today is Nov 28, 2021

My wife and I moved to Ogden, Utah in 2009 in the midst of the great recession. A terrible time to uproot and start over by most people’s standards but we were young, and Detroit just wasn’t cutting it. I was working in healthcare and applying to the University of Utah’s Physician Assistant program. Photography was a passionate hobby that I didn’t know how to turn into a job, let alone a profession. I’ve been obsessed with skiing since I was a kid growing up in Michigan. My mom was the middle school ski club director and in exchange for her time got the family season passes to the local ski hill named Bittersweet in Otsego, Michigan, a tiny rural town on the western side of the state that was only twice the size of my high school. When I was coming up, there was no such thing as terrain parks, so we skied icy, man-made moguls from a rope tow that tore your gloves apart if you didn’t use leather glove protectors. We had a crew and thought we were rock stars with our DIY bump pants and parliament cigarettes smashing moguls and taking knees to the chest under the lights on a Friday night. These were formative years.

Ski Photography was a proxy obsession. Going to the grocery stores and diving into the once giant magazine isle to thumb through the ski mags was a ritual. I would take them home to cut each gallery image out and hang them from my bedroom wall eventually covering my room floor to ceiling. The imagery was captivating, but I didn’t understand it was someone’s job to capture those moments and create that art. I didn’t even own a camera. I just knew that someday I wanted to do “that”, whatever “that” was.

Arriving in Utah was a game changer for me. I was in the Wasatch with the self-proclaimed “greatest snow on earth” and this offered new opportunities. In January of 2013 I decided to ditch the conventional path I was on and pursue that childhood fantasy of creating those images that, as a kid, transported me to far off places and epic adventures where steep skiing and deep snow were as mythical as the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot.

That same January, freshly unemployed (I mean, professional ski photographer), I walked into the Cinnabar at Snowbasin to have a beer with a friend. Underneath the ruby chandelier and sitting across from me was who I would quickly learn to be the most recent editor in chief of Powder Magazine, and now editor at large, Derek Taylor. After a quick introduction and a double IPA, DT told me he was working on a feature story about Ogden, and I of course listed off my extensive credentials in hopes of getting an in. He told me a couple of Salt Lake ski photographers were shooting all the ski action so no help was needed there. However, he did need some town stuff, something that told the story of Ogden with its railroad roots and its coming-of-age story as an up-and-coming ski town. Enthusiastically, I ran out that night and shot images of town to share with DT the next day. Apparently impressed enough, he sent the work on to the photo editor, Dave Reddick. A few days later I nervously hopped on a call with Dave to discuss helping out with the feature and get a few pointers. I ended up with 11 images in that feature including a two-page spread of ski action. This was the start of it all for me and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to fulfill a dream with a publication that helped shape who I am today. — Cam McLeod

Below are Cam’s Top 5 of his career to date.

Paul Forward. Myoko, Japan

Photo Credit: Cam McLeod

Paul Forward. Myoko, Japan

To this day I get butterflies in my stomach when I revisit this image. It was my first trip to Japan, back in 2015. It's the first time I experienced the anxiety of a fleeting moment and pressure when everything lines up and there is only time for one effort. It's the first time my heart raced because of the potential of this shot and the fact that Paul Forward was doing everything he could do to skin into position and transition but I was worried it wasn't fast enough. It was the first time I knew I had captured something special the second I took the shot. It's because of this photo that I landed my first Powder Cover and received my first call from Dave Reddick letting me know it was nominated for photo of the year. It was the first time I felt confident there would be many more.

Madison Rose Ostergren. Zermatt, Switzerland

Photo Credit: Cam McLeod

Madison Rose Ostergren. Zermatt, Switzerland

Madison Rose is a skier down to her bones. I was already in Europe shooting on assignment but was going to have a two week break to travel and ski around before starting the next job. I called Mads last minute to see if she was interested in joining Marcus Caston and I in Switzerland. Before I could hang up the phone she had made some crazy travel arrangements in true "Trains Planes and Automobiles" style. It's a ski bum story of the ages and this image reminds me of that dedication to winter and her infectious cackle when we nail a shot.

Marcus Caston. Alta, Utah.

Photo Credit: Cam McLeod

Marcus Caston. Alta, Utah.

Sometimes it's not that hard and when you're working with Marcus Caston on sleeper powder morning in the Alta, Utah backcountry things can get a little easier. I just need to remind myself, keep it simple stupid.

Chris Cardello. Furrano, Japan.

Photo Credit: Cam McLeod

Chris Cardello. Furrano, Japan.

I love the dreamy, snowglobe quality of this image. You could almost set a watch to the timing of this light in Furano, Japan. Every morning was a reset but by 10:30am the clouds would break just long enough to get the magic and then it was gone. All Chris Cardello and I had to do was be in the right place at the right time.

Johan Jonsson. Murren, Switzerland.

Photo Credit: Cam McLeod

Johan Jonsson. Murren, Switzerland.

All I think about when I see this image is patience. We were working on a feature story of Murren, Switzerland and had two days to knock it out. After the first hour of the first day the light went flat. We did everything we could but I wasn't feeling confident we were ahead of the game. Day two needed to deliver and with snow in the forecast all we needed was a little light. A little light is all we got and we were left window shopping all day; get into position and wait. I'm not sure how long Johan Jonsson had to stand around for this one but I'm sure happy he did.

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