Mike Dawsy and I spent three weeks cooped up in Aspen together this winter photographing for the U.S. team, and due to COVID restrictions, all we really had was one another to stay sane. I learned a good amount about him over the better part of that month, but due to spending too much time on social media, I wasn’t able to retain most of that info on account of my short attention span. All I remember is that he eats healthy, has a bird’s nest for a beard, and stretches more than any photog I know. But good news for all of us, I had the pleasure of interviewing him via email to ask him a ton of the same questions that he and I already went over back in March, but this time for our new In Focus series.
Dawsy is hungry and on the come up, and it is nice to see brands and riders taking notice. He has the eye to make a photo in any situation, but more importantly, he is annoyingly optimistic no matter how bad the weather is. Always down, always ready to go–something tells me Mike is going to be around for a long time. Dawsy is currently up at Mt. Hood shooting for the U.S. Team again, so it looks like he isn’t taking much time off before the start of next winter. Big thanks for returning my emails Mike, see you up at Hood soon! – Mark Clavin
Name: Mike Dawson aka Dawsy
Current Residence: Truckee, CA
Home Mountain: Mount Snow, VT
Years Shooting: 4
What’s in the bag?
Camera: Nikon d850, Nikon d4
Lenses: Nikorr 70-200mm, Nikorr 24-70mm, Nikorr 16mm fish, Nikorr 50mm (sometimes)
Lights: Godox strobes with Godox trigger system, Nikon speed lights with Pocketwizards
If you had to pick one mm to shoot with for a whole season, what would you pick and why?
Hmm, probably 50mm so I could still shoot everything. I’d focus on portraiture and BTS that season. I love me my compression, though, so I COULD say 200mm, but that’d just be insane to shoot at 200mm all season.
How about a non-camera-related item in your bag you never forget?
I keep a compass my mom gave me before I left for the West Coast and a little pendant my pops gave me. Those never leave the bag.
If you didn’t say green juice, my next question is, why is it so important to you to eat healthy?
HA! If I could keep green juice on me at all times, you know it’s on me. Yeah, eating healthy is really important to me. I think it’s a mixture of being raised that way and just seeing the results first hand. I’m a huge advocate of eating your vegetables, intermittent fasting, and minimizing your sugar and processed foods consumption. What you put into your body is the most important aspect of sustaining a happy, healthy life. I just know how blazing I feel when I’m eating right, so I try to get anyone who’s around me on the same tip.
You are pretty new on the scene. What were you doing before you got into shooting snowboarding?
I was living in Connecticut, sitting at a desk with a suit on, looking at spreadsheets all day. I worked in finance as an associate financial advisor.
Can we have some free stock advice? We are thinking about investing in Amazon.
Did you have a beard when you were at your old job?
Hell no. My old boss used to put a shaver and shaving cream on my desk and make me go shave in the bathroom.
You should cut the beard off. You are a pretty handsome guy. Ever think about getting in front of the camera?
I almost can’t fully shave it anymore because it’s essentially a trademark of mine at this point. I swear, people just assume I’m me because of my beard. Oh, someone’s climbing a tree. Oh they have a camera. Giant beard? YO DAWSY! Always happens.
Speaking of handsome, what other photog do you get mistaken for the most?
Haha, amazing. No wonder why you buttered me up with the “you’re a pretty handsome guy” lead up, kudos. Everyone thinks I’m you–it’s actually pretty ridiculous.
Alright enough about me. What’s your take on Instagram? You have got some serious fans on the ‘gram. Anything you want to say to them besides, “Please read this article”?
I am so beyond thankful for the amount of support I receive. It really leaves me speechless sometimes. The internet is such an incredible space for artists and people in our industry. Not only is there an unlimited amount of inspiration at your fingertips, but it’s a place to connect and share experiences. I’m 100% self-taught, I’ve spent thousands of hours on YouTube and forums to learn as much as possible in such a short period of time. I’ve never had a mentor that I worked next to and learned the ropes from, I never went to school for photography, nothing, so I was always studying other peoples work and reaching out to photographers on IG who I looked up to asking them all sorts of questions. Blatt, Bacha, Cirilli, and more legends. They were always so responsive and down to help. That shit meant so much to me, still does. Just seeing them give me the time of day to help me aspire to do what they do, I don’t know, that’s something I won’t ever forget. So I will always be there for and give back to the people that support me because sometimes that’s all someone needs, just a little insight, just a little motivation to help them see the bigger picture and remind them that they can do anything they set their mind and heart to. So many people reach out to me, “How do I start?”, “How do I make money?”, “Everyone’s a photographer”, “It’s impossible to make a career out of it”, “What camera should I use?” since I’ve been there and been through all that, I’m so grateful to able to share my experiences and be that voice of confidence that might help them change their life. I just want everyone to be successful and doing what they love doing, so if I can help even in the slightest smallest way I’m hyped. So, DM me if you ever have any questions about anything, seriously!
Why Tahoe? What’s the benefit of having that as your home base?
So Tahoe has been home base for the past couple years, but that may be changing this season since we just lost our house due to the Tahoe housing crisis. Landlords sold the house on us; it’s a big problem around here. Crazy but excited for something new. I’ve always said, with change comes growth and with growth comes success. So, I’m looking forward to the unknown future as I’m writing this. Tahoe’s been a great hub. It’s pretty close to everywhere I want to be, California is the shit, and Reno is right there, so cheap everything is 30 minutes away and there is an easy airport for traveling. Woodward Tahoe is here and all the homies are amazing here, as well, so it’s always just made sense.
How do you compare the 9-to-5 with working the full-time freelance grind?
I think the majority of people think freelancers don’t do anything, but holy shit is it a grind. I definitely underestimated the amount of work and commitment freelancing took before I started, but I couldn’t be more stoked about it. The 9-to-5 pretty much turned into a 7am-midnight, seven days a week kind of grind, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love learning as I go, crushing goals, landing jobs–it all just means so much more to me now that I’m able to focus on building something that is completely mine from the ground up.
How was the transition? How did you get your start shooting?
The transition from full time to freelance came pretty naturally. It was definitely time. Woodward Tahoe gave me my first shot using my camera fulltime back in the summer of 2017 after Superpark 21. That Superpark was a pivotal turning point in my life. The WWT gig was just for the summer though, so for the next year-and-a-half, I had to chase down anything that allowed me to use my camera. I had to live out of my car, out of closets, back and forth from East Coast to West Coast (I’ve driven across the country seven times), until I landed back in Tahoe and WWT brought me on full time. WWT was then also my first freelance client when I made that leap. They’ve been there for me since day one. Shout out to Matty P., Sam, Tucker, Trev, and Missy. I wouldn’t be where I am without any one of them.
Anyone else you are stoked on?
Yeah, there’s a homie out of Wyoming, I think, Keegan Rice. He’s dope and on the come up. Ashley Rosemeyer, always love seeing her grind. Tyler Ravelle, too, out of BC. He’s definitely already up, but I love his work.
If you had to give yourself advice after the last three years, what would you tell your 2018 self?
Be more organized. My hard drives from back then are a mess. Invest in Bitcoin.
What did you work on/who did you work for this season?
This season I’m working with the US Snowboard Team, Ikon Pass, OutsideTV, and Woodward, primarily. I do a lot of projects, but those are the peeps I’m really connected with.
Favorite shot from the season?
Oof, that Ståle [Sandbech] spinal cord in-camera, multi-exposure shot came out rad (above in article) . I never really used that concept before, and for what its worth, I think for a contest photo that really goes. I also have a Nate Haust method shot, from this spring in Tahoe, which trips me out every time I look at it.
What are you aiming toward for your career?
I just want to keep growing in this industry and hopefully inspire others to live and follow their dreams. As you know, a big goal of mine is to go shoot the Olympics, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for next year. I’m trying hard to be noticed by Red Bull (holler) to shoot projects for them. I want to start my own photo workshop where I help aspiring snowboard photographers get started from the ground up. Gonna eventually print a mag of my own, start a production company (also holler at me), start an organic juice company, start shooting surf more, get all my homies paid, and build an empire.
For more from Dawsy, follow his work on Instagram.