Snowboarding becomes a culture only when the experience is shared, and Dean Blotto Gray is a photographer dedicated to sharing the snowboard experience. For more than 250 days a year for the past 15 years working for Burton Snowboards, Gray has documented the snowboarding life. He has become one of the most inexhaustible photographers the young sport has yet seen and was kind enough to recently bounce emails back and forth with me despite his busy schedule.
CW: You travel an insane amount for Burton so obviously your office travels with you. How do you churn out the quality without all the perks a real office can provide?
DBG: The task at hand is to document the Burton Snowboards Team as they travel, compete and film around the globe. I need to deliver inspiring photography to the marketing team at the Burton office so they’re able to prepare all things advertising. With that said, my office is on the road with camera in hand, and with today’s laptop technology (aka: editing programs and a Wi-Fi signal) I can deliver my work from any location around the globe. Back in the day you would have to connect your laptop any which way possible to public telephones to get a dial up connection. In Japan they have these green and grey public stand up telephones usually on the side of the street/highway so you could catch me there every morning and night sending emails / photos even when it was dumping snow outside! I met hundreds of deadlines while cursing my slow connection! Wi-Fi signal is definitely way easier these days and pretty common nowadays. Airline flights are offering Wi-Fi signal while in air, so the sending/receiving capabilities at all hours of the day are being realized.
CW: Photos over dial-up must have required some zen mind state meditation. I get antsy if it takes too long to transfer from Camera RAW to Photoshop. I think my computer is going to meltdown.
DBG: Too many good, long, funny, meditative, frustrating moments waiting on dial up! And I’m glad I had a good calling card to cover those charges!
CW: Speaking of meditative, frustrating moments, I noticed in many of the interviews you’ve done over the years you’ve been asked about your favorite photo, but what I want to know about is the photo you didn’t get. Do you have a “white whale” of a photo you never captured?
DBG: This summer at Frendly Gathering (Timber Ridge, Vermont) we were skating the mini ramp with a bunch of heavy hitters when a young girl in festival garb shows up, asks to borrow a skateboard and starts skating. By this time I’m on the side of the ramp finished with my session, changing my shoes, sitting on my board. The girl drops in, does a couple of kickturns then busts a frontside rock n’ roll in front of all the skaters, they go nuts! The girl hands the board back, walks into the festival never to been seen again at the ramp. This was certainly a moment I wish I had caught on camera, to see this rad girl all draped in festival gear, landing one of the harder mini ramp tricks on a borrowed board in the middle of a gnarly
CW: Haha, yeah I remember that, her name is Taylor, and that is basically how she lives everyday. This year at Frendly was unreal. You really love skating and that’s obvious when you shoot somewhere likes Chef’s Plaza. That’s a pretty sacred place in Vermont for a culture that isn’t super prevalent here and those sorts of shoots definitely seem special. What assignments or opportunities keep the stoke alive for you after so many years behind the lens? Is it just the variety or is it something else?
DBG: DUDE!! You know that girl…that’s insane! Yeah man, I was even standing right in the exact spot that would have been my composition…it was so rad! I call it the best shot I never got. I’ve told that story to a few of my buddies.
CW: Some shots just stand out to me like “Woah how the hell did they get that?” Is there an example photo or a photographer who just turns out work that makes your eyes just pop?
DBG: Frode Sandbech is one of my favorite shred photographers. I understand his techniques, but I’m always hyped on what he puts out there, where he uses his methods and such. Rad dude too.
CW: Any photos that really changed how you shoot a given job?
DBG:I can’t pinpoint any exact image that changed the way I look at photography or capture images. All along the way you’re tweaking methods and becoming more efficient given the history of a similar photo situation. I always try and get better every time I go out, which boils down to shooting the best possible image given the surroundings, trick, limitations (of a location) and limitations of gear (you can’t bring everything all the time…wish I could!!).