We sat down (Facetimed and emailed over the phone) with photographer Aaron Blatt about his cover of Elena Hight in AK. Why not interview the rider? Because we are a blue collar magazine that cares about the background players… just kidding. Elena doesn’t know yet. We are surprising her right this minute. So we figured we would talk to the only person involved, aka the photog. And if you like the cover, check back soon for more from Elena in ARK, an upcoming project featuring Hight, Danny Davis, Mark Mcmorris, Mikey Ciccarelli, Brock Crouch, Mikkel Bang, Mikey Rencz, Mark Sollors, Nick Russell, Raibu Katayama and Gigi Ruf. Official trailer for dropping soon.
Congrats on the cover… again! Is there pressure to get riders covers when you are out shooting?
Blatt: I try not to think about that too much while in the field. If there’s pressure to get front page photos I haven’t been aware of it. Any moment captured back there is going to be as good as it’s going to be no matter what the placement is, we always strive for our best in every scenario. The only pressure is to get a photo that translates and lives up to what a rider is stepping to.
Back to back years with us. When was the last year you didn’t end up on the front page?
I’m not sure, I think its been a five year run, it just started and didn’t stop. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something I was always looking to achieve when I was starting out. Every time I see that placement of an image on a magazine these days I think about that feeling. How far off that felt when I was getting started back East. Feeling very lucky.
You also just dropped a movie, how was your Fleeting Time world premiere in Bend with Ben Ferguson?
Oh man, so fun. It’s really so epic to get something you’ve been working on for so long out into the world, especially when surrounded with all the folks who hustled on it.
You are also pretty busy on your bike and with your company. Is it hard to find time to still shoot while running Homestead (creative agency)?
Nah, balance is everything. Balance is not always present, but if you work hard you can keep things in check and make sure you get what you need.
Where did you shoot this shot of Elena?
Up in Valdez, AK. We were flying with an operation called Pulseline while shooting for ARK, Danny’s new movie. It was really epic to get in for these sessions with this squad. Can’t wait to see the movie, gonna be a heater!
Go to setup in the backcountry?
A pair of canon r5s and an array of glass. Tend to be ramped on on the telephoto lenses on trips with big terrain like this. Elena’s frame was shot at 500mm.
What’s the difference in mindset between shooting from the ground and out of a helicopter?
Shooting from the heli is an entirely different experience, you are working closely with the pilot, harnessed in & exposed to the elements with the door taken off of the machine. There’s always intensity in Alaska but that’s it’s own version of intense. Usually two bodies with a mid-wide and a 70-200mm, both tethered to something so they don’t go for a ride. This wasn’t that – we were eating a charcuterie board expertly prepared by Nathan Yant in the sun at the barb-angle if I recall correctly.
Who was with you that day?
Elena, Danny, Brock, Mark, Nick Russell, Gabe Langois, Nathan Yant, Aaron Hooper along with pilots and guides.
Any story about this day?
This day was a turning point on the trip. We showed up to a marginal forecast and after a quick buzz through the range we were faced with a wind stripped set of terrain options. A skilled crew can navigate this type of scenario and come out with decent footage. A tight knit crew with a deep skillset when it comes to reading the mountains, and are truly working as a team can come up with phenomenal footage. This crew was the latter, they stayed positive throughout a stressful scenario and were able to pivot into some lower lying protected terrain, tee-ing off some massive jumps in sheltered zones, & finally finding some top-end freeride terrain that hadn’t been wind stripped on this day to complete the trip.
Specifically, this line was a show stopper. People were scattered across the valley at different angles, with Hooper up high on the opposing ridge. I believe Nick and Danny were up top with the lead guide, while Brock and Mark were down at the bottom of their lines. Once Elena relayed what she was planning to drop into over the radio, we are all hyper-focused on her turns, her line, and her exit strategy. She took it all as clean as could be, all confidence and as she burned out of the bottom of this complex face into the flats… It seemed the whole valley erupted with hoots and hollers. Like I said, a strong crew works together and supports each other – the whole squad was celebrating.
You going to celebrate with Elena?
Hell yes. Congrats E! See you soon 🙂