After taking the Exposure-Meter lead in the second month of the season’s tallies, Gigi Rüf seemed like a shoe-in for most of the meat of the season. However, when two-time Rider of the Year John Jackson brought the heat this spring, Rüf’s repeat looked like it might be slipping away. But when all was said and done, and the mental drum roll played as we ran the report for the final time of the year, Rüf held on to the top spot, claiming the crown and bragging rights for the 2010/11 season by a mere 275 points over Jackson, who will have to settle for the win in this year’s edit race.
“Big thanks to all my sponsors that make this win complete for a second time,” said Rüf. “I appreciate the people I get to work within snowboarding so much that I wanna thank everyone helping me to get here. Be it the ideas of the product developers or the vision of my teammanagers and the company supporting me. I wanna credit also Ivan Zwahlen who three years ago saw this future. You guys are the best.”
Shouts go out to two-time edit champion Nicolas Müller, who rallied six spots to finish in third overall and second in the edit race. Big ups are also on tap for Dan Brisse, Lucas Debari, and Mikkel Bang, all of whom landed in the illustrious ranks of the top ten for the season despite being barely on the radar last year. Brisse ended 2009/10 in 69th, Bang in 71st, and Debari in 151st.
On the logo front, Oakley came out of the gates hot, and held the lead all season with enough juice to take the title and end Burton’s six-year run as logo leader-congratulations on adding some competition to the game. They’ve still got a way to go for the all time lead though-for the last seven years combined, Burton dominates the pack with 843 logo looks, Oakley’s in second with 685, and DC rounds out the top three with 395.
This year’s leading lensman, who’s no stranger to that title, is Andy Wright, adding a fourth championship in the last seven years to his résumé. With over 250,000 points in the last seven seasons, Wright has a commanding overall lead, and is the only photog to break the 200k mark, although this year’s number two, as well as overall number two, Scott Serfas, is knocking with 185k.
TWSNOW’s Chris Wellhausen caught up with Andy Wright about the win and his season (Check out a gallery of his work here):
TWS: How long have you been a TransWorld Senior Photographer?
AW: Nine years. I was a steady contributor for about five years before joining the senior ranks.
TWS: Explain your typical season.
AW: My season usually begins end of November and is predominantly street-boarding up until end of January. At that time the backcountry is starting to fill in and is ready. I’m also usually pretty sick of shoveling landings and stair sets at that point. It’s nice to switch gears and get into the mountains. By end of March I’m usually in Alaska. Although this year that didn’t happen because they are having a really strange snow year and it’s just now getting good. I might head up there before the end of this month, but in the meanwhile, April is usually filled with (yawn) park shoots. Those actually can be pretty sweet if shot at the proper hour of the day. My displeasure in shooting them stems mostly from how bright and blown out the mid-day sun makes everything in the spring. It feels good to be warm after freezing all winter, but the light is so harsh, I’d rather be in sub-zero temps to get some of that early season light where the sun is at a lower angle in the sky.
TWS: How is this season treating you? Compared to last year?
AW: This season has been really rough compared to last year. Lots of bad luck with weather and the shoots I wanted to be part of overlapping with other commitments. Last season, the one this photo gallery highlights, was by far my best year shooting. I think I used up all my luck then, maybe went even a little in to debt for this season because it’s been a struggle. I say this every year about this same point in the season and have minor freakouts. Then at some point in the middle of the summer, after I’ve finally decompressed from the stresses of the season I look at my library of photos with fresh eyes and I usually get pretty happy with the amount of work that is in there. I’m trying to not let myself freak out knowing that this will probably happen, but right now it really seems like I’m a little off this year compared to the last few.
TWS: How do you do it? Endure it? Plan it?
AW: There isn’t much of a plan other than trying to stay flexible. I usually only commit to one or two shoots on specific dates at the beginning of the year, and the rest of the time I just take it as it comes. Of course I spend a lot of time sniffing stuff out, but I have crews I like to work with, and we stay in contact. So it’s just a matter of waiting for the stars to line up. Living in Salt Lake during the winter makes it pretty easy to stay busy between trips, not to mention get some riding in on down days. As far as endurance, I couldn’t do it if it didn’t love it. There is a long list of stuff that comes with the job I don’t particularly dig; packing, airports, cops, politics, weather, shit food, sunscreen, border crossings, etc.. But once all that stuff is dealt with and I actually have a camera in my hand pointed at something to shoot I couldn’t be happier. This is about 10% (at most) of my winter; the other 90% is the aforementioned.
TWS: What were some break through moments or at least one major one that you feel launched in your career?
AW: I completely owe it all to my friends who happened to be really good at snowboarding and trusted me to take their photos. There was probably three big break though moments and a lot of little ones along the way. It probably all started when shortly after getting my first camera my friend Jason Brown who rode for Burton and was seriously on the come-up would shoot with me. Even though I hardly knew what I was doing, it was difficult to take a bad picture of him. All I really needed to do was make sure it was in focus at that point. Having his photos definitely opened some doors. Around that same time I was dabbling in photography, my main gig was graphic design. I had been designing box covers and ads for Whitey McConnaughy of Kingpin movie fame. He used to take all the photos and film on his shoots, but as his productions grew he focused more on the filming and I somehow convinced him to let me come out and snap some pics. That was a pretty major turning point and introduced me to a lot more riders than the just the ones I had known from living in Salt Lake. When Kingpin was dissolving, Mack Dawg was in the process of making a big comeback, and put together a “dream team” of riders for the video The Shakedown. I had become pretty good friends with Mikey LeBlanc during the Kingpin run. He was signed up for the MDP project and made sure I was the principal photographer on just about every major shoot they did. That probably sealed the deal for me as far putting my career in the fastlane.
TWS: Who are some of your favorite shredders to shoot with?
AW: My favorites are always people who have an incredible passion for snowboarding. They would be doing exactly what they are doing now without the cameras, paychecks and fame. They also tend to be really good at snowboarding and have a damn good time when doing it. There are a lot of stress cases out there; I prefer those of the easy-style persuasion. If you want names, look at the shots in this gallery, it’s those guys (and you too Laura).
TWS: Give us a little more inside info. I heard a rumor that you worked with five crews in one day?
AW: Not true. It was five spots in one day, which was actually a record for me. I’ve done four a few times. It was only with three different crews though, hahaha. I’m definitely known as “crew hopper”, which probably has hurt a few feelings here and there. I just like shooting, and if I’m with some guys and they are done for the day and someone else is calling me why wouldn’t I go out shoot them that night? Cameras don’t take pictures inside the bag while I’m sleeping.
TWS: Advice to the young photographers out there?
AW: Take it slow, it’s not gonna happen over night. You gotta pay your dues and never ever tell a rider what to snowboard on or how to snowboard. You’re there to document not direct. You can make suggestions here and there. Like “Hey bro, maybe don’t wear that camo one-piece when we shoot in the trees today” or “do you have any other grabs besides tindy?.” Otherwise leave the snowboarding to them.
TWS: You came out on top of the TWS Exposure Meter for Snowboard Editorial Photographers this year, how do you feel?
AW: For sure it puts a smile on my face. It’s been a few years since I won, and it’s nice to be back on top. If for any reason it’s about the only measured mark, that you are doing your job at a high level. I will look at an issue of the magazine and be convinced that I’m getting robbed on the number of photos of mine getting run. I literally freak out all winter, which you can ask just about anyone who has seen my look at a copy of TransWorld. So when this little tally comes out it eases my mind that I am in fact getting my shots published — maybe just not all of them that I would want published.