiting at the bottom for another go. It’s what dreams are made of. Nestled amongst some much larger destination type resorts in the Arlberg region of the Austrian Alps, this tiny ski hill accounts for more snowboard media content per square inch than any place in the world. I’m not going to name it out of principal, although it’s been out’ed many times over the years. On any given day you can stumble upon 6 or 7, maybe even more, film crews from all over doing their thing. They are literally stacked right next to each other, often sharing a boot pack, a drop in zone, shooting angles, but never a landing. Somehow there’s a enough of those to go around. Finding a jump that’s never been done (NBD) is nearly impossible, but there’s always ways to build things a bit different each year. And with long landings this usually just means stacking some extra blocks and making it bigger. Such was the case for this jump, which I was informed had never been set up to this scale. Touch and go weather were the only thing that stood between our crew and some A-grade hammers. It took a lot of waiting around, which pushed us later and later into the afternoon. By the time we enough clearing the clouds that remained were lighting up majestically with the dipping sun. I lost count of how many tricks Torstein Horgmo and Werni Stöck stomped, but this particular go had the perfect blend of clouds, height and style. Literally the very last photo I shot of the 2016 season, and this was within the same hour as shooting Torstein’s cover from the October issue and the photo of Dan Brisse in this top 10 list. This face had been ridden a few days earlier, but Kazu found a new line through he wanted to try. Luckily the wind had blown in any old tracks that might have taken away from the image. I actually had no idea where Kazu was going to be going or that he was lining up for this feature. I didn’t have headset inside the helicopter and with the doors off it’s impossible to talk. I just followed along, and when he launched I was actually zoomed out a little more than I’d like. I remember zooming quickly while holding down the trigger and to give an idea to the scale, there were 3 frames with pretty drastically different framing while he was in the air. The last one was the keeper. He wanted to take another run at it and after picking him up we were flying to land on the peak when the call came over the radio to shut it down. Temperatures had spiked and cornice failure was likely. The 2016 season was officially over. I’ve only shot with Devun a few times over the years, but never in the area he is most known for putting on the map. I don’t know if there are many jumps in the Whistler backcountry that he didn’t pioneer. Even if it was someone else, chances are you the shot you remember is the one of him hitting it. The stars aligned in February and there was a high pressure window with new snow. We shot this jump on the first day, and being a poppy one made for great photos, most of which I had taken from the front angle. The landing was getting a bit blown apart so I switched it up to this back angle. The session was winding down and I didn’t know if I’d get more than one chance from shooting from here. I really wanted to line it up so the riders would be in the one open clear cut spot in the busy background of trees, but it was going to a bit risky if I missed. He would have popped out with his red jacket, but not to the degree of being framed in the open white space, which is kind of like putting an outline around the rider and let’s you shoot a little more loose and show the environment. This could perhaps be the luckiest shot I’ve ever taken. It was first try, and he floated right through my frame to the spot I was hoping for and somehow in the process his trick put his arm, his board, everything in perfect position to match the background. I remember looking at the back of the screen after that one and it didn’t even look real. He decided to go for one more and I didn’t even bother trying to get a better one from there, it was off to the 3rd angle. The Alaska season was coming to a close quick by the 3rd week of last April. Warm temperatures were taking its toll on the snowpack and while there were storms in the forecast, it didn’t look like anything but rain. This day before this shot, Torstein and Brisse had found this jump later in the afternoon and shaped it knowing there was a good possibility they would never get to hit it. Alaska Heliskiing, the operation that we were flying with was teetering on closing. It could be any day now. If the rain showed up before another day of sun, it would be over. The following morning the sky was far from blue, but it did show some big holes in clouds. We dressed and hoped for the best. By the time we arrived the 38 miles out of town to the base, it was looking like we had a good window. I think we were on top of the jump by 7am, possibly earlier. The only obstacle left was finding a good shooting angle. This feature was tricky, to show it’s scale, and the most obvious angle would have required hanging out mid-slope under cornice that was ready to call it a season. We opt’d to shoot from the heli, which is where the cover angle of Torstein’s October cover shot was from. Once I was confident I had that shot, I got of the heli with riders at the top and rode into the position from this photos. I had scouted it earlier, and I was really torn between which would be better, from the heli or here. Luckily the session was still going so I got a chance to do both. The first rider to go was Brisse, and it was this shot here. On this attempt he sent it the deepest he had gone all day. It was complete luck that I had been here for that one try because it’s the only shot from all next 3 each that worked from this angle. The jump was set back from edge of the drop, so when they peaked it looked like they were barely off the ground before they began free falling to the landing. But on that first try he peaked out over the edge, and it ended up being my favorite shot the session. One of the most difficult things about shooting in Alaska is managing your emotions. It can go from the highest of highs to some pretty discouraging lows. This can happen several times throughout the day, which is extremely long, 5-9, instead of your average 9-5. Keeping your head in the game, and being ready to go after hours of waiting around on weather is exhausting after a few weeks. Hours before this shot, we were at the heli base, fully geared up, just sitting around looking at dark clouds. I didn’t think there was a chance we’d be riding, that day. But still you wait and wait and wait and around 2pm the skies looked to be clearing. You can’t see past the first set of peaks, so it’s kind of anyone’s guess what’s going on out there. The only way to know for sure is to get in the helicopter and fly out. Doesn’t sound so rough, and it isn’t, except on the wallet. Just to have a look can cost you a few hundred dollars in flight time. We took the gamble that day and it paid off with Gigi Rüf scoring a run on a face called Goat Towers that gets great afternoon light. Emotions were quickly back to peaking.
Andy Wright has been part of the TransWorld staff photographer list for almost two decades. His involvement has pushed the bar of TWSNOW's aesthetics, coverage of snowboarding's best riders, and inside moments. The amount of stunning images he contributes each season is astonishing.
Currently, he’s out there wrapping up the last few weeks of the Northern Hemishere's winter and preparing his new season’s submission of hammers. We look forward to seeing what he has captured this season. Check out Andy's top 10 images from winter 2016-2017 and his connection to them. Take a moment to enjoy these and read a his backstory to each image.
Check the full gallery and extended captions above.
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