Over the last decade the paths you can take to make a living as a photographer have changed fairly dramatically. There’s many more people giving it a go than there were years back — these days every crew has a photographer and a filmer of their own. It’s unlikely you’ll go anywhere shred is happening and not see someone shooting. But with a environment of content everywhere, all the time, how you make a living at it is not as cut and dry as it once was.
We’ve talked to photographers and filmers in the past, but one of the avenues we haven’t explored to deeply is the resort photographer… What’s it like? How do you get there? With the age of now, and instant gratification environments like Instagram and Snapchat, it was more important than ever for resorts to be pumping out there own content on the daily. Not just stuff for their own feeds… stuff to be shared by others.
One resort we noticed doing a good job with this all season long was Big Boulder in the snowboard mecca of Pennsylvania. The fucking Poconos, the place of honeymoon legend. Reed Weimer was the man shooting their content, and putting it out there, day in and day out, all presumably from a heart shaped hot tub surrounded by shag carpeting. How can you live that sort of dream? Let’s find out.
So you’re a staff photographer for Big Boulder… what exactly does that entail?
A lot of long hours, planning, hard work, and dedication to say the least. Between my office and on hill responsibilities a ten or twelve hour day wasn’t unheard of for me working six to seven days a week which made for a weird and probably unhealthy life schedule, but I loved what I got to do everyday so it really didn’t feel like work to me.
I assume it’s also pretty tough to pre-plan too… like with anything snow, your plans change with a pending storm, or overnight snow etc. You’ve just got to be ready to go when it’s go time?
As much as I would try to pre-plan a photo it’s rare that everything falls into place. Anything from the natural sunlight to a rider not feeling conditions, or how the feature is riding. A few times I would step outside and see how the sunlight is falling in a certain area, and would be scrambling to get a shot before I lost light, which is super frustrating if it doesn’t work out. There’s this unfortunate curse at Boulder where everyday at 3pm, right when we open midweek, it gets cloudy, casting flat light on the hill, which is just about the worst light to shoot on-snow photos. I knew the times that light would be cast on certain parts of the slopes and really planned shoots around that. Regardless of all the frustrations of not nailing the shot when it all falls into place and I can walk away with a banger shot that was worth all the work.
What do you end up shooting for end product wise?
Ultimately I end up shooting for just about anything that the resort needs from social media content, to banners, to posters, magazine ads, online ads, and billboards. It’s awesome to see my work in a variety of places. Throughout the winter I had friends from Jersey sending me Snapchats of an ad for Boulder I shot that ended up at multiple gas stations around Mountain Creek, a nice big ‘what’s up’ to put it nicely for all the travelers in that area. I’ve even received a call from my Mom after she saw a billboard near Philly with one of my shots on it. She was stoked to say the least. If she could’ve cut that thing down and put it on the fridge she would’ve, so shoutout to moms for being always being super cool, especially mine.
Did you seek out that role or did you find yourself in it one day? Like were you looking for a snow industry type job?
I was actually up at Mountain Creek for a Burton Mountain Festival Tour stop working for the weekend when I got a call from a buddy of mine who is also friends with our Director of Freestyle Terrain. He was looking for someone to shoot photos and videos for Boulder. I got in touch with him and that Monday I was driving over to Boulder for an interview. Next thing I know I was moving up to the Poconos. It all fell into place great so I’m thankful for those friends and connections I’ve made over the years.
The Poconos has connotations of heart shaped beds and honeymoon suites. I assume that’s how you lived for the winter?
Unfortunately neither my bed or my hot tub at my house are heart shaped but if you’re looking to get into some heart shaped tubs for the hell of it I’ve got you covered. If you’re into old abandoned shit there’s an old resort I’ve been to where every honeymoon cabin has shag carpet walls, mirrored ceilings above the beds, and red heart shaped tubs. No promises on what diseases you might leave with but the place is classic Poconos, it’s straight out of the 70’s. If you’re looking for something a bit cleaner then hit up Shenanigan’s and the Boom Boom Room in Lake Harmony on a Friday or Saturday night. They’ve got a heart shaped tub built into the wall where you and your friends can get lit, take a group picture in it, then sing drunken karaoke. Just don’t drop the mic after you slay your song, the bouncers don’t like that very much.
Did you grow up in Pennsylvania?
Born and raised. Grew up about an hour outside of Philly within ten minutes of this super small Mom and Pop ‘mountain’ which is more or less a bump in the middle of suburbia, but it’s where I spent all of time on snow before I could drive elsewhere so I’m thankful for that place.
Did you learn to take photos through snowboarding? I know you said you went to Woodward’s Digital Media camp?
I actually started out and was heavily involved with videography before I even knew a thing about photography. Woodward was awesome because I knew that I always wanted to focus in action sports since I grew up snowboarding, so it seemed like a great combination to me. As I grew away from filming I started teaching myself photography with Youtube and any other resources I could find. Soon I realized I liked shooting photos way more than filming so I ran with it. My time at Woodward and winters snowboarding influenced what and how I wanted to shoot without a doubt.
What’s the talent level like out there? Are you shooting a lot of the same locals, or are there people passing through?
The talent level at Big Boulder is super-progressive from dudes killing the rail set ups, to guys sending it on the triple line. Our team is a lot of local guys and girls from Eastern PA and Jersey who have spent some time riding at Boulder and continue to kill it. Beyond that we do have some local riders who are here day after day just shredding everything they can as much as they can. I’m friends with most of our team riders and a few local riders, so I utilize them as much as I can for shooting which works out great. We do get some guys and tours passing through every once in awhile which is cool to shoot new talent.
Do you guys run park events/contest through the season there as well?
Absolutely, park events and contests are the staple of most weekends. This past year we hosted the TransAM, Red Bull All Snow, Hell Track, and various other rail jams or USASA events.
Do you get to ride much or are you just chasing people around with a camera?
I try to at least take a few laps without my camera everyday but the way this winter or lack thereof was here I seemed to always have my camera with me this past season which I really didn’t mind. You never know when things are going to go down as well as making the most of what we had to get the most content possible. I did have some days where I wouldn’t touch my camera to take the chance to just ride and relax.
I imagine with the type of winter you just had, you either have to get creative with the park builds and what you have at hand?
Creativity was key this last season with shots. Finding different lines or gaps was big with what I wanted to shoot. We took advantage of the few times we got enough snow to get off trail to get weird on some drops or various decks we have around the mountain. Grabbing a shovel or pushing some rails together to make something super different was another way we got creative for shots.
Things have changed dramatically for photographers in the last decade… the paths to being able to pay your bills are quite different than they were ten or fifteen years ago. Outside of making photos, are there any other skills someone doing what your doing needs to know? Like it seems like your value rises with additional skills these days. Were you doing a lot of social media stuff before you got that job or did it kind of kick you into it?
The biggest thing I could stress to anyone looking to do this for a living is to make yourself as well rounded in as many skills involving photography, videography, media, journalism, marketing as you can. Growing up in the generation of smartphones with social media I was on it all especially taking photos I was using it for my work so it made an easier transition to a business setting. All of those things go hand in hand and the more you know the move valuable you are to a potential employer. The easiest way to look at is if you can only make a grilled cheese would a restaurant hire you to cook? Most likely not, so expand yourself, make calamari, prime rib, and other fancy shit that is served on a big plate in the smallest portion that people pay top dollar for.
Is your role over there seasonal, or do you have a job there year round?
I’m seasonal at the mountain but live up here year round so having summer jobs lined up works out great to spend all of my time here, it’s a nice escape from growing up in the suburbs.
How important is it for a place like Big Boulder to have the local rippers and someone to produce content around them? It seems it’s almost become a necessary partnership in exposure for the resorts and the riders. In other words it helps both. Do you see people coming there that otherwise might not have known snowboarding in Pennsylvania was even a thing?
It’s important without a doubt for our local riders and the people producing content at the mountain. The exposure of the name Big Boulder from our crews building and maintaining killer constantly changing park set ups helps the locals gain exposure for sure. On top of that we have lots of riders who film here which in turn gives the mountain good exposure. All in all it’s an important relationship to have. It’s tough to say if people are coming from out of state that weren’t sure we had snow in Pennsylvania. I spoke to a few people vacationing in the area from Texas and other southern states that came to learn snowboarding, some of which who’ve never seen snow before. Beyond that we get a lot of people from Philadelphia coming up. Overall we see a lot of different types and abilities of riding from locals to tourists on vacation.
Who are some specific people from out there you’ve been psyched on shooting that are killing it?
Miles Fallon doesn’t just bring his snowboard to the mountain with him but an insane amount of style and energy, keep an eye on him if you don’t already, he has been and continues to kill it all over. Matt Bothfeld, Jon Koch, and Louie Hanft are also sick to shred with. They all have a super clean yet unique style and will always get super creative on anything. If I’m looking for one of the guys to send shit Billy Keil is the one, we’ve had a few close calls with planes when he boosts a hip.
As more and more people are taking photos all the time, and everything moves more and more social/smart phone based, what do you think is most important for someone with an interest in producing content, whether it be photos or video, as a “career?” It seems like getting your shit out there as much as possible is more important than ever.
The single most important thing if you want to make this a career is to keep producing content as much as you can, every single day if possible. Keep learning, growing, making connections, and sharing your work. As simple as it might be to press a button, it takes a ton of hard work to make this pay off. There’s always more to learn no matter what you think so pick up that camera and don’t stop shooting.
Follow Reed on Instagram @weedreimer and Big Boulder @bigboulderpark