Shooting board sports with Alex Papis "The craziest thing was when Markus rode a line and triggered an avalanche. He almost got buried and lost his glove. Then Arthur released another avalanche trying to pick up the glove Markus lost before!" 01/31/2018 © Alex Papis / Red Bull Illume How have things been since entering the Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2016? It was great to see my photos make it to the semifinals at Red Bull Illume. It showed me that my work is on a good level, but there was no impact on my work situation resulting from it. Times actually got pretty hard for me in the past two years. I had bad luck with the companies I worked for who either don’t exist anymore or just don’t have the money to afford a professional photographer. It’s also tough to find new clients in the board sport industry as the market is decreasing. Luckily there are new doors opening and I find myself working on different subjects nowadays, but I am still trying to stay in the action sports photography game because that’s where my heart and passion is. You just got back from a snowboard shoot, how was that? Yeah, I still keep a foot in that door and whenever I get the opportunity to go out and shoot with professional riders I grab my gear and go for it! I was shooting with Elias Elhardt for his next documentary movie alongside Arthur Longo and Markus Keller - three really amazing and talented riders. We went to the Dolomite mountain range in Italy. The move was pretty spontaneous as the snow conditions changed a lot and this was the best area to go at the time. How was it shooting with those guys? I knew the guys from before but shooting-wise I was only with Arthur some years back. There is always a big difference between shooting alongside filmers and going on photo-only missions. As this is a movie project, filming comes first and I capture what I can. It’s pretty challenging being in the right spot to shoot without being in the shot of the filmer - and there were three filmers at the same time! But I think I got some really good shots that tell a decent story about this part of the trip. Any funny or crazy stories from the trip? Ha, yeah, a couple… Elias found this crazy, narrow gap between two huge rocks to ride through. The crack was about 20m long and the narrowest part was just two widths of a board. Super sketchy. Elias was going pretty fast to drop into a landing right after the exit. On another day we barely made it down from the mountain. At first Markus lost his phone at the end of a long shooting day. It took us about an hour to find it (thanks to a phone tracker App) and then Arthur set up a nice little bonfire so the filmers got all crazy and we ended up staying until it was completely dark. We had to find our way back without any lights. The craziest thing was when Markus rode a line and triggered an avalanche. He almost got buried and lost his glove. Then Arthur released another avalanche trying to pick up the glove Markus lost before! He grabbed it on the run with all the snow coming down behind him. Crazy dude! You’re also planning a surf project, right? What’s the concept behind it? Yes, that concept has been on my desk for two years and there is always something that keeps me from bringing it to life. I am planning on a surf trip, but specifically a boat trip with Europe-based surfers. The concept is to bring surfers from each generation on the trip to showcase how the sport has changed everyone’s approach to a professional career, especially here in Europe. My idea for such a trip came up with a surfer and friend I have known since he was born. He is Austrian but moved to France and became one of the most talented kids out there, winning competitions and starting to make his way to the main events. I began to think of the effort it takes nowadays to get to the top, and I want to know how it was and how it will be for the generations to come. Where and when will the project be shot? I am still trying to get things lined up. It is always hard to pick the right time window with guys who are doing contests around the world. I hope to do it in September - I have some good contacts but it still needs more preparation to pull it off. I want to keep it under the radar until it is for sure. Is it a personal project? Any brands involved? Yeah, I mean it started very small. I first just wanted to do a photo project but then the idea got bigger. Now there are more riders planned, at least two filmers and it looks like it is going to be a documentary-style project. Here I find myself in a completely new role like a director. This puts me in a position where I have to start looking for brands who want to back the project. I am still looking for partners which is not the easiest part nowadays. You shoot a lot of board sports, namely snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. Does each one require its own approach or are there common rules? The one common rule is there are no rules! Each sport works differently. The sports are different and every single shoot is different. I am usually not planning too far in advance because anything can change from one day to another; the destination, the weather, the riders. Actually, this surf project is the first time I put in more planning effort and along the way it has already changed a lot. Do you have a favorite board sport you like to shoot? Why? I love surfing so much because you can do it all year-round in any kind of environment. I moved to Portugal part-time to spend as much time as possible at and in the ocean. There is so much beauty and energy combined in this sport. How did you get involved in surf photography? Austria isn’t known for its surf spots! Yeah, it’s thanks to my Mom. She sent me to France to get better at speaking French when I was in school. (I was really bad in school!) She had friends there who owned a house close to the ocean - best holidays ever! If action sports photography has taught you one thing, what would it be? Be prepared for everything! Adapt to the conditions that surround you and you will find your way! What advice would you give to aspiring photographers who want to work in this industry? Its hard to live from this kind of photography. Just get out there and find inspiring, creative guys that rip with style! Know what your work is worth and don’t sell your soul! Always have a backup plan! Any plans for the future? Adapt to being a dad! Want to see more from Alex? Check out his website and Instagram.