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Radcollector.com: Columns | Laura Austin | decent exposure: BLOTTO

Laura Austin

decent exposure: BLOTTO

30 April 2010, 05.06 | Posted in Decent Exposure, Interview, Photography | 3 comments »


My next guest needs no introduction… but I’ll give it to you anyway. Mr. Dean Blotto Gray is one of snowboarding’s most respected and established photographers out there. As Principal Photographer for Burton this guy spends his life on the road capturing images of some of the best riders in the game. Through basement jamz, bike missions, and time spent at homebase, I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Blotto over the past few years and the guy oozes wisdom. One of my favorite aspects to his work is that in most of his shots, you can take out the rider and it would still be a piece of art that you would want to put on the wall… His attention to detail and how he uses the environment to enhance his shots is incredible. I could go on and on, but I am not the reason you are reading this, so without further ado… I give you Blotto.

Make sure you check out his blog here. Updated almost daily with high quality content.

Read the interview after the jump.


When not shooting photos, Blotto spends more time on

two wheels than he does on two feet. Photo: Gigi Ruf

Place You Call Home:

Phoenix (Arizona) is where I’m from; Burlington (Vermont) takes the rent money.

You grew up in Arizona… how did you get involved in snowboarding?

Our skateboarding posse had a local shop where we’d hang out all day every day, and one of the owners named Mike would go snowboarding on the weekends from time to time. He would tell us it was just like “skateboarding, but in the mountains.” That really didn’t register because we were young and too focused on finding Animal Chin.

Finally in 1991 our buddy Craig went on a family ski vacation in Colorado, but decided to find a snowboard instead of renting skis. He came back and said it was the funnest thing ever. Our entire crew headed up to Flagstaff, Arizona the very next winter and we were hooked ever since.


Shaun White & JP Solberg

You’ve had many roles in the snowboard industry, what were those, and why did you choose photography in the end?

Company owner, team manager, marketing director, photo editor, consultant, filmer and video editor. Photography is where my passion lies, and like all those other job titles, it’s challenging. At the end of the day, photography is the thing I enjoy most, so I’ve followed that path.


Gigi Ruf

On average, how many days do you spend traveling each year? Does it leave time for a personal life or is your life your work? Does it get old?

From 1999 until 2008, my average travel days per year were 290 days on the road. The past couple of years it’s been slimmed down to a meager 225 days out of 365.

The road is my personal life since this is what I do full time. I enjoy life on the road checking out this wonderful planet. The friends you come across while traveling ensures you some sort of ‘at home’ comforts while you’re far far away.

Does it get old? ‘Transacting’ gets old…meaning having to deal with someone to get regular everyday things done: lodging, eating, automobile, etc. The actual traveling and photography aspects never get old because of the limitless possibilities they afford you.


Trevor Andrews

I think a lot of kids that want to be snowboard photographers think that they will get to snowboard all the time…. But how often do you get to put down the camera and just ride?

I was a snowboarding bum for many years before I got to the photography stage, so I kinda worked out the need to ride everyday long ago.

Honestly, I much rather shoot photos than go snowboarding any day of the week, I get way more out of the shutter clicking than my edges carving through the snow. But that doesn’t mean I don’t go snowboarding from time to time…the last couple of winters I’ve had some amazing powder days at my home mountain in Arizona.


Shaun White- X Games

Sketchiest situation you have been in through snowboarding?

Avalanches and riders get hurt.

You try to avoid moving snow at all times and we do a very good job of judging potentially sketchy slopes, but sometimes it just happens. I do find comfort in knowing we’ve decided not to descent down many mountain faces because it just didn’t feel right. It’s hard to turn your back on terrain that looks really really good, but that’s the discipline you need when dealing with Mother Nature.

There’s a certain amount of risk involved as snowboarding progresses and that risk is certainly calculated based on experience and know how of the crew around you. You minimize it as much as possible, but sometimes “the out” just doesn’t work out and you’re unstrapping the rider’s bindings for them.


Keegan Valaika

A large amount of the younger generation of snowboarders are more focused on rails/urban riding as opposed to backcountry…. How do you feel about this? Do you respect both equally?

Everybody is a product of their environment, so when you walk out your front door you’ll snowboard on either mountains or streets or both.

I could never say one is better (or more legit) than the other, one hundred percent equal respect. When I left the desert and moved to mountains, we arrived later in the afternoon and it was dumping outside. As we walked out our front door there was a park down the street with a slight incline and some picnic tables, we ran there as fast as possible and started jibbing. The very next morning we caught first chair for the powder day of a lifetime on the mountain.

You can ride whatever is in front of you, as long as you enjoy it. If you have the means to travel and experience terrain not normally available to you, do it.

You’ve been in the snowboard world for a while now, anything you miss about the “good ol’ days”?

Cutting down boards, shooting film full time and being a snowboarding bum.



You seem to keep you blog updated almost daily with quality content…. What’s the motivation behind that?

The primary objective while traveling to document snowboarding is to lock down bangers for Burton and the magazines. The process itself is quite a challenge and you come across many an interesting character, beautiful scenery and just about everything else in between. If you travel all winter, the amount of photography generated would never have a home in print, editorial and advertisement speaking.

For so long it was a shame not to use all the photographs that explain the processes, the behind the scenes and lifestyle images of the crew involved. I wanted to change that, so I started a website with constant updating so readers could get to know the challenges and joys involved with traveling, snowboarding, bikes and photography.

Now I’m able to please the Internet crowd and the print medium simultaneously. On top of that, it’s been a great outlet in helping fellow photographers with their questions about cameras and shooting techniques.

What’s your opinion on iPhone photography?

I have zero issues with any device that captures photographs. It’s possible I enjoy using one manufacturers design over the other.


Infamous window seat photo, shot with an iPhone

How do you see the shift of focus in the media from print to web content affecting photography?

Magazine editor: “…gotta be banger…”
Internet editor: “…just send me something that’s good enough for the web…”

Haha… wow, I couldn’t have said it better. What photo of yours has the best story behind it?


For two summers in row (or the Australian winter) I accompanied the UnInc Snowboarding Team to Australia as part of a promotional tour. We’d tour down the map starting from the Gold Coast, ending up in Sydney. It was non-stop antics and laughter the entire time, never a minute to rest. Romain, Gigi, JP, Danny and DCP never let up on surfing, skating, snowboarding and enjoying the nightlife.

During year number one, UnInc art director Lance Violette said they needed to fill a couple of ad spaces and we should think about some ideas and capture whatever we felt like shooting. Since surfing and kangaroos are a big part of Australian life, we hit up some costume stores and scored a shark outfit and three full-bodied kangaroo suits.

In this particular scene, the kangaroos are hitchhiking along an Ozzie back road, when the shark drives by in the van. The Shark (Gigi), pulls over and tells the Kangaroos (JP, Romain, DCP) to hop on in, he’s happy to give them a lift to wherever they needed to go.

Who are a few of your favorite photographers?

Cole Barash, Jeff Curtes, Cyril Müller, Craig Wetherby and Michael Tighe.


Freddie Kalbermatten

Do you think photography is a natural talent, either you have a good eye or you don’t? Or can someone learn how to be a good photographer?

You either have the eye or you don’t. But anything can be learned I guess…


Nicolas Muller/Heikki Sorsa

Ok… so the world is coming to an end and you need to give up either biking or snowboarding to save it… what do you do?

Pedaling requires a bike, shoes and clothes. Snowboarding requires about ten times the amount of gear, and if you’re trying to ride in the mountains, you need transportation, lodging and lift tickets.

Apparently he didn’t want to give a straight answer to that question… but I think you know what he meant.

This is what happens when Blotto puts down the camera….

YouTube Preview Image

And here is a little edit I put together last season when I tagged along with him at a Burton shoot with the groms in Breck.


  1. Tyler:

    This is awsome! I’ve been shooting snowboarding for over a year now, and can’t wait to someday go pro.

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