With artificial intelligence and global warming breathing down our necks, who knows how long snowboard photography is going to survive! Didn’t think that was going to be the opening sentence did you? Well, hopefully it sticks around for awhile, because up-and-coming photographers like Simon Berghoef deserve a shot at some recognition and to get on some trips, because as you could guess, he is pretty damn good. There is no real standard way to break into the business anymore, so Berghoef is kind of blazing his own trail while learning from those that have come before him and just diving in. Hailing from the shores of Michigan, Simon came up through photo school and has been bouncing around for the past few years from crew to crew documenting it all. He’s currently shooting everything that he can that is going down in the Midwest (snowboarding in the winter and lake surfing in the fall). We caught up with 25-year-old to see how it’s going when he is not slinging hippie burritos at a Natural Food Store to earn some side cash. – Mark Clavin
You shooting right now?
No, I’m chillin’!
Basic facts about you?
Born December 30, 1997. Hometown is Grand Haven, Michigan. I’m goofy footed.
I have a Canon 90d, 70-200, 50mm, 24mm, and an 8 mm fisheye. I also use various point and shoots and a Mamiya 645.
How long have you been shooting snowboarding?
Did you go to school for photo?
Yeah, I got a BFA in photography from Northern Michigan University.
And what has been your main subject to photograph?
Mainly action sports: snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding. Sometimes I dabble in landscapes.
How did you get into snowboard photography?
Honestly, kind of similar story as many others. Definitely wasn’t as good of a boarder as most of my friends and it just felt natural to grab a camera and document it. While in high school, I had a few photo classes and was obsessed with Blotto, Aaron Blatt, and Tim Zimmerman’s work. Ashley Rosemeyer and Jérôme Tanon are other big inspos, too. When I went to art school, I had a really great group of riders that essentially took me in and helped teach me some of the ins and outs. I spent a good four solid years hitting street with Tye Kowalski. The dude is incredibly motivated. I think it was about 9-10 years ago I started with a GoPro. I would use the 3-frame shutter burst setting. Eventually, I purchased a Canon 3ti and used that up until like four years ago. My older brother is really into snowboarding, and growing up I really looked up to him, so that really helped get me into snowboarding when I was younger.
Do you think school was a good move for your photography?
In the long run, yes, I think it was a good move. My advisor/photo professor was phenomenal. She really pushed me to think differently and shoot out of my comfort zone. Also having access to a professional studio and dark room was super sick.
I also really enjoyed learning about the classic paintings and other art mediums. I think that really helped widen my inspiration, not only for photography, but with page layout and general design. A big thing that has helped was the critiques–having multiple different viewpoints about work. Definitely wish I learned more in depth about the business side of things and ways of getting more clients in today’s world. Most of my buddies were also in art school, but different mediums, so that was also sick, to be around so many different ideas and thought processes.
What were some of the lessons you learned from school that you apply today?
Color theory, for sure–having the rider wear either specific colors or brighter colors depending on the situation, and knowing which colors compliment each other and which don’t. It also goes into post editing. Another, it’s pretty basic, but rule of thirds. Doesn’t apply to all situations, but the framing can easily make or break a shot. If the rider is in the frame awkwardly or there’s too much negative space, then it’s all out of balance. Here and there, leading lines, but using things in the scene to drive your eye to the subject… I may be over thinking your question.
Not at all. Seems like there is a pretty strong scene coming out of Michigan these days?
Oh yeah, definitely in the last few years it feels like it’s grown a lot. Seems like more and more kids are getting into it, which is awesome. This year there was a ton of rail jams–almost every weekend.
Yeah, that’s kind of how I was intro’d to your work. You have a 9-to-5 out in Michigan?
Well, I moved back to Michigan after a run in with a table saw (still got 10 fingers…barely) while I was in Salt Lake this summer. My winter plans were pretty minimal due to a few surgeries and some recovery time. I’ve been working here and there which has opened up the ability for me to shoot most of the events this season. With it all winding down, it’s time for a 9-to-5…until next season.
Wait! What happened in Salt Lake?
I had some good friends there and wanted to go for the riding. I knew that’s where all the pros were, so I thought it would be good for my photo career for more potential work in the industry. I moved there last May and got in an accident at the end of this past summer…so back in Michigan. But this season really surprised me with the scene and how big the community has gotten, so my plan now is going to be staying around to document that.
For sure. Did you find work while you were out there?
Not so much photo work. Again, I was only there in the summer, but I just had a job making climbing holds in a warehouse. Thought I’d get more into climbing, too, haha, but SLC just didn’t feel like the right spot for me. Kinda chasing the snowboard photo dream and that seems to be one of epicenters, but then I got into an accident at work with a table saw–I like pushed the board through and on my way back my stupid ass was too low and my index finger and thumb nicked the top of the saw blade.
On your shooting hand?
Haha, no. Hit my left hand, so shooting hand is all good. Had 30-ish stitches and two surgeries
People joke, but as a photographer, your fingers are pretty important.
You think of yourself as a tech/gear-obsessed photog or no?
I wouldn’t say so. I like hearing about the new stuf,f but I am also quite critical about it. I really don’t want to go mirrorless. Unless I’m wrong, I feel like their battery life is garbage especially when working in the cold.
Same. The multiple batteries are annoying, but in every other capability, it’s pretty insane.
Have a favorite photo you have shot so far?
That’s a hard one. I’ve always felt that my work is better/stronger as a collection rather than one single image, but if I have to pick,, it’s probably a carving one of Bryce Devore. It was published by Arkade.
Any inspiration for photogs outside of snowboarding?
Oh yeah. Cameron Strand, for sure, Russell Holliday, and I’d say, Alex Strohl, especially how he uses the blue hour.
Explain blue hour for the people that don’t know that one.
Blue hour is just after the sun sets, the sky turns a deep blue. The light has a cool color temperature which compliments warm colors really well, so I do my best to balance out the colors with having the subject wear warm colors, use the light from streetlights, or brick building/stair sets work well, etc.
You also shoot a lot of surf, but not like warm beaches. What do you like more?
Yeah! Well I shoot mostly cold ’cause it’s all lake surfing and that’s when you get most of the sizable waves, storms and whatnot. But I mean, I wouldn’t say no to shooting surfing in Mexico again, haha.
Freezing day on the coast or freezing day on the mountain?
Oh man, that’s tough. I think for me, probably the mountain.
Fair. Who are you stoked on in Michigan right now?
Honestly, there’s quite a list! For starts my close buds, Tye, Homi, Gibby, and Ava. I think Spencer Wisniewski doesn’t get enough light–dude rips. All the homies from the east side of Michigan seem to be absolutely killing it. Grace and Drake Warner, Brent Behm. A lot of younger kids, too, that are insane, like Jesse Wood and Michael Millet.
What is your take on this past winter in Michigan?
Well, I’d say the snow level on the lower peninsula was super low and sad to see, but that didn’t stop the rail jams and rope tows. The UP still seemed to have a lot of snow. For a super low snow year, photo-wise it’s been extremely productive.
That’s good to hear.
And yeah. Now that winter’s over, I’m in the UP into spring and going to be just working in the kitchen at a natural foods store and shooting whatever I can, and then moving back down south this summer. Don’t have anything work-wise lined up yet down there but constantly looking, ha.
Working on anything we should be looking out for?
Yeah! Making a 30-page zine from the images from this season. Should be released mid-summer!
Got a title yet?
Ha, I wish I did. Usually that’s the thing that takes the longest to decide. But yeah, just a collection of photos from the season with stories of what went down, funny shit, and whatnot. I just hate getting shit I’m super stoked on and if they don’t get into a mag, I don’t want to waste them on Instagram. So making a zine feels like putting them on a higher level.
What do you want to do next?
Going to be in Michigan getting after street for sure. Got a good list of things we want to hit and hopefully work with some more companies and get out West a few times. I really want to make it to some Snowboy events. Those look so fun and like good spots to meet more people in the industry. Definitely need to do a pow trip, lol. Honestly would love to go shoot X Games, US Open, etc. type comps–looks like such a good time and fun to photograph.
I’m sure we will see you out there soon.