Based in Pemberton, British Columbia, Ben Girardi is a dedicated outdoor photographer. Bringing his gifts to sports, adventure, lifestyle, and portrait photography, Ben specializes in capturing the excitement of outdoor activity. He met a great match in Zeal Optics after being introduced to their marketing director through another client. Zeal Optics creates high-quality eyewear for outdoor sports and adventures. They also have a deep connection to the environment, using plant-based materials for their frames and lenses. Ben has had such a successful collaboration with Zeal Optics that they make it a plan to work together annually. His photography on its own complements its brand through his skill as well as his vision. However, his background in the sports their equipment facilitates ultimately makes it possible.
Being in the right region and having the skillset to capture images is part of why my partnership with Zeal continues. Still, beyond my photography skills, I have the knowledge and equipment to move safely in the mountains. From owning and operating a snowmobile proficiently to snow safety, companion rescue, first aid, and general preparedness skills are all part of it. When we shoot in the backcountry, we are part of a team with the ultimate goal of always getting home safe while creating compelling images.
Each season Zeal’s marketing department determines the direction they wish to take. To illustrate the trust they have built with Ben, by the time they meet they are already discussing locations. On this shoot, Zeal shipped all of the products to Ben. After initially booking the athletes, they also turned over all communications directly to Ben. While they do not always keep the crew so small, in this case, it was necessary. Ben and his subjects would be heading up into the mountains where only those experienced in traversing this terrain could go.
The locations we shot in are all difficult to access in the backcountry of British Columbia. For two of the locations, we traveled via snowmobile; for another, we ski toured. These locations require everyone involved in the shoot days to be proficient in mountain travel and comfortable moving in this terrain.
We worked in a variety of conditions for this shoot, from sunny days in alpine terrain to snowy days below treeline. This provided a variety of looks throughout the shoot. Working in colder temperatures can be more difficult. The key to still creating compelling imagery is to ensure all my other skills are sharp and I’m as prepared as possible. I’m prepared for anything, such as bringing layers if I get cold or managing the situation if my snowmobile gets stuck. I can keep my focus entirely on shooting and working with my subjects and the other stuff I can do automatically without much thought.
Ben’s work would ultimately be used in trade shows and then featured directly to customers. It needed to feature the entire line, spanning all of the products and colors available. In order to accommodate the athletes’ schedules, the shoot took place throughout the season. Fortunately, this proved to be a blessing in that it provided a diverse array of sunlight and weather conditions to work with. Ben already had a relationship with most of the athletes on this shoot, as well as an intimacy with their craft.
With sports such as snowboarding and skiing, I’m heavily involved and understand what is possible. This gives the athletes trust when I ask them to do something specific that will look good. I find communication vital as it allows both me and the athlete to know what will happen and what the shot will look like before we start.
The energy was high during the shoot. Everybody knew each other before the shoot and was excited to hang out. This positive energy keeps everyone stoked and keeps people excited about being there. Even though it often won’t be as exciting as a day out snowboarding, since we are moving slower, capturing lifestyle imagery in addition to the action.
It’s easy to find the story of this shoot as exciting as the imagery it produced. A group of athletes and a photographer not only traveled a terrain safely to achieve their goal but also demonstrated their knowledge and camaraderie in taking care of one another. In one incident, the handlebars of a snowmobile snapped after rolling downwards during a hill climb. They were able to quickly repair it and keep moving.
With any project, it’s all about building and maintaining relationships in addition to delivering exceptional images to the client. For this project, I was grateful to be working with a strong crew of athletes and people who are prepared for backcountry travel. When we ran into mechanical issues with one of the snowmobiles, having the tools and knowledge to fix the problem meant we all made it home when needed.
Ben’s work with Zeal Optics continues during the writing of this article. In fact, he’s putting the final touches on another shoot he did for them in Argentina. Expect more adventures to come through this bold and adventurous collaboration.
See more of Ben’s work on his website.
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