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Behind the Photo Annual: Lee Cohen


Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today. shoots the, um, photos with SKIING photog Lee Cohen.

Lee Cohen
Salt Lake City, Utah

Are you a good skier?
I think I’m doing okay, although the new generation is rewriting the standards once again.

What kind of skiing do you most like to do?
Skiing powder is where it’s at for me. That’s why I love Alta.

Who’s your favorite skier to shoot?
There are too many great skiers who I love working with to pick just one. Dave McReynolds and I have been killing it a lot the last few years.

What’s your favorite resort to shoot at?
Alta has been my home for a long time. The special feeling of the place is still pretty much the same as it was twenty years ago, especially when it’s dumping outside.

How did you get into photography?
I got into photography shooting my friends skiing. It just kind of developed from there.

Talk about your photo shown above in SKIING’s 2001 Photo Annual.
This shot is a sweet power shot and seeing the expression on Spencer’s face pulls you right into it. But the light is what really makes it.

What do you look for in shooting skiing action shots?
Good skier form is fairly essential, especially on tighter shots. On far away stuff, the composition and light come into play but they are a key factor in close, too. For me, having good light is where I try to start from.

Do you shoot photos with the intent of capturing something in particular or do you go through your slides afterwards and try to fit what you’ve done into the parameter of a magazine?
I usually shoot with something specific in mind but I certainly go through slides and try to fit them to particular needs. I’d say if it looks like it could be a cool pic, shoot it. Film is cheap.

What is the most memorable experience from your photo career?
Taking some shots of my son being born.

Describe your craziest experience in photography.
It was a really touchy day in Valdez, Alaska. It was certain to rip, and a guide briefed us by telling us we wouldn’t be on anything real steep or anything that had a lot of holes in it. Half an hour later, our group watched from the air as that guy took his group to a steep face that turned rolly and was filled with crevasses. When the first rider dropped in, it ripped and rolled right down the glacier. I was almost sure we’d be lucky to dig our friend out. We were — or, he was — even luckier though and it spit him out into a finger sluff over to the side. Later that day, a guide from another operation was buried six feet deep on a weird release and probably wouldn’t have made it if somebody there hadn’t been right on it.

What type of camera do you use?
Nikon F5

What other equipment do you bring with you on a shoot?
Anywhere from a couple to a bunch of lenses, including a 16mm, 20-35 zoom, 35-70 zoom 80-200 zoom, 300mm, and 500mm. Sometimes I bring a light meter but usually I know what exposures I like for shooting skiing. One day I’m going to hire someone to carry my pack.

What’s your favorite type of film?
I shoot both Kodak and Fuji.

Do you have any advice for photo enthusiasts?
Use the light and learn from your mistakes.