March, 2018

jamie kripke, matthew turley and the aspen power of four

The Aspen Power of Four is a multi-sport race series that takes competitors on a course up and over the four mountains that make up Aspen-Snowmass: Aspen Mountain (Ajax), Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass.

They have a mountain bike version, which I’ve done. They have a running version, which I will never do. And then they have the ski mountaineering version, which Matthew Turley and I did for the first time this year,” explained Jamie Kripke. The two MCA photographers called themselves the “Frozen Buckeyes.”

Jamie is based in Boulder and his family has a place at the base of Snowmass. “It’s a cool way to see the area. You start at Snowmass and end up in Aspen, skiing some stuff along the way that most people never get to ski,” he said. An avid recreational skier, Jamie registered for the race as a way of setting a goal that would get him out skiing more. It wasn’t about the competition; it was about the experience.

And what an experience! The race starts at the base of Snowmass at 6 AM. Teams of two (you always have to have a partner in the backcountry) head up the mountain on skis to the top of Elk Camp at 11,325 feet where they exit a backcountry gate. The course, marked by color-coded stakes, takes you to the top of West Buttermilk at 9,900 feet. You continue along the ridge before descending into the Maroon Creek valley. You boot it across the road and through the base of Aspen Highlands (it was a particularly long walk this year due to the meager snowfall). You skin to the top of Loge Peak and then boot the final ascent to the top of Highland Bowl, the highest point on the course at 12,392 feet. From there, a long descent takes you down and across Castle Creek, before you begin the final final-five mile climb up an old mining road (“the most grueling part,” said Matthew) to the top of Ajax at 11,212 feet.

Total distance: 25.3 miles. Total climbing: 11,600 vertical feet.

It is a ski race, but when Jamie asked me if I wanted to be his partner, he specifically said we are not racing—the goal is to finish and not kill ourselves doing it. On the first climb, we were adjusting our pace a little bit, and Jamie said, ‘At no point do I want to hear my heartbeat in my head,’” Matthew laughed. He competed in numerous ski-mountaineering races during his twenties, though he admitted, nothing quite as tough as the Aspen Power of Four. Matthew mostly skis in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah–until this race he’d only skied in Colorado once.

Matt was definitely faster than me going uphill. He was basically in a lycra jumpsuit and he had these really skinny little race skis made out of carbon fiber and super light race boots that looked like something Kanye West would wear in concert. The idea is, if you can go uphill quickly, it’s good because you’re going uphill most of the time. My gear was relatively light, but it wasn’t race gear,” said Jamie.

I wanted to go as light as possible. We had to go the same speed, but I figured might as well make it easy on myself,” added Matthew.

The ultra-lightweight skis are great for going uphill, but not so great for going down. The terrain and snow conditions were variable. They skied areas of gladed trees and in other places they had to climb down over rocks. The final (3,000-foot) descent down the front side of Ajax to the finish expected skiers to rip a couple of double black diamonds that were bumped out and icy.

At one point, I wiped out and almost lost my ski down the hill because it came off,” said Jamie. “There was a section that didn’t have any snow on it, and everyone was trying to get down through these rocks. It was pretty treacherous for the most part, but there were some parts where the skiing was really good.

There were about 110 teams of men and women entered in the race. The winning time, posted by a pair of 20-somethings that compete on the international level, was around four and a half hours. It took Jamie and Matthew just over nine. Of 60 men’s teams, only 45 even completed the race.

You can look around and tell what group you’re in by what other people are wearing. At the beginning everyone is closer together, so we were surrounded by a lot of guys in skin suits, but as the day went on, I noticed the clothes on other people were getting baggier and baggier like mine. They weren’t racing either; they were just out there to do their best and enjoy the day,” said Jamie.

They kept a conversational pace, talking about anything and everything. “We actually didn’t talk about photography that much, which was cool,” said Jamie. MCA photographers are flung far and wide but get together regularly for Roadshows.Our group is closer than most for that reason,” he said.

Since the course takes competitors through the ski areas, once the lifts opened, there was solid support from the public to help push the racers onward and upward—literally.

People see your bib number, and they start cheering, people were yelling at us from the chairlift. That was sort of cool,” Jamie recalled.

So would they do it again?

Jamie was a great ski partner. I knew it was going to be a good long and fun, but arduous day. I’d love to do it again,” said Matthew.

If you asked me the day after the race I would have said no way in hell would I do it again. But you forget how bad it sucks. Ask me next December. I did the mountain bike race, and I said no way in hell am I doing that again, but I’m thinking about doing it this summer,” Jamie said smiling.

And if not the Power of Four, maybe the Grand Traverse, which goes from Crested Butte to Aspen, that Matthew divulged they (jokingly) talked about doing next year.

If he’s game for it I would totally do it,” replied Jamie. Sounds like it’s on!

matthew turley for travelocity

Matthew Turley is accustomed to working with a whole range of subjects — models in Namibia, Ram Trucks deep in the heart of Texas, and even the occasional stingray — but working with the Travelocity Roaming Gnome was a little bit different.

I learned that the Roaming Gnome is very particular about his public persona. Far from being a prop you carry around under your arm, he insists on being held upright and facing out – presumably so he can socialize with his fans. In fact, people frequently stopped us and asked to take pictures with him. I was surprised by how much brand recognition there was. Of course, we also got a lot of ‘Hey, what’s with the gnome?’’” said Matthew.

Matthew Turley Travelocity Roaming Gnome

Matthew Turley Travelocity Roaming Gnome

Matthew and his team set out to shoot a series of images with the Travelocity Gnome in well-known travel destinations—San Francisco, Yosemite, Hawaii, New York City, and Rome. The locations chosen were intentionally recognizable icons. They shot in front of the Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges, at the base of El Capitan, and outside the Coliseum.

Matthew Turley Travelocity Roaming Gnome

A lot of the shots were really off the cuff. We had general ideas of the kinds of shots we needed, but sometimes they simply didn’t work. Since there was no time for any tech scouts, we’d often show up and find that maybe the light wasn’t right, or we couldn’t get the angle we’d hoped for – and so we’d just roam around with the gnome and find cool spots for him to hang out,” Matthew explained.

While most of the images feature the gnome in iconic locales, they did a few that were more humorous, like a shot they set up of the gnome in front of a table enjoying a gelato. The shot of the gnome on the pier in San Francisco in front of the Transamerica building was taken while they were waiting to have lunch. Others were pure luck.

The sun was setting on our travel day between San Francisco and Yosemite when some horses suddenly appeared on a hill above the road. We hit the brakes and ran up with the Gnome just in time to get a few shots before the light died. And in Maui where we needed to get a shot with a car. It was our last day and the sun was setting fast. From previous trips, I knew of an ideal section of road along the coast, so we all hopped in the van and drove out there as fast as we safely could. We stopped at the first pull out with a clear ocean view just as the sun reached the horizon, which only gave me a few minutes to pull off the shot. Actually, a lot of the shots were like that,” Matthew recalled.

Where will the gnome turn up next? Check out Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome Instagram page to find out! A big thank you to Tatyana and the team from Campbell Ewald for the great project.

rj muna and alonzo king lines ballet at sfo

Alonzo King LINES Ballet is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with a special exhibition of photography by RJ Muna at San Francisco International Airport. RJ has been photographing dance in the Bay Area for more than 20 years, and has been collaborating with LINES Ballet since 2009. The 14 images are something of a retrospective of the partnership between photographer and company.

courtesy of SFO Museum

I think as time goes on, they trust me a little more with the lighting and the idea in the shot. We started very simple, and then began to think more elaborately in terms of idea. Now we kind of go back and forth between something that’s very clean and pure and something that’s a little more high concept,” said RJ.

The celebrated contemporary ballet company has been guided by Alonzo King’s unique artistic approach since the early 1980s. King creates pieces that draw on a diverse set of deeply rooted cultural traditions to take classical ballet in a new expressive direction.

Many of the dancers have been with LINES for a number of years, and throughout the collaboration, have become friends with RJ. These relationships have contributed to the photography.

They have confidence in me, they feel comfortable in front of the camera. They know I’m going to get them at the right time and they’re willing to work very hard because they’re confident with the results. I think that’s probably the biggest factor in terms of the evolution—they’re on board with what we’re doing,” RJ explained.

Many of the images were included in a book published by Alonzo King LINES Ballet in 2013, but this is the first time a collection of images has been presented publicly. The images are usually viewed as a single image in a brochure, on the side of a bus, or a billboard to promote the company.

We never see them all together—it’s a whole different experience. It’s pretty interesting to see the image by itself, but it’s also incredibly satisfying to see the best images as a group. It gives you a sense that you’ve accomplished something over time,” said RJ.

RJ is well known for his high-end automotive photography, but has long enjoyed photographing dancers. He’s won numerous awards for his work including the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award, a Clio Award, a Lucie Award, and most recently a Silver award in the Graphis 2018 Photography Annual for his portraits of Alonzo King LINES Ballet dancers. His film work has been featured in festivals including the Dance On Camera Festival and the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, among others.