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So, although this is a weird time, and things may be uncertain - like whether Holy Bowly will be cancelled! Remember, that weird can be good.
With the heavy financial strain put on professional photographers, the Manboys have become their own media house, they were early adopters of the instantaneous way we consume snowboarding. Rusty Ockenden has now found himself wearing many hats: video editor, drone pilot, and photographer. I mean, why not do it all? Do the tricks, document it, promote it. It’s brilliant. By not having to outsource the majority of their content it makes the group hella valuable to sponsors. Fulfilling the needs of their own social streams while feeding fodder to their sponsors as well. It’s a sign of the times, you have to do what you need to do to survive today’s not-so-lucrative snowboard landscape. But Rusty’s photography didn’t develop as a content power play, it was a fantastic opportunity to learn a new skill. Over the past few seasons Rusty’s photos have become great. At least that’s what I think. But I know nothing about photography. And I’m praising the work of someone who claims they don’t know about photography. And here we are! An interview with Rusty on having a camera and taking photos.
From issue 11.2 | By Jesse Fox
Why did you start shooting photos?
We wanted to get a second angle video camera. We bought a Panasonic GH4 and a couple of fun lenses. Because I had a proper zoom lens and a cool wide angle, all of a sudden shooting photos became way more fun than shooting video. That was in 2014, I think. I was just having fun with it. We were getting cool photos. It snowballed from there.
You didn’t start because you felt you could take better photos than the photographers at the time? Or out of necessity, because of fewer photographers being available?
No, dude. I was not trying to show anyone. I wasn’t trying to prove anything. Literally… we had this piece of equipment. I started using it and I was like, A: I really enjoy this. B: we’re getting good shit. Then on days when we didn’t have a photographer, it wasn’t too big of a deal anymore because
we could shoot our own stuff. Then it reached a point where snowboarding went through this phase of social media fucking everything around, whether it’s good or bad who knows, but it reached a point where it was almost better for us not to have a photographer. Because then we could shoot our own photos and have our own photos. And not have to worry about maybe this will get run a year from now in a magazine but probably not. It just changed the dynamic I think. I don’t know, we just kept doing it.
But you must still appreciate shooting with photographers?
I just know that sometimes photographers would get upset that we were shooting our photos. Snowboarding reached a point where photographers weren’t making enough to make their ends meet and people aren’t coming out, so we kind of had to just start dealing with it ourselves. I feel like our crew is efficient at it and that’s why we do it, but I’m not claiming to be a photographer. If any photographers want to shoot with us, that’d be awesome because that’s way more valuable, having someone who is an actual professional in the group. And, if they still have a problem with us shooting photos? Then they can go fuck themselves. We’ll just do our own shit.
What’s the hardest thing about taking good photos?
I guess for me the hardest thing is just my lack of knowledge with photography in general. That’s probably my biggest obstacle.
How do you know if a photo is good or not?
Because I’ve snowboarded, and watched movies, and looked at magazines for over 20 years. I know what looks good. I just don’t really know what I’m doing. But I know if it’s good or not.
What do you try to look for, when you’re shooting photos. Do you try to make the air look big or make it visually interesting… do you look for the best light?
If it’s a legit feature, I want it to look big. And if it’s big, it’s nice to kind of show where you’re going from and where you’re landing so that whoever’s looking at it has those reference points. And I’m a sucker for good light for sure. I think every photographer is.
You ready for some skill-testing questions? These were given to me, I had to Google the answers.
Oh fuck. I’ll probably fail. But yeah, let’s do it.
What are megapixels?
Yeah, I don’t know. A thing that nerds say when they ask you how good the quality of an image is? That’s like your sensor or something? I don’t know dude. Let’s just say they are old wooden ships.
Yeah, no. A megapixel is a million pixels. Resolution is often measured in megapixels. For example, a 12-megapixel camera can produce images with 12 million total pixels. Moving on! What shutter speed do you use to freeze snowboard action?
I try not to go below one over a thousand 1/1000.
That’ll work. What is ISO?
ISO is the sensitivity to light and it is… I don’t know what it stands for, but
I think it used to be like ASA or something on film. And it was the film
sensitivity. So now ISO is like the digital standard version of the
Ding, ding, ding. ISO stands for International Standards Organization, and it is a standardized industry scale for measuring sensitivity to light. You’re killing it. What is aperture?
Aperture is another old wooden ship, this one was used in the civil war era. [Laughs] No, the aperture is the amount of light that you are letting in to hit your sensor.
Boom! Do you shoot in raw and what is a raw file?
I like to do it raw. [Laughs] Umm… What’s the question?
Do you shoot in raw?
Yeah, well my camera shoots a raw and a JPEG for each file. And the JPEGs I never use.
What is a raw file?
It’s got all the information for colouring so it has a wide spectrum of information for your shadows and your highlights and all that baloney, I think.
Yeah, that’s a pretty good answer. You sound like a photographer to me.