DPP Home Profiles Stephen Matera: Real Sports With Stephen Matera

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stephen Matera: Real Sports With Stephen Matera

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A mountain biker along the Lewis River Trail, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington State.
Perched on Slickrock Trail in Moab in the last rays of evening light or watching the sun rise atop Washington’s Mount Baker, it would be easy to forget your responsibilities and let your troubles drift away. Photographer Stephen Matera may be living this dream in his career as an outdoor action-sports photographer, but he’s quick to point out the differences between relaxing in the outdoors and working there.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to go out and go to the places I love and work there,” says Matera. “Not to kill the romantic myth, but when I’m out there working, I’m out there working. I’m not sitting around going, ‘Oh, boy, it’s beautiful.’ There certainly is the element of enjoying being in the outdoors—that’s how I got into it. I started out hiking and skiing and snowboarding with friends, and I started taking my camera with me. It just became a natural step of things to do. Certainly, there’s almost nothing about what I do that feels like work to me; I enjoy almost every aspect of it.”

Camping below the North Face of Mount Baker, Mount Baker Wilderness, Washington State.
Hunkering down in the jetwash from a helicopter, Ice Creek Lodge, the Valhalla Mountains, British Columbia, Canada
Perhaps it’s because Matera’s journey has taken him from outdoor sports enthusiast to outdoor sports photographer that his photographs seem to reveal something a little extra-special. Not only is there the realism that comes from a straightforward shooting style free from high-tech trickery or digital manipulation, but the real key to Matera’s authentic feel is that it’s, in fact, authentic.

He’s a participant in the sports he’s shooting so he knows the moments that resonate—whether that’s a downhill cut in fresh powder or dropping into a steep sandstone trail.

“It certainly helps to know the sport that you’re shooting,” he says. “I’ve seen photos from photographers who don’t know the sport, and it’s obvious. The way I like to think about it is that every sport has this moment when you capture it in a still frame—it looks very dynamic. Somebody who does the sport can look at that photo and know what that person is feeling.”

“If you’re mountain biking, the thing I’m looking for is somebody who’s kind of in the middle of the turn and they’re leaning. Not only does that give it a dynamic feel in a still photo, but there’s also a feeling when somebody is doing the activity themselves that they get in that moment and, hopefully, that translates in the photo as well. You spend enough time out there, you kind of see that perspective.”


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