Lee Cohen Photo

Alta Is For Skiers
Alta Is For Skiers

Lee Cohen Podcast
An AltaCam Exclusive!

JB & LC Segment 1
JB & LC Segment 2
JB & LC Segment 3

Discuss this Podcast

Why Ski Alta?
On January 20th, 2007, Johnny B met up with Alta local and one of skiing's top photographers Lee Cohen at his home at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Mountains. Read the contents of Johnny and Lee's discussion or listen to the MP3 podcasts which are segmented into three parts:

Johnny B: Hello skiers, welcome to AltaCam.com. My name is Johnny B and today I'll be talking with professional photographer Lee Cohen. Good to see you, Lee. How are you doing?

LC: Good. How's it going, Johnny B.

Johnny B: Alright, good to see you. First off, I want to tell you that your deep pow photos have always inspired me to ski the deepest powder but more so, they've inspired in the long hot summer months here to fantasize about skiing deep powder. Keep it up. We love your photos, bro!

Johnny B: Alright, Lee, I got to ask you. You've been killing it a long time. Tell us what goes through your mind on a bluebird powder morning. How do you stay calm amidst all the chaos?

LC: Stay calm? I don't stay calm. I'm up widging like a madman if it looks like it might clear up. Is it gonna clear up? Is it gonna be cloudy? Do you bust a move or not? As I've gotten older, I've gotten a little bit more in to working on the primo days and let them less great days go by where you have to work harder for your photos?

Johnny B: Sure.

LC: But I still like to get out there and work for it. But a bluebird morning is a lot of nerves and a lot of hustle. So, try to scramble and, you know, get on the program and get it done.

Johnny B: Right, right. Get your athletes together and just going berserk.

LC: That all happens the night before.

Johnny B: Alright.

LC: And then you have people on call and you get ready to roll in the morning and try to bust a move because there's a lot of people around here doing a lot of things.

Johnny B: So, a lot goes into these great photos.

LC: Well, a lot of planning, definitely and then, you know, the biggest factor for me is light. Having the light the way I want it, sets up my photos. That's the biggest factor that I'm going to look at, integrate it with the terrain and then it comes down to the skier, having the good form, busting their move, whatever it is they're going to be doing and everything has to come together perfectly including exposing the film or the digital exposure correctly, the light, the composition, the form and technique and the terrain.

Johnny B: Alright. There you have it. Alright. That leads me to this question. What's your biggest challenge as a ski photographer and what's the one shot you wish you could have back?

LC: Well, the biggest challenge is staying motivated and staying on top of it because it's tough. There's a lot of competition out there. That's the biggest challenge. I have to try to remember to just stay in my own world and not really give a damn about whatever everybody else is doing because it doesn't really matter.

LC: The shot I wish I could have back? Probably Gordy doing the ice bulge in Alaska. I got a bunch of shots of it but I didn't get the frame I wanted and this was at a TGR film probably like, I think it was in the year 2000. And, he just subjected himself to this incredible, like it was mandatory, you know, no way anybody could do it. He knew it and he just calculated the wipe-out, the in run, the straight run, the wipe-out. And, it was incredible. People were freaking.

Johnny B: Well, at least, you got to see it.

LC: I got to see it. I got a few shots out of it but just not the one I wanted.

Johnny B: We're talking about Gordy Peifer here?

LC: Gordy Peifer.

Johnny B: Nice!

LC: That's Peifer!

Johnny B: Yeah Peifer! Alright. I stand corrected. Alright, alright. We wanna take it back, to when it all began. A little walk down memory lane if you will. Let's take it back. Who was your first cover shot? Bring us back to the day. Who was it? Where was it?

LC: It's my buddy, Steve Garrett. It was kind of...

Johnny B: Oh the legendary old man.

LC: The legendary old man. It was in 1988 and I remember when it came out, it was at Alta, I didn't even know I was getting the cover and somebody in the Rustlerů I was in the Rustler hanging out, going to the bar and one of the employees said, nice cover shot! February '88.

Johnny B: No way!

LC: I was totally surprised and blown away.

Johnny B: Powder magazine?

LC: Yep. Powder magazine.

Johnny B: That's awesome, man! That's great. I'm sure that really propelled the old man to greatness himself.

LC: Yeah, the ancient one, he's still out there turnin' em.

Johnny B: Yeah.

LC: For the crotchety of old dude that he is.

Johnny B: He is smooth. I see him out there. Smooth. (Laughter) The ancient one. Okay. Lee, share with us your fondest memory up in Alta before the camera, when you just came out, you were just skiing, before you started taking pictures. Take us back to the, you know, the early days. Lee Cohen, skiing up at Alta.

LC: Well, the best memory I have is December 1983 where I was a complete ski bum. I was just startin' to take some pictures. It was just of my friends. I haven't ever really thought about trying to sell a picture yet. I had a couple of my buddies that I grew up with living with me and it snowed 245 inches in the month of December 1983.

Johnny B: Whoa..

LC: And everyday it was chokers on High Rustler. The snow seemed lighter than now. I don't know if it really was. The skis were skinnier so we were gettin' in there. But, it was just the most unbelievable streak of snowfall ever.

Johnny B: [Whistle]

LC: 400 inches by January, it was about. It was close to 400 inches by January.

Johnny B: Where is that snow now? Man, gosh!

LC: But you know what though, like this is the first time we've ever had to reckon with anything, this winter, similar to what people in Tahoe or the northwest deal with on a regular basis or the southwest like a place like Taos, like they have a ton of crummy winters.

Johnny B: Sure.

LC: Colorado is dreamin'. Colorado would be psyched on having what we have now and everybody here is just bumming unbelievably.

Johnny B: We're spoiled. We're definitely spoiled.

LC: Spoiled. Wasatch wussies.

Johnny B: Wow! I can't... December 1983... unbelievable! Unbelievable! We got to get back to that. I got to ask you this. We know you're a big Red Sox fan, Lee. Get off the subject of skiing for a minute. We know you're a huge Red Sox fan.

Johnny B: Obviously, getting married to Robin, the birth of your son, Sam, and your first cover shot were huge moments in your life. Where does the 04 Red Sox winning their first World Series in a trillion years stand in the Lee Cohen all-time huge moment list? Tell us about the feelings you had when that occurred. I mean, it pains me to ask you this question because, you know, I'm a big Yankee fan but I got to know.

LC: It's right up there with all great personal moments. It's kind of like a lifetime you've been waiting if you're a Red Sox fan for something like that to happen. And, when the Yankees were up 3-0 and the Sox were taking that fourth game, I just had a feeling that they could go all the way and they just, they took care of business. It was great!

Johnny B: Aww... Man! (Laughter)

LC: It's all I can say. Sorry, Johnny B.


Johnny B: I'm glad you enjoyed the moment. Lee, you've been fortunate to travel to many great places in this world, please share with us, where's your favorite place? Where's your favorite country and, why?

LC: Well, right here is my favorite place. As far as, I've just had my best time skiing here and I've gone to a lot of great places and they're all great and it would be really hard to compare, you know, the greatest places in Switzerland to Russia to other great places where I've been, to Alaska, South America. I've only been to South America in the summer. I hope to go skiing there sometime but when it all comes down to it, I end up staying home a lot just because it gives me the closest thing to getting the goods for sure.

Johnny B: The best opportunity for the best deepest powder shots right here...

LC: Right here. The closest thing to a guarantee in a business with no guarantees. Though this year, it's kind of long-winded.

Johnny B: Yeah, it will come. It will come. Cool. For my next question, I understand you've recently traveled to Hawaii to shoot surfing on the North Shore. Your photo of the wave at Waimea is truly mind-blowing. Is your next challenge surf photography?

LC: No. No, that was more of just kind of like I've always wanted to go and shoot Pipeline. We were in a high pressure and I was lucky enough to have a buddy living on North Shore within a couple miles of the Pipe and it was really convenient to go do it and we've been talking about it for a few years. I just wanted to get a chance to shoot some big waves and it was a lot of fun and I submitted them and I didn't really do too hot, you know, there is a whole slew of surf photographers out there lined up on the beach way more than ski photographers even and it would be a hard nut to crack and I half-heartedly tried to crack it and got nowhere.

Johnny B: (Laughter) Alright, alright. Well...

LC: I got some photos out of it.

Johnny B: You got great shots. They're great shots. Lee, it's been a pleasure to sit down and talk with you. You are a true legend in my book. Before we go skiing, tell us what Alta means to you.

LC: Alta has just been such a big part of my life. I just love the place. It's been unbelievable. It's offered me great opportunities. It's a special place. It's a magical winter place. It's a tiny little hamlet near a big city that you can just get lost in and it's mind-blowing to experience Alta on a good powder day. It's unbelievable.

Johnny B: I couldn't agree with you more, Lee. Lee, thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. It's good to see you again. Take care, brother.

LC: Thank you, Johnny B. Take care.

Johnny B: Nice to see you. This is Johnny B with professional photographer Lee Cohen for Altacam.com. See you on the slopes. Don't forget to log on next week for my next interview with the famous Alta patroller. You might've seen him. We're going to find out. Thank you!

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