My first camera was a Yashica Half Frame. I bought it in 1972, a small point and shoot, to document a European motorcycle tour that me and three college buddies did our sophomore year. The camera shot 72 photos on a 36-exposure roll of film. For three months, with little money and no plan, we rode 10,000 miles through 15 countries. We went summer glacier skiing in Zermatt, and at 21 years of age I made the first turns of my life.
The die was cast. Two years later I made a hard left turn, took my degree in Dairy Science from Mississippi State University and moved to Wyoming to lead a skier’s life in Jackson Hole.
Jackson, Wyoming’s ski community in 1974 was small. My first job – digging a wiring trench under the newly constructed Casper Chairlift – connected me with Bob Woodall, a photographer with the Jackson Hole Guide. He needed a business partner to help run his company, Jackson Hole Skitography and I jumped onboard.
We shot NASTAR races in black white, processed the film, and took print orders the same afternoon. Ski area founder Paul McCollister took a cut of our paltry earnings and wrangled other photo work from us for the privilege of operating on his mountain. We liked him nonetheless and negotiated a healthy film budget to shoot his marketing needs. I burned my share by photographing, eventually, the dynamic derring-do of the Jackson Hole Air Force. After, of course, learning to ski, which took my full concentration for the next few years.
Meanwhile, I studied how sports magazines told stories with pictures. My first look at Powder floored me. Its display of ski-action photography outpaced the other American ski magazines and entered the artistic realm of its European counterparts.
Powder published the first photo of my career, a graphic ski-blur from a pro race on Snow King Mountain in 1977. A year later, Powder editor Neil Stebbins shepherded my first feature article, “Craze Teaches Fool That Once Is Enough but Twice Is Nice — a mixture of fact, fiction, and photos by Wade McKoy”.
The magazine’s founders Dave and Jake Moe became my mentors and encouraged me to pitch other story ideas. I wasn’t a writer but I could weave an interesting tale. Gradually I learned the craft from the many editors in my future and by studying the structure of a well-written magazine article.
Bob Woodall and I started our own magazine, too, the Jackson Hole Skier, and published it for 37 years.
The camera and notepad became the tools of my trade as photo jobs and writing opportunities took me around the world. It is difficult to select the five best photos from those 45 years, but these five are impossible to leave out.