A story told from behind the camera lens

Skiers and riders chase storms, ski photographers take it to another level. The perfect storm can set the stage for the perfect shot. Join a photographer’s world with “My Ikon: My Lens” as we observe their obsession with the craft through all types of winter conditions, as they seek out that long-awaited frame.

My Ikon: My Lens focuses on three talented photographers and the incredible athletes they work with. Photographers Stephen Shelesky, Ben Duke, and Erica Hinck, with athletes Svea Irving, Vincente Katz, and AJ Cutler, showcase a variety of styles, locations, and challenges. Each with a different view on photography and sport, they all share the desire to express the beauty of the mountains and the excitement of skiing and snowboarding through their art.

I love showing the interaction of humans with the environment in a way that is symbiotic and respectful. With my photography, I am trying to share how beautiful the world is. I want it to be as simple as that.” - Stephen Shelesky

Photo by Stephen Shelesky at Arapahoe Basin.

When looking through your favorite ski magazines, the images highlight athletes at their best and in the majestic scenery of the mountains. These images invoke wanderlust, inspiration, and a desire to get out there. What the viewer does not always see is the honed skill, technical savvy, and battle of the elements behind that image. With much of sports photography, the photographer has to be just as good as the athlete, while under the weight of photography equipment and, in these cases, sometimes even while skiing backwards. It is often work that is accomplished before sunrise and after dark, navigating terrain and working with Mother Nature’s unpredictable snow, wind, and sun.

Stephen points out that it’s when these things align – “the lighting, the mountain, the athlete” – that he can accomplish the “perfect” shot.  And how do you know it’s a perfect shot?

When I see a good photograph, I know it's a good photograph because I want to look at it forever. That’s exciting.” - Stephen Shelesky

Stephen points out, “Sometimes, it doesn’t go as planned. When I review photos and they don’t live up to my expectations, it’s just a reason to go out again. It doesn’t always happen [perfectly], but when it does, you want to keep chasing that feeling.” 

That “feeling” is something all skiers, snowboarders, and winter enthusiasts seek. It’s that awe when you create a beautiful new line on a mountain’s canvas of snow, or you capture a moment in time that frames up a memory forever.

Stephen returned to explore Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Colorado this winter with U.S. Ski Team freeskier, Svea Irving, who grew up in nearby Winter Park. Fresh off a podium-achieving World Cup season, Svea was ready to tackle a new challenge and work with a photographer to capture something less scripted – something more aligned with the days that so many skiers and riders enjoy at their favorite resort.

Working with a photographer in the halfpipe versus big mountain is so different. When I’m in the half pipe, I’m just doing my thing over and over and they’re capturing it. But working one on one with a photographer you can get really creative." - Svea Irving

Photographers like Ben Duke of Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Erica Hinck of Salt Lake City, Utah also explore their local mountains each day to discover new pockets of snow, new angles, and new up-and-coming athletes.

As a homegrown ski bum-turned-dad, Ben Duke’s favorite moments are on the mountain he and his daughter grew up on, with his strong community around him. In particular, he explains, “The chemistry between photographer and athlete is hard to find. So, I was really stoked when I found Vicente [Katz].” 

As a transplant from a small mountain town to a bigger city, Erica Hinck is passionate about advocating for the inclusion of more BIPOC women in sports photography and wants to spread the stoke for both female photographers and athletes, like local Utah skier AJ Cutler who makes it easy to have fun while working. 

And, as an openly gay man who has spent much of his life traveling around the world, Stephen Shelesky wants to encourage more people of all backgrounds to find their true selves in expressing their passions through creativity.

I don’t want there to be gatekeeping. I love the collaborative feeling. The ski community gave me the space to be myself, which is an unlikely space, but I have found really accepting people willing to embrace any version of me. I want the ski industry to be for everyone. I love seeing that everyone is out there shooting. If it makes you happy and you enjoy it, the more the merrier.” - Stephen Shelesky

What brings all of these individuals together, though, is their love for spending time in the mountains. The early mornings start to bring anticipation, the freezing weather inspires you to get out the gear, the piling snow makes you picture soft turns, and flipping through unbelievable shots of the mountains makes you want to get out there and get your own. 

This is what it means to see the mountain through your own lens.

There’s this simple joy that skiing brings - going fast or floating through powder - that you don’t quite understand until you’ve gone through it. And its super addicting.” - Stephen Shelesky

Thank you, for the creativity and passion that photographers, skiers, snowboarders, and mountain teams bring to our winter communities to ensure this joy and magic are saved and shared.