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Alta Is For Skiers


Johnny B Podcast
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In the summer of 2007, Johnny B sat down with ski photographer Adam Clark to discuss the Endless Winter and other killer projects Adam has been working on. Read the contents of Johnny and Adam's discussion or listen to the MP3 podcast.

Johnny B: Hello, skiers. Welcome to AltaCam.com. My name is Johnny B. Today, I'll be talking with professional photographer Adam Clark.

Adam, recently I talked to you at a barbecue, and we were talking about your "Endless Winter" that you're about to...You're involved in it right now. You're in the middle of it. You've got six more months to go. Where is that going to take you?

Adam Clark: Yeah. Well, it started last September in South America. I came home in October. We started skiing in Utah. We had a great early season.

Johnny B: Mmhmm.

Adam Clark: It didn't finish out too well, so I didn't spend much time in Utah, but I traveled to British Columbia, Washington, Alaska, this last winter. Winter is pretty much done here in Utah. I've still been skiing around Utah; there was a main shoot at Baldy this morning. Actually, it was pretty horrible but it was still skiing.

Then Monday evening, I fly back to Alaska for a 35-day Denali Expedition. I'm going with Clark Fyans, Chris Davenport, and Nick DeVore. We're just going up there to ski. I'm sure we'll try the summit. There's a bunch of first descents that are all really classic that nobody has ever done. There's a couple of classics and we'd be happy to ski those if conditions look good. So I'm really excited for this Denali trip. It's something really different for me: 35 days in a tent, hiking and everything. No helicopters or snowmobiles or lifts, so that will be cool.

Then after that, I go at the end of July to New Zealand, and then straight from New Zealand to Argentina, trying to finish up the Levitation Project's ski and snowboard movie. I'm excited to go to New Zealand. I've never been there.

Then I'll be back to winter time in Utah.

Johnny B: It sounds like a great time, Adam - an "Endless Winter" of course. Well, talk about this project–this movie you're working on.

Adam Clark: Yeah, the Levitation Project. It's pretty cool. I'm excited about it. It's a group of skiers, snowboarders, photographers, filmers–basically snow enthusiasts. And now it's skaters and surfers too. It's really athlete-driven. It's a clothing line, but we're also making a movie that's going to have skiing, snowboarding, and skating–all kinds of cool stuff.

The website's really fun. It's down right now but, mid-September, it'll be back up and running. It'll have everybody's profiles, stories, photos, videos–all kinds of stuff to download, and music. So basically it's just a collaboration of a bunch of fun people that love what they do.

Johnny B: Sure. There you have it folks–the Levitation Project. You heard it right here on AltaCam.com.

When you shot Jamie Pierre's big record air a couple of years ago, what went through your mind? Were you scared for him? Talk about that.

Adam Clark: Yeah, I was really scared. Jamie is a good friend of mine. I drove up the night before. I just came in from a different trip and called him randomly and he told me he was jumping the cliff the next day. So I drove up to Targhee and slept in the parking lot and woke up. We had a cup of coffee, and he said he was excited and he wasn't too nervous about it. You have to trust the athlete's judgement.

Johnny B: Sure.

Adam Clark: I don't do what those guys do. I don't really even begin to understand what goes through their head. If one of those guys says that he's confident about it and they feel good about it, then there's nothing I can really say. So I was very scared, but on the other hand, I felt good about it. I definitely thought a lot about it before I went up, like, "Should I be there? Do I want to see this happen? If something bad happens, I don't really want to see it. I don't want to be a part of it."

Johnny B: Right.

Adam Clark: But then again, Jamie's one of the best at what he does. So I decided that I wanted to be there. It ends up that it was a really good thing that I was up there, because I was the one who ended up digging him out of this hole.

Johnny B: Right.

Adam Clark: He didn't want any doctors. He didn't want anybody there to help him, and it had something, I think, to do with his belief in God. I'm not totally sure about that but he just wanted to do it clean and, in his words, "pure."

So the filmers and photographers were all set up. We all had our positions. We were all ready to go. He said that he was going to be ready in two minutes. I looked around and there was nobody who was close to where he was going to land in two minutes. There was a couple of other people hiking up who wanted to get ready to be able to help dig him out.

Johnny B: Sure.

Adam Clark: But they were ten minutes away. He was going in two minutes, no matter what anybody else said. So I grabbed my tripod, my camera, and skied down, right next to the cliff where I could still kind of get a shot when I was there.

Johnny B: Yes.

Adam Clark: It worked out, because he jumped and he was completely buried. He was upside-down in the snow. There was six feet of snow over his head.

Johnny B: Damn.

Adam Clark: When it first happened, I got a huge rush of adrenaline and then I saw just the skis sticking out of the snow and they weren't moving at all.

Johnny B: So you had to react.

Adam Clark: Yeah. My very first thought was that he'd died, just because he wasn't moving. Then his skis started wiggling. I was like, “Oh my god! He's alive!” I was running over there and breathing hard and I didn't have my gloves on. I just started digging and digging and digging. And he was fine, totally fine.

Johnny B: So let me get this straight. You not only got the shot, but then abandoned your equipment and went and saved him.

Adam Clark: Yeah.

Johnny B: That's pretty impressive. I haven't heard that story. Tell us, what's your favorite photo? Who was it? Where were you?

Adam Clark: That's a tough question.

Johnny B: It sure is.

Adam Clark: I've been shooting for ten years now full-time. I've been traveling all those ten years and shooting with a bunch of great athletes, a lot of them my best friends. When I go through my files and look at my shots, I have my top picks. Some of the shots were never even published; they just bring back a lot of great memories and that's one of my favorite reasons to shoot. And then there's always a few that really shine above the rest.

There's a shot of Jamie Blair from Jakobshorn in Switzerland around Davos. It's never been published. It's one of my favorite shots. I've got a print of it in my bedroom. It's just him skiing these ribbed snow lines in the foreground and background with just really beautiful shadows. The snow was 20 days old and it was still recrystallized powder. It was just one of those beautiful perfect days when everything came together.

We were in a new place, going out into the back country, and we found these beautiful perfect lines. It's really what it's all about for me. It's going out with your friends and finding something new and skiing something really rad. That's what that photo does for me.

Johnny B: It pretty much just represents going out in great beautiful places with great people, and it doesn't even matter that it wasn't published.

Adam Clark: Exactly. It should have been published because it's awesome.

Johnny B: What's the holdup?

Adam Clark: It's crazy when you look at a year's worth of work, or ten years' worth of work, and the shots that get used and the shots that don't. You never know. The photo editors choose their edits on stuff that isn't always based on the best shot; it's layout, and what works and what sells. I don't really know.

Johnny B: Kind of what they're looking for.

Adam Clark: Kind of what they're looking for. It's always different.

Johnny B: I see. Well, speaking of photography, Adam, how did you react to digital photography? Like learning to ski on skinny skis before fast skis, did learning to shoot with film help you with digital?

Adam Clark: For sure. The basic concepts of film and digital are still the same. So you can learn on either one and it's going to reflect on the other. I personally love digital now. I probably shoot about 90% digital. I like the work flow–you know, to see your photos instantly. I like not having to travel and carry a bunch of film. I think it just gives you a lot more opportunity to learn from your mistakes and also to experiment.

Johnny B: Me, personally, Adam, I love the fact that you don't have to go through that anxiety of wondering what photos came out or what didn't come out.

Adam Clark: Yeah.

Johnny B: You don't have to wait. You can look right away.

Adam Clark: That's nice for sure. That's where I think you can learn a lot from your mistakes really fast.

Johnny B: Right.

Adam Clark: Going home and developing your film and seeing how badly you messed something up–it's nice for sure, but there's still...I still like a sharp slide. There's still nothing like perfectly exposed sharp slide. I still love getting that back.

Johnny B: What does Alta mean to you?

Adam Clark: It's what pretty much inspired me to be a ski photographer, I think. It's inspired me to be outside. After traveling the world, skiing resorts and everywhere, this is still the place I want to call home. It's Alta. If I fantasize about skiing, it's either skiing a deep storm powder day with my bros at Alta or it's the perfect Alaska heli day. To me, those two–there's nothing better.

Johnny B: There you have it folks–Adam Clark, professional photographer. This is Johnny B with AltCcam.com. Adam, thank you for taking your time.

Adam Clark: Thanks.

Johnny B: I really appreciate it. Good to see you.

Adam Clark: You too, buddy.

Johnny B: Right on, brother.

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