When photographer Tom Robertson was skiing in the mountains of Montana last year with writer friend Ben Horan, they thought it would be a unique idea to do a ski tour of volcanoes in central Oregon. The pair, who had partnered up on some bike touring trips before, both share a love of skiing and adventure. So, when they pitched the story to a bike touring magazine and it was accepted, they immediately started to plan the trip—they even got commercial partners including Trek Bikes, Surface Skis and Oregon tourism among many others. Tom and Ben, along with two others, embarked on the trip form Portland to Bend, Oregon pedaling up to 150 lbs of gear up steep roads and through shifting weather conditions, skiing all along the way. Read more about Tom’s experience in the Q&A below!
How does this project fit into your photographic style?
A lot of my work involves endurance sports and documenting adventure trips. The work that gives me the most fulfillment always involves using my fitness to put myself in unique situations where I can authentically capture what is happening.
Were there any challenges involved with this project? If so, how did you overcome them?
There were challenges that came up during the trip. After weeks of sunny weather in Oregon, it turned to rain a few days into our trip. Pedaling 150 lb. bikes up steep, gravel roads was appropriately hard. Trying to document the trip, while being part of the group, and not slowing us down or delaying our progress, is physically hard.
This was the most physically demanding adventure trip that I’ve done. The biggest challenge for me photographically was keeping my energy levels up to be able to document the trip appropriately. I had to keep pushing myself to shoot when at times, all I wanted to do was crawl into a tent and sleep.
What was involved in planning/preproduction?
The majority of the planning involved the logistics of the trip itself—from getting four people and a ton of gear to the starting point, to mapping out an itinerary. Having so much cycling/skiing/camping gear meant I was sensitive to how much camera gear I could take. I’ve done many bike adventures in the past and have a system that works for me when carrying camera gear. I had never done as much skiing with gear, so experimenting with a system that allowed me to climb and ski with gear while still being easily accessible took some work and a few trial runs.
What has the reaction to the images been so far?
The reaction from most people was, “you rode bikes with that much gear?!” The images were unique in the sense that riding such fully loaded bikes (with trailers and ski gear) was a bit different than the usual cycling and skiing shots out there. There were positive responses from all editorial and commercial outlets.
Any future plans for this project?
I plan on using some of the images for marketing material. But mostly, the writer and I have used this trip in helping us secure similar trips in the future. We are working on a couple of others using this trip as an example, as well as, using the contacts and connections we made from this adventure to secure other work.
Did you learn anything through the creation of this series?
I learned that pedaling 150 lb. bikes and having 15-hour hiking and ski days is even more physically taxing than I imagined it would be. Also, the trip verified that this is my favorite type of work to do— where I can combine my photographic skills with fitness to put myself in unique situations in documenting adventures.