Q & A: Adam Phillips talks life as an action sports photographer

We caught up with RMU photography ambassador, Adam Phillips, to see what it is about photography that he loves so much and how he balances the outdoors and his passion for getting the shot. 

JU: Where are you from? Where do you mostly reside now?

AP: I grew up in Garland, Utah, a small little farming community at the North end of the state. I'm currently between Utah and Alaska nowadays, spending a lot of time on the road. I packed everything I own into my car and headed back for the lower forty-eight about three months ago. Everything's still in bags at the moment, and I'm just trying to figure out my next best place to be and where I might fit.

JU: How long have you been a photographer?

AP: About three years professionally now, but I've been shooting for about twelve years total. I guess you could say I was perfecting things for a while.

JU: What sets apart an action sports photographer vs other photographers?

AP: I think for an action sports photographer has a bit more physical demand on them, where you're thinking about a lot of things before the shoot, carrying a load of camera gear, maybe 15 lbs., on top of say your harness and rope or Avy gear. Then being able to keep up with the athletes you shoot isn't easy and not for everyone. I find myself sometimes sprinting ahead just to get a shot; you have to be in shape to do it.

JU: What are your challenges? 

AP: The biggest challenge is juggling everything from being safe to when to pull the camera out and get a shot. You see too many people trying to get into shooting these types of images before really knowing how to ski or climb first. As a photographer, you are often putting yourself out there for the shot. It's important to know what you're doing. From the technical aspect, probably my lens fogging up. I keep a lot of lens cleaning stuff with me, and I never put my lens cap in a warm pocket and then put it on the glass after. Aside from all of that, trying to come up with something that no one has seen yet and trying to push the creative barriers that much further. With as easy as it is for anyone to get into photography these days, it makes you push yourself.

JU: How do you maximize getting the shot?

AP: Working with great people, it's much more a team effort when it comes to maximizing the shot. It takes a lot for both the athlete and myself to make something magical come together.

JU: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

AP: It's all rewarding really; the most rewarding part is when you see your vision come together whether or not that image ever gets published or seen, it's awesome to see it happen. On top of that, being able to follow my passion. It's a lot of work, more than any other job I've had, but it makes the reward that much greater!  

JU: Where does photography take you? What are some of the most amazing places you've traveled?

AP: The coolest place I would have to say was the Alaska Range. I feel like I leave these places with that much more of a desire to return, I feel that the way I see it the first time changes with each visit. It makes you aware of what's going on in the world too.

JU: Who do you look up to in the industry?

AP: I feel like this list could be long, I have a lot of people that I admire and respect within the Industry. The first photographer I started looking up to would be Adam Barker. I think a lot of that has to do with seeing him do what he does and supporting his family with it. I feel too much that a lot of people think that having a family would get in the way or be a burden to them and this lifestyle. Aside from Adam Barker; I'd say Adam Clark and Jordan Manley for sure. The filming that Jordan has done with the Skiers Journey series, and then some of Adam Clark's work is pretty unique! Abby Cooper is a good friend and is always stoked on what I'm doing, but honestly, she's got some rad stuff that she's always working on up in Whistler. I don't think I can leave this question without mentioning Jim Harris though and seeing where he was and what he's gone through to get back after his injury. Lastly, Ace Kvale. These guys have all been there for me in some way when I've had questions and supported me along this journey that feels like it's just beginning. I owe a lot to these guys! Granted we're all trying to do the same job in some way, but I can't help but feel that everyone is looking out for each other because when it's all said and done, it's about the shared love we have for the wild and the people we enjoy them with.

JU: What is one piece of advice you could give an amateur or up and coming, photographer?

AP: Keep pressing that shutter button, keep learning and find the passion you have within photography. Embrace the criticism and even ask for it when you can. Don't get discouraged, and whether your shooting with an expensive DSLR or an iPhone, it doesn't matter as long as your pushing yourself and your limits.

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