|Photographers of Sandpoint
Capturing outdoor lifestyle images in paradise
by Billie Jean Plaster
Sandpoint's natural beauty and wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities create the ideal setting for some of the most vibrant images that could ever possibly be caught on film. Local photographers often capitalize on that setting whenever they shoot in their home territory. These artists have the eye and the ability to create striking images of people, places and things, capturing a unique moment in time. While anybody can take a snapshot, it takes a rare combination of talent, energy and know-how to create a piece of art in the form of a photograph.
That combination is found in all three photographers profiled here: Doug Marshall, Woods Wheatcroft and Chris Guibert. While each has other niches, they are all adept at producing outdoor lifestyle images that evoke strong emotions and practically transfer their subjects' dynamic energy to the viewer. They also have a common hope, that of inspiring their viewers to explore the outside world and feel the excitement and energy that their subjects experience when they carve a line in fresh powder or dash down single-track on a mountain bike. They wish to help others see a world that, perhaps, they've never seen before - one filled with travel, exploration and a lot of adrenaline. Following are brief biographies of each photographer and reproductions of some of their best work. While these signature shots depict physical attributes and people of the Sandpoint area, they do more than that by also reflecting facets of the photographers' personalities and interests.
At age 5 or 6, Doug Marshall got his first camera and discovered photography. "I just fell in love with it," he says. His first camera didn't last long. He tripped and fell on it while running up the back stairs to his house. "My heart was crushed, devastated," he says, remembering that day. But he got another camera a couple years later, and then he got serious in high school, studying photography all four years and in his first year of college. Then, abruptly, he put his camera down and didn't touch it for 10 years. He felt that as a profession, photography lacked purpose, and he wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world. Recently though, he came to a realization, or perhaps a justification, that through the type of images he likes taking - adventure-based ones - he can help people connect to the outside world. He said this meant photography could fit into "the big picture," hence the name of his business, "El Photo Grande." Marshall started shooting again in 1990 and decided about six years ago to be go professional. In the meantime, he had started a career in education, working with youth at Ascent and later Boulder Creek Academy, where he is currently in charge of adventure education. He also started a family; he and his wife, Margaret Williams, have two daughters, Emily, age 7, and Hadley, 4. "I still haven't put 100 percent of my professional energy into photography," Marshall said. Yet, while working full-time and raising a family, he has managed to shoot images that have been published by numerous national publications. His photos also appeared in the book Fifty Classic Whitewater Runs by Tyler Williams and have graced five covers of Sandpoint Magazine. At 39, Marshall has enough creative energy to keep the images flowing while juggling other responsibilities. And he's young enough that whether or not he ever devotes himself to photography full-time, he will certainly be able to produce an enviable body of work. His favorite subjects are "anything adventure based that stimulates people to go out and enjoy the outdoors or brings an awareness of what's going on in the outdoors."
Publication credits: Ski, Skiing, Couloir, Snowboard Life, Alaska Airlines, Hooked on the Outdoors, National Geographic Adventure and NW Homes & Lifestyles.
Equipment: Nikon; an F100, two F5s and an N90S. He still shoots film and feels that digital is not yet superior to the traditional medium. "Digital will be there in a few years," he said.
Woods Wheatcroft, 34, started traveling at a young age, and when he was 16 he got his first "real" camera, just in time for a family trip to New Zealand and Australia. "That's when I first got 'bit' and knew that's what I wanted to do," he says. He went on to study visual arts at the University of California-Berkeley, earning a bachelor of arts in 1993. "I had great professors, who showed carousel after carousel & of ways to frame and composition," he says. "Seeing is an art, and you have to practice it like any art form." Later while living in Boise, he waited tables at night while pursuing photography part-time, until he could build up enough business to become a full-time freelance photographer in 1998. Eight years ago, he married Holly Walker, who grew up in Sandpoint, and they started "bopping around the West," until moving here three years ago. "This is base camp for us. We're both inveterate travelers," he says. His wife helps him "in the modeling end and taking images with him." A year ago, they had a daughter, Della, and parenthood has slowed their travels down, for now. In general, Wheatcroft's work reflects his love of the outdoors, sports and travel - plus irony found in our world. He feels that by participating in the activity he's photographing, he has a better chance of capturing his subject, "even at the risk of looking silly. In the pursuit of active outdoor lifestyle imagery, I strive for real situations, the in-between moments, the ones that represent the heart of the sport or activity." Lately, he has been concentrating on submitting stock images to agencies and landing photo assignments with writers for national publications. His latest was a seven-day trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho for National Geographic Adventure, for a story slated for publication in the spring or summer of 2005. "Photography is all about the moment," Wheatcroft says, "and the moment's always going to prevail."
Publication credits: National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Backpacker, Runner's World, Sunset Magazine.
Equipment: Owns eight cameras and prefers his Canon EOS1V and his Hasselblad Xpan, a panoramic camera. He strictly shoots film and says, "I'm still kind of a purist. I like what film does."
photo by Woods Wheatcroft
A relative newcomer to both Sandpoint and the photography profession, Chris Guibert, 34, was a mountain bike tour guide when he first got interested in shooting images. From there, it took a bit of self-discovery to lead him on the path to this profession. Growing up in New Jersey, he took art classes in high school but decided to study business at the University of Arizona; after two and a half years, he dropped out. His interest in bicycling led him in 1996 to co-found Arizona Off-Road Adventures, a mountain bike tour company. Through his business, he would lure writers and photographers to cover their tours, and he would scout with photographers on location searches. Burned out on guiding and inspired by those writers and photographers, he decided in 1998 to seek more creative outlets. Following stints as a photographer at Mammoth in the winter of 1998-99 and as guest editor in 1999 for Bike, he clinched his decision, at age 30, to pursue an education in photography. In 2000 he entered a two-year program at Colorado Mountain College, at a time when digital photography was taking off. After graduating, he worked in a digital arts studio in Aspen and taught digital imaging at his alma mater. In the summer of 2003 Guibert and his wife, Suzanne, decided to move to Whitefish, Mont. But when they happened upon Sandpoint and fell in love with the beauty here, they changed their minds and moved here instead in October 2003. Meantime, Guibert has been shooting what he loves - mountain biking, snow sports and live music performances - while working on assignment and personal projects. His images often display vibrant colors and movement to capture the energy of the moment, an element he's drawn to. "I do not just want to document an event, but as a visual artist, I want to capture, in my own style, the perceived energy that happens around it," Guibert says. "This could be a decisive moment in an artistic performance or a moment of inspiration in a sport. Using through-the-lens techniques and also post-processing effects and enhancements, I strive for images that express speed, color, climax and soul."
photo by Chris Guibert
Publication credits: Outside, Bike, Powder, Blue, Sports Afield, Colorado Cyclist.
Equipment: Guibert decided to go strictly digital in 2003 and bought the top-of-the-line Canon, the 1DS, claiming it is "on par with film."