Matt Foley is a photographer based out of Lake Tahoe, California. His work revolves around what he loves doing the most which are snowboarding and splitboarding, climbing, skating, and surfing. He is originally from the Midwest but moved to California a few years ago and he defined himself as lucky enough to call the Eastern Sierras my home. For now, he spends most of my days splitboarding or climbing around the Tahoe Basin region.
When did you start to photograph snowboards? Were you already a snowboard lover?
I started snowboarding at age 7 in the Midwest and fell in love with it immediately. I didn’t grow up in an area of the country with big mountains but my friends parents had a ski shop growing up. So we were fortunate enough to have access to boards and a small hill to learn. I grew up a park rat filming and shooting my friends on my family’s vhs handycam at our local 300ft “mountain”. We were always making little edits but it wasn’t until after college when I moved out to California that I began pursuing photography more full time.
Tell us your the best snowboard trip you ever did and the favorite photos that you took during those days.
One of my favorite trips of this past season was meeting up with the Korua Shapes crew up at Bachelor. I spent a few days shooting stills with them as they were filming a video project. Photographing those guys is a blast, everything they do is so stylish and Bachelor is naturally a wavy mountain so watching their approach to the terrain was awesome.
You take many b&w minimalistic shots, why? Is there a reason?
I love focusing on form and simplicity when taking photographs and black & white lends itself really well to that, especially in snow. I enjoy the process of emphasizing shapes in an image over color which can sometimes be a bit of a distraction to the eye. It’s a combination of that and many of the photographers I’m most inspired by shoot a lot of b&w.
Which kind of cameras and lens do you take with you when you want to shoot photos with snowboarders and why?
I shoot on Sony mirrorless cameras as well as a few different 35mm and medium format film cameras. What lenses I take really depends on the day. For splitboard missions I try to be as lightweight as I can so I’ll only take maybe one zoom lens and a prime. Resort days I’m bound to have a heavier pack and bring a few more lenses to have more options.
Tell us your three favorite shots on snow? And the little story behind all of them.
The first photo from the left was shot on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. Some friends and I toured up Mt. Tallack in hopes of getting this line called the Cross in good conditions. The couloir ended up being an ice skating rink but the bowl underneath the exit of the line was some of the best corn snow I’ve scored so far this spring. My buddy Jack is pictured here finding a big natural bank to lay out a carve.
The central one is of Nicholas Wolken up at the Bachelor halfpipe. It was the end of the day and Nicholas and Lars Popp we’re sessioning the pipe. Nicholas was laying out these huge alley oop carves and as the sun lowered this really defined shadow line came across the pipe. This was one on one of his last hits before we called it a day.
The third was taken while on a splitboard trip in the High Sierras this spring. We mistimed the snow and ended up having to bootpack 15 miles round trip to the base of our objective. The couloirs we came to ride ended up being too sketchy to ride and overall it was a classic case of conditions just not being as good as you hoped for them to be. Moral stayed high though as we had over 3,000ft of corn snow on the descent back to the base.
You took many photos of different board sports, do you prefer to snowboard, skate or surf and why? Or you why you love all of them and which kind of features you prefer of each one?
Snowboarding was my first love growing up and what I do the most these days but I try to skate and surf as much as possible. I think Jeremy Jones described it best as a pursuit of that feeling of glide. That’s really what I’m after in life. But I enjoy letting them influence one another as far as style because I think a lot of the motions cross over in one way or another. A lot of the guys I looked up to growing up we’re the ones who did them all.
How do you choose the location for a shooting? Do you plan it starting from for example google earth, or you check the place my times before being sure about it, or you just choose a mountain and you go there with the crew?
I sat down at the beginning of the season and tried to lay out a list of objectives but it’s mostly a matter of what conditions you’re presented with on any given day. We check the avalanche reports daily and make our decisions of what zone to go to based on what we feel will be the safest and most fun. Luckily the snowpack in the Sierras is generally quick to stabilize so a few days after most storms you can go for bigger lines. As far as tools I use FatMaps a lot which is essentially an interactive topo map. We use it to plan out our routes and analyze potential dangers we might come across.
How do you organize your shooting? Do you plan them with athletes? Do you ask the riders some specific tricks or you follow them and let them do everything they want?
It’s really a collaborative process. I’m not really a fan of telling people what tricks to do but I may suggest they turn around a certain shadow line in the snow or something along those lines if I see something interesting. Honestly one of my favorite ways to shoot is off the hip riding alongside my friends. It lets the people you’re shooting with get into a flow riding instead of just shooting a one turn. It’s way more fun not knowing what they’re going to do and seeing it unfold through your viewfinder.
What’s your setup for snowboarding? Any favorite brand?
I’m a big fan of Korua Shapes snowboards. I have a bunch of their shapes and it’s made me fall back in love with just carving. It’s great having different shapes to pick and choose from depending on what the snow conditions are instead of just riding a twin everyday. It’s a mentality I think surfers have long had that snowboarders are picking up on more and more. Having a quiver of boards for different conditions and playing with alternative shapes and side cuts. It keeps things fresh and makes an average day a lot more fun. Nicholas Wolken and Aaron Shwartz have been a big inspiration to me as well as far as the projects they put out and their vision for the brand. We’re always watching the Yearning for Turning edits to get stoked to go ride!
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