Big Bear Lake has been a breeding ground for snowboarding talent for decades. The countless professional riders that have come up on the trails of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have their names etched into the magazines and movies–snowboarding’s own history books–that have shaped the trajectory of the sport and culture. But in addition to its role as a nucleus for pro riders, Bear is also a place where lensmen and women are able to cut their teeth, nurtured by a combination of world class parks, top-tier riders, and seemingly endless blue skies. It is within these ideal conditions that Tannor Wallace has been coming up. As a photographer and videographer, Tannor’s path starts with a love of snowboarding that led him to work for the infamous Bear Mountain Park Crew and ultimately landed him in his current role as Bear’s content marketing specialist. A quick scroll of @bearmountain and his handiwork is evident: clips and photos of action are interspersed with a behind-the-scenes take on the workings on the resort, working in tandem to give the viewer a look at what’s happening at Bear in an intimate way. The past few weeks, as the lifts have started turning at Bear, Tannor’s perspective has captured our attention, so we reached out to get to know him and find out more about his photo and video style. – Mary T. Walsh
Name: Tannor Wallace
Current Residence: Big Bear, CA
Home Mountain: Bear Mountain, CA
Years Shooting: 9 as a hobby, 2 “professionally”
Website: N/A (Currently being redesigned)
All photos: Tannor Wallace
First off, what’s in the bag? What’s gear set up, because you do photo and video, yes?
Yes, I do both photo and video–my main bag is big and heavy usually. I carry 5 different lenses, an RF 70-200mm, RF 24-105mm, EF 8mm fisheye, RF 15-35mm, and an EF 18-135mm macro lens. I mainly shoot on a Canon R5, but also carry my Canon 70D as well for events, and at least 2 GoPros. I have a RODE microphone, 10 batteries for both Canon cameras (can never be too safe), 2 SD card holders for both micro SD’s and SD/CF express cards. I also carry a few eternal batteries for on-the-go charging, handles for my camera cage, a speedlight, and occasionally a DJI Mini 3. Lastly, I like to keep a few granola bars hidden throughout my bag as well, since I’m notoriously snackish. Its sometimes like carrying an 8-year-old child on your back all day, so I’ve recently been packing a smaller bag to carry less gear.
Have you been doing both photo and video for the same amount of time, or did one come before the other?
I first started with video, photo came later as I got more curious, but I always wanted to do both from the start. In fact, I wanted to have my hands in everything snowboarding if it was possible.
How did you get into shooting, originally?
I originally got into shooting from snowboarding a lot with my brother when we were younger. He was always better than me at everything and snowboarding was no exception. So, most of the time when we would ride together, he started to ask me to film him so he could see his progress. Over time I started using techniques I noticed from watching my favorite snowboard movies to make his clips look better–without a doubt trying my best to impress my brother.
What do you prefer about one editing process over the other, in terms of photo verses video?
I would say I enjoy both somewhat equally, but I favor video over photo though, just because I like the process of creating something that can really grab someone’s attention if done right. I was also inspired by all the movies I watched as a kid, wanting to contribute to making snowboard movies of my own one day, so video kind of scratches the itch in my soul I guess. (Totally cheesy, I know.)
If you had to pick one mm to shoot with for a whole season, what would you pick and why?
That’s a tough one, especially when you think about video. Personally I like the way that 85mm looks. I think it would be a fun challenge to try and shoot nothing but that for a whole season.
You have a background in working on the Bear Park Crew, as well. I imagine there’s some rad connections between building a feature and figuring out the best angles to capture it. Where is the intersection for you? Is there creative overlap?
There is for sure a connection. I really enjoyed working park crew. I love working outside, as well as with my hands and getting dirty. Sometimes the best angles I found were long after a feature was installed, but sometimes I would see angles before or even as a feature was getting installed. As a creative, I think it goes hand in hand. I found myself pitching ideas for builds that I thought would be fun to shoot, or selfishly with a specific shot in mind.
Your action photography is awesome, of course, but you also have a keen eye for other sorts of environmental photos around the resort. What sorts of things inform your photographic perspective and inspire your photos, especially the ones of non-action subjects?
The non-action subjects or landscape photos that I take are mostly inspired by the operations aspect of a ski resort. I’ve always been interested in the behind-the-scenes of how a ski resort operates; it’s a whole ecosystem of different departments with different missions and goals. I like to go out sometimes without a plan, looking for details and things that most people maybe haven’t seen before, trying to pull back the curtain a little bit when I can. I think the details that resort employees see every day that customers don’t are interesting and worth documenting.
Nighttime snowmaking at Snow Summit.
What inspires and informs your photographic style, overall—as well as with shooting snowboarding, specifically?
From the beginning, I knew I loved snowboarding and wanted to have my hands in every part of it but didn’t know how I fit into the industry. What inspires me the most is the thought that I could possibly contribute to the history of snowboarding by documenting it however I can. Since it was a dream job to shoot for magazines, I would say my style is somewhat a replication of all the shots I saw in my favorite snowboard magazines as a kid.
The one photographer I’m really inspired by right now is Mike Dawsy. I like the look of his shots and admire the way he looks at things through a lens. My favorites, though, aren’t really photographers, they’re videographers that inspired me to pick up a camera from the start, creating all the Bear movies I binged watched as a kid: Justin Meyer, Jeff Heitt, Joe Carlino, Adam Ruzzamenti, and Lee Stockwell who, interestingly enough, is my boss now.
Any photo books and/or zines you’re stoked on right now?
Right now, the three I’m most stoked on are Hold Fast Tweak Hard, Rough Around The Edges by Ride, and ‘93 til which is a skateboard photo book by Pete Thompson. I do have a somewhat obsessive addiction to collecting photo books and snowboard memorabilia, so I honestly love them all, especially the ones I don’t yet have in my collection.
At Bear, there is no shortage of incredible riders, both local and visiting, at the resort at all times of year. How is it taking photos and video of them? Any favorite riders to shoot with?
By far my favorite rider to shoot with is my brother. He’s also my favorite person to ride with; we’ve been doing it since we were kids and somewhat share a brain as a result. I’ve always sort of filtered what ended up looking good based on his opinion. I respect the fact he’s never been afraid to tell me if I messed up or did something whack.
You’re on the marketing crew at Bear—what is your role and what does it entail?
My current position is content marketing specialist at Bear. The main job is to generate content for the social media, website and ads, as well as coming up with ideas to keep our audience entertained and engaged, but I get the privilege of helping with a lot of things outside of that realm as well.
Part of being based at a resort as a photographer is really getting to know the terrain, finding go-to angles, understanding the light changes throughout the day and the season, etc, and combining that with making things feel new, both for yourself creatively and for the viewer. What is this like for you in terms of process, creativity, etc.?
I would be lying if I said it was easy keeping things new and fresh. Understanding the terrain at the resort helps, but usually I like to experiment as much as possible, trying new things that ultimately yield bad results, and giving it another try with the lessons I learned. Most of what I’ve learned about photo and video is self-taught, so that’s sort of been my process from the start.
What are your favorite sorts of things to shoot at Bear?
My favorite thing to shoot at Bear is snowboarding obviously, but recently I’ve really enjoyed going out at night and shooting snowmaking and the snowcats. I get to run around with my gear at the resort and treat it sort of like my own personal playground.
Early season, there is a lot going on with snowmaking, park creation, and more early winter machinations at the resort. What sorts of things have you been working on lately with your camera and what has been making you excited?
The things exciting me the most that I’m doing with my camera lately are working with strobes and different types of lighting–not much has worked out, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
What do you have coming up this season? Anything you’re particularly stoked on that you can let us in on?
I’ve been brainstorming some ideas for some personal projects, as well as projects for the resort, but haven’t solidified anything in my mind or at the resort yet, so I can’t say much at the moment, hopefully some cool stuff in the near future though.
Lastly, what makes Bear such a special mountain to call home?
The history of Bear makes it a special mountain to call home. The events they used to hold, the long list of riders that built careers here, and being a kid getting to watch the tail end of it all firsthand. It will always hold a special place in my heart, and I’m honored to be able to be a part of the creative direction of Bear now.