Jussi Grznar, a commercial and action sports photographer based in Vancouver, talks about his career and the best places to shoot sports.
How did you get started in photography? Tell us how you landed in the particular photography field that you’re in and why it’s satisfying.
I moved to Canada in 2007. After my first season at Whistler, a friend of mine invited me on a surf trip to Mexico. Growing up in a land locked country (former Czechoslovakia) I always dreamed about trying surfing one day.
I bought my first camera at that time (canon 350D) and decided to bring it with me. I had only one lens, no tripod, and no computer. I had no idea what I was doing.
Once we came back I sent a few photos to a magazine in Europe, just to get some feedback. They really liked the photos and ran a 12-page story from the trip. I was blown away. That’s how it all started.
You do a lot of traveling as a photographer. Tell us your favorite spot to shoot, explain why, and give us an example of a shot taken from that location.
My all time favorite spot to shoot is my backyard – Whistler backcountry. The weather, light, mountains, accessibility and the diversity of the terrain make it a very special place.
Besides Whistler backcountry, Alaska, Cook Islands and Tahiti top the list. I’m heading to India this fall and really looking forward to it.
How do you deal with harsh weather and equipment problems? Give other photographers some tips to brave the elements.
Shooting snowboarding or surfing is definitely hard on your equipment. Dust, sand, moisture, snow, humidity, cold – you name it. There are few things you can do while shooting like changing the lenses inside of your jacket and keeping the batteries inside your chest pocket so they stay warm.
The most important part is regular maintenance. Taking a tripod apart and cleaning all the sand up after a big surf trip is a perfect example.
There’s a great shot on your website of a man falling into water. Tell us about that shot, how you took it, why, etc.
Clayton (subject of the photograph) is an action sports cinematographer. Over the years we’ve worked on multiple projects and became good friends. A couple years back we were invited to Mexico for a friends wedding. Being able to not worry about work we surfed, hung out, drank beers and shot funny photos the entire time.
In this particular photo Clay is falling into the pool drinking beer while I’m standing on the ladder holding a monopod in one hand and a beer in the other.
Share a picture that you’ve taken recently that you’re proud of. Tell us why you’re proud of it.
A recent photograph that I’m proud of is a photo of Adam Chuntz that I shot for Whistler Blackcomb. I always wanted to capture the similarity of surfing and snowboarding in one photo, which I found very challenging. One early morning it all lined up and this image is the result!
What’s in your gear kit?
Canon bodies and lenses
F-stop backpacks and ICU’s (Satori and Tilopa)
Del Mar water housings
Manfrotto light stands
What direction do you think photography as a whole is headed in?
With the continuing rise of digital photography and social media, now is a really exciting time to be creating. There is a demand for content and a lot of amazing stuff is happening.
As for future trends, I think photography will be even more interconnected with other forms of art (video, painting, music) to provide a more complex and unique experience. At the same time, I believe as technology continues to improve and we see more technically advanced work, the fundamentals of a great photography will remain the same.