The Making of a Firing Squad Champ

We have a few Firing Squad Champions, but this week’s champ was the first photo we felt needed more explanation. For four weeks, Paul Miller’s image of Forrest Shearer beat out great photos on the path to the Champions Gallery. It wasn’t for fancy lighting or Photoshop tricks; this photo just showed something incredible. Forrest’s brush with near death seemed worthy of further inspection, so we caught up with Paul Miller to get all the details.

YoBeat: When and where did you take this photo?

Paul Miller: This was shot above the Palmer Snowfield located on Mt Hood, Oregon in August 2008.

Y: What was the scenario of how this photo came about?

PM: This photo was taken on day number one of our two-week trip to hood. I have always been involved in photography but I have never tried to make a push as a professional photographer. During this trip I focused on shooting photographs only to grow our media selection for Airblaster. On day number one Forrest pointed out the snow cone from HCSC below. We tried to rally a group to hike up and explore but it ended up being only Forrest and myself. To be honest I think this was the first time I gathered up my camera gear and headed out to seriously shoot snowboarding. This photo was probably the 7th frame of the day.

Y: What were you guys shooting for?

PM: During this time, we spent two weeks filming for the junior release from Airblaster, entitled August.

Y: How exactly did he get to that point on the glacier, and where is he going to end up?

PM: It is hard to see in the photo but just above the lower right corner there is actually a small shelf about the width of a board. It allowed Forrest to make a few turns and escape before the pit of doom. In order for Forrest to get to the top of the snow cone he had to dig some foot holds up along the ridge. You cannot see it in the photo but behind the snow cone it dropped off about 100 feet or more into another crevase. One other major death factor was the snow conditions. The snow was rock hard and looking back on it there was no way to know if Forrest would even be able to hold an edge. If he had slipped out on his toe side turn it would have been game over. We got very lucky that he was even able to get that little rooster tail slash of snow in the shot.

Y: Did you have to convince him to try this shit, or was it his idea?

PM: It was all Forrest.

Y: Why did you think this was a good idea?

PM: We new it would make a cool photo. I shot a few without Forrest to get an idea of the angle and finally picked a spot inside a small hole below the action. Now that I look back on it, I was really stupid to climb into where I was.

Y: Has Forrest’s mom seen that photo?

PM: Not sure.

Y: I heard Ben Lynch fell into a crater that summer, was that the same day?

PM: After we came down from that location and showed the crew that photo it got everyone stoked to hike back up and explore some more. It was two or three days later that we got back up and that was when Ben fell in. Ben tells the entire story in a bonus section on the August DVD.

Y: Where can people see the video of this photo?

PM: I am sorry to say that it was only me and Forrest on this day. There is no video of the event.

Y: Why the hell did you give this photo to us!

PM: This photo was slated to run as a cover shot for Method Magazine in Europe. They had it all mocked up and it was about 99% a go. In the end they pulled out and ran another shot. It was probably best that way since if it did I would have had to retire. Anyway, I still wanted to get as many people as I could to see the image. Forrest was really stoked on it so it needs to be shown. Forrest did the drop in twice and a shot from another angle ran in print in Method and Snowboard magazines articles about August.

For more info on Airblaser and August, check out

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