Her ski photography career began in Japan. Now Lauren Powers is shooting the Kootenay backcountry for such events as Soulines. We chat with her about vagabonds, skating bowls and hucking meat.
At the recent Backyard Booty event, Lauren Powers offered up an incredible slideshow that had attendees exclaiming “Sick!” from their seats. She’s been featured on Kootenay Mountain Culture‘s Instagram feed and her work is now showcased on the top sliders of this website. We caught up with Lauren to learn more about the ups and hucks of backcountry photography.
Hey Lauren. Let’s start at the beginning. Where’d you grow up?
I grew up in Kitchener, Ontario. It’s part of a tri-city that’s quickly turning into an extension of the Greater Toronto Area; there’s a lot of pavement and a lot of traffic, especially compared to the Kootenays. I’ve been in Nelson since 2014 on and off but full time here for the last two. Previous to that I lived the life of the ultimate vagabond, all over BC and in a few other countries.
What’s your professional background?
I majored in geography at UBCO then took my ski guide certification: CSGA1 and CAA1. For the past few years I’ve been a backcountry ski photographer and tail guide during the winter, as well as fitness facilitator and hiking guide for a wellness retreat during the summer months. I wanted to expand myself further so I’ve been going to school for registered massage therapy.
When did you start photography?
I received my first camera in 2009 while living in Banff from a friend who was a pro. He gave me a Nikon D1X body and I bought a Nikon 50mm F1.8 lens. He told me that if I didn’t use it he’d take it back. I wanted to show my dedication so I started to practice a lot. I’m happy it happened that way. I started backcountry ski photography some years later in 2015 while living in Niseko, Japan. I was encouraged to apply for a job, which would have been my thrid that season. I was reluctant at first for obvious reasons and also because I had no idea how to shoot that type of photography. I applied anyway and next thing I knew I was sitting in a Korean restaurant in lower Hirafu, drinking Japanese beer, and showing the owners of Niseko Photography my portfolio. I was pumped when they offered me a job and the opportunity to mentor under them. I learned a ton and now have a specialty. I’ve been working as a backcountry ski photographer ever since.
What’s your favourite subject to shoot?
I get a natural high when I shoot a strong rider who wants to huck their meat – it’s exciting! I can feel the power of their effort. I get a big adrenaline rush watching them and when I have to stand close to the landing for results; but I don’t mind the risk involved when I trust the person’s ability. It’s fun.
What do you do when you’re not snowboarding?
In the summer months I love to rock climb. Nelson and the surrounding area has so many crags! I also love to hike, camp on the beach around Vancouver Island, and I’m learning to skate bowls and the mini ramp, but it’s hard. Concrete is unforgiving.
What’s the most challenging shoot I’ve been on?
Shooting at Soulines last year was really challenging. It was a big line competition with a lot of features, shitty light, minimal communication, and a fast pace. I had to choose a spot that would catch the most people coming down and I had never been there before. After a couple quick conversations I had a vague idea on what location on the slope people were planning to hit and just went in blind from the top looking for a good spot. It was stressful because I could hear people dropping from the radio but had no visual of them coming down. It took a couple attempts to find the best spot, but in the end I nailed it. I set up underneath a massive rock feature that people were hitting but it also had a good visual view to the left and right.
What’s your favourite photograph and why?
I have this favourite image that I took in the Sandon Range. My friend Derek Egan sent this big drop in the trees. I have a shot of him right after he lands. There’s this powder waterfall behind him that alludes to the height. He’s deep in the fluff, you can see the tip of his board, pack, and head. It’s a clear shot and to me it looks like something amazing just happened. I’m proud of that one.
What’s next for your career?
Being in school has created a lot of limitation for me this year and I’m super excited to get more involved in photography next year. My goals are to shoot with confident riders who want the shot as much as I do, who don’t mind making a day of it. I essentially want bigger mountains, more interesting features, and I’m also looking forward to getting back into travelling. My dream spots to shoot and shred are India, Antarctica, and Chile. But we will see how things unfold – life is interesting that way. I’d also love to meet another person to mentor under: I learn best from experience and I’d love to follow someone around and give me suggestions and creative criticism.