Insider Tips from an Adventure Photographer
Grant Gunderson goes to wild and remote places in search of the perfect photo. Hear what inspires him.
Photographer Grant Gunderson has been on the top of an erupting volcano and shot death-defying skiers and mountain bikers at the peak of their momentous jumps. The Bellingham, Washington-based photographer has published his intense action photos for myriad magazine covers and digital outlets, from ESPN to Eddie Bauer. We caught up with the nature enthusiast to ask about his origins in photojournalism, and what he loves about his work.
When did you get your first camera and what were your early inspirations?
I think the first time I picked up an actual, real camera was when I borrowed an old camera from my dad, probably back in middle school or high school to take photos of my friends skiing and have them take photos of me. It quickly got to the point where I was taking better photos than those guys were of me, so I just stuck with that. Then my freshman year of college, I tried to do it seriously. The first time I went out and shot some snowboarding photos, I sold two magazine ads and that got me hooked right away.
Where do you travel today for work? Any favorite, weird locales?
I have traveled almost all the world in search of skiing and mountain biking opportunities. My favorite spots would be either Switzerland, Norway or Japan for both. And the most unique place was probably skiing on Mount Etna (near Sicily, Italy) when it decided to erupt when we were standing on top. We were there for a ski shoot and the next thing we know, as we were doing a sunset shoot, I noticed this weird glow in the opposite direction of where the sun was. When I turned around, I noticed that the volcano had started to erupt. . . .We got out of there fairly quickly after we took some photos!
What makes Washington, in terms of landscape or climate, good for shooting?
When it comes to an outdoor lifestyle, we have the best of everything. We have the ocean right there and then we have these incredible mountains that compete against any other mountain range in the world for some of the best skiing and mountain biking.
Where do you recommend people go to get great mountain shots?
The year I moved to Bellingham, Mount Baker set the world record for snowfall. It consistently gets probably the most snowfall of anywhere in the world. But then in Washington, you have Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens. It’s just a question of getting into the mountains and spending some time!
Do you have a favorite photo?
Picking a favorite photo would be like choosing your favorite child. I think what really gets me going is anytime we’re able to try a new technique, something new and different, and having it turn out. And hopefully it’s the type of imagery that inspires people to spend time in the mountains. If that happens, then I feel like I’ve done a good job.