Above: Copa in the pipe. Gilchrist in the BC.
Descender: How did you get started taking photographs?
CJ: That's a funny question that I always get asked. I can't really put a finger on it, it's blurry. I always enjoyed creative things growing up. I shot a bit in high school, not on the damn yearbook staff or anything kooky, just dorking around with friends, skiing or whatever. (ed note: Rob was the editor of his high school yearbook, and didn't find the experience "kooky," but rather, quite rewarding and educational. So for you high school students reading this, if you ever want to publish a magazine, join the yearbook staff today!) My dad deserves some credit for planting the seeds, I guess. He used to shoot pics of me doing each of the sports I was involved in: football, soccer, skiing, etc.. I was just like anybody else. I loved checking out action photos of myself doing my thing. Not posed stuff, no portraits or anything, just action. The body in motion. Seeing myself on film definitely made an impression on me. It made me want to do the same for other people, friends and whatnot.
CJ: I also traveled a lot when I was younger. I used to bop around these foreign countries with my folks making pictures. Child s play aside, however, I suppose my first real push towards professional endeavors started in Steamboat, CO. I moved there post college to do the ski bum thing. My grandpa had just passed away and I was given his brand new pro 35mm setup. No joke, this thing had seen about ten rolls when I got it. I just started shooting with my friends. I also got lucky with the weather there. One year, Steamboat set their record for snowfall. It was sick!! And that place gets 300 days of sun each year, too. It was hard to take a bad photo. I sold a few, and those led to selling a few more, and so it goes. I envisioned this crazy, cool lifestyle of traveling, doing all of my favorite outdoor activities and getting paid. I just went for it. Oh yeah, I bailed on both medical school and grad school in Philosophy to pursue it. Never looked back.
Descender Issue 4:
Left, Mt. Baker road gap. Right, Copa.
D: What do you like most about being a photographer? Least?
CJ: Without a doubt, the best thing about it is the lifestyle. Trotting the globe, or even my own backyard, wherever, hanging with great people, great athletes, people who love the outdoors and love nothing more than what they do, it's amazing. It really stokes me. Talk about a great vibe to work around. It really has a strong effect on me. Almost everybody I come in contact with is stoked to be doing what they're doing, on cloud nine. One pro skier I was shooting actually said that he'd rather ski 30 inches of powder that have sex with his favorite supermodel!! He'll remain nameless.
CJ: The thing I like the least about it is the biz side. It's not horrible or anything, but it surely stands in stark contrast to traveling and shooting. On the business side, I'm able talk to cool people, folks who are fired up on the outdoor sports industry. But the fact remains, that I have to spend a ton of time attached to a computer or a phone. Setting things up, or whatever. It's the flim flam behind the glam, I guess. Still kicks ass over corporate time clock punching.
D: What's the funniest thing that's happened to you on a shoot?
CJ: I don't know if this is the funniest, but something really funny that comes to mind. I was shooting this Canoeing gig for Old Town Canoes in conjunction with REI, and we were up at Baker Lake, WA. I was working with a couple of really good looking models, a guy and a girl, a couple. We got them all dressed up, the perfect clothes, hair in place, the whole shebang. I had been told that they both had "moderate" canoe experience. Way wrong. 5 minutes into working a little gust comes up and before they have a clue, they re swimming. It was March, and we were in the middle of the lake. Sunny and all that, sure, but the water was damn near freezing! I'll never forget the wide open eyes and the scrambling it took them to get back into that canoe. They were great sports, though. Thanks for the laughs Mark and Amy.
D: How about the scariest?
CJ: The scariest was no doubt watching my good friend, ski model Jamie Monroe, misjudged the approach on a 40 foot cliff in the Cascades. He lined it up a bit wrong and as he turned into his line, the fresh snow slid out from under him and took him over headfirst upside down and tumbling down this rock face. It was so brutal that I didn't shoot a frame. I totally froze. I thought he was dead. As it turned out, he made it, a few cuts, bruises, and torn clothing aside. He was pissed at me for not shooting!!!