What we’ve learned from photographer Bruno Long.
How cool would it be to work as an action sports photographer? For those of us who love skiing and mountain biking, Bruno Long is the perfect cameraman to emulate.
Bruno moved west from New Brunswick 25 years ago to pursue his mountain passions. He started in Jasper and then moved to Revelstoke and landed a job grooming slopes on Revelstoke Mountain Resort the first year it opened. He also worked as a trail builder for Parks Canada to make ends meet until photography became a full-time job. But those days are long gone now that Bruno has become one of the most sought-after photographers in mountain sports.
Bruno shredding after getting the shot. Sunshine Village backcountry.
If you want to break into the mountain media scene, you need to get invited on trips. No one wants to be stuck in a tent with a jerk or endure a long road trip with a grump. Even if you take great photos, you better be someone others want to hang out with if you hope to get invited on the best trips. If no one wants to ski with you, you won’t be there when the magic happens.
The gear matters, and knowing how to use it is essential, but creativity is how a photographer sets themselves apart. Bruno has photographers he admires and tries to learn from, but he has his own style. He moves around the mountains, looking at how light and shade define texture in those environments. A boulder’s shadow cast downslope, a sparkling snow surface, or a rollerball trail down a powder field are all opportunities to frame action thoughtfully and bring emotion or mood to the picture. Once you get familiar with his work, you’ll be able to pick it out immediately when you open a magazine.
To get the shot, you need to get there first. Bruno Long, Banff.
It’s maybe not obvious, but if you want to capture the world’s best athletes in the mountains, you will need to be able to keep up, even with a heavy camera bag. Luckily, that’s not a problem for Bruno. He ski tours all winter in Roger’s Pass and around Revy and mountain bikes all summer. In recent years, trail running has taken over as his favourite pastime, and he loves to cover long kilometres in places like Mt. Assiniboine or the Rockwall in Kootenay National Park.
On top of the fitness to get to where the action is, you need the basic backcountry skills to travel safely. A few years ago, Bruno started to feel like he wasn’t contributing as much as possible to the groups he went into the backcountry with. So he set about getting more formal education, taking advanced avalanche and wilderness first aid courses. Add that to the wealth of experience he’s gained over the years, and you have a truly competent partner in the mountains.
There’s no doubt that it pays to be well-rounded in the media world. Bruno’s ability to write thoughtful articles that can accompany his images is a real advantage. Check out his latest feature, Partners in Climb, in Forecast Magazine issue 7.3. (every issue of Forecast is available in store)
Bruno discusses the plan with Chris Rubens and Alex Jay. Revelstoke.
Skiing around Kicking Horse this season, we met a gobsmacked girl who found out it was Bruno Long she’d been skiing with. “That’s Bruno Long? I love his ski photos!” As well known as he is in skiing, Bruno might be better known in mountain biking. And that’s helpful when you are building a career behind the lens. It means he has twice the number of clients and can be working any month of the year.
If you are going to build a career in dangerous environments, take Bruno’s lead. He never shows off while skiing. He knows he’s there to get the job done and enjoy himself but not push his abilities. He moves confidently and purposefully but never scares anyone.
Maybe even more importantly, Bruno never asks athletes to do anything sketchy. He worries about athletes’ safety and never puts them in situations they don’t like. Instead, he lets them make their own decisions, and if anything, he reminds them that there’s no need to push things too hard.
There’s no way to rush photo shoots. Everyone involved needs to discuss the setup and where the action needs to happen. Bruno employs the classic snowball throwing technique to show skiers exactly where they need to be. If he needs to throw three different balls to get it right, he does. There’s no point hurrying a shot and missing it altogether.
Bruno Long enjoying his own skiing. Banff National Park.
Always bring the camera
Bruno will throw in the camera even when packing for a friends day skiing in terrible weather. It may be a pared-down kit with just one lens, but he always brings it.
Long tells would-be photographers to “Shoot what appeals to you. When learning, shoot what you are passionate about, what puts a smile on your face. Shoot the stuff that you cannot get out of your mind. If it puts a big smile on your face, keep shooting that sort of thing, even if it isn’t perfect.” The more you shoot, the better the images will get.
Bruno Long shooting Jemma Capel at Kicking Horse.