Category Archives: hard hitting investigative journalism

Hard Hitting Investigative Journalism: 31st Annual Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships

Welcome To Vail!

Welcome To Vail!

In 1982 a group of friends, passionate about riding a surfboard-shaped plank of wood down a steep snow-covered hill, decided they wanted to know who was the best at this new winter activity. Thirty-one years later one of those friends is standing in front of me with his wife, one of his three sons and a big ol’ grin on his face. You’d be happy too if the sport you helped grow from backyard pastime to international obsession finally had a venue that was perfect for its most prestigious competition. Yes, Jake Burton Carpenter has done right by snowboarding and if you think otherwise then you’re a fool.

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Hard Hitting Investigative Journalism- Jennifer Fairchild

The Apple loving woman you see above is the very talented Jennifer Fairchild of Utah. I don’t know Jen but that didn’t stop me from getting in touch with her(or calling her Jen) through a common friend who had gotten in front of the lens for her. It was in fact this young woman’s stunningly beautiful photos of my equally stunning friend that made me want to interview her. Once you look through her portfolio it quickly becomes clear that Jennifer is putting her heart and soul into her work. The results are photographs with a-lot of truth and to me that’s when they become something really special. Seeing as I don’t know Jen personally I thought it more appropriate to have an intro from some one who has worked directedly with her. So here’s what the lovely Sabina Formanek has to say about working with Jen.

                  Jen Fairchild is probably one of the most low key photographers you will come across.  That said, her subtle work makes a huge impact through its simplicity.  With the absence of flashy effects and overly elaborate subjects and surroundings, Jen’s photography has the ability to capture a feeling.  Her photos truly represent a moment trapped in time, and emotions that are normally fleeting.  When working with her for the first time, every element lined up to create some images that are honest and innocent.  The music she chose, the sun beams shining through the window onto the plush white carpet, and her careful direction brought me to an emotional place that I thought had been lost in childhood.  The photos we took that day still remain some of my favorite, probably because when I look at them, I’m brought back to that place, even for just a moment.  

Now that the ice has been broken, let’s get intimate with the one and only Jennifer Fairchild.

 NL:  So we’ll start off simple, how do you think America can reduce it’s energy consumption by 40% in the next 3 years without sacrificing our love of fossil fueled automobiles?

JF: I’ve over thought the question and am not able to answer.

NL: Wow that’s fascinating, great answer.

JF:  I do my best.

NL: Ok down to business, when did you first find yourself interested in photography?

JF:  I’ve always known that photos meant a lot to me in the way they made me feel.  Ever since I can remember one of my honest to god favorite things to do was to pull out the 8 tubs completely full of old photos at my parents’ house and spend hours looking through them.  Photography is a language of its own and it’s a language that fiercely resonates with me. As far as realizing I wanted to be a creator of photos as well as an admirer, I remember dressing my sisters up when I was about 11 and taking a stab at it then.  But when I couldn’t make the photos look like they did in magazines I got frustrated, gave it up and stuck to snapshots.

It wasn’t until a drive home in November of 2008 that I saw it as something I could actually do.  I had been thinking about someone I knew that had started doing photography on their own, and was becoming increasingly successful when I thought to myself “Shoooooot, for as much as I love photos?? I could do that.”  And the idea was cemented in my head.  It was one of those moments in life where it’s like a gong was struck somewhere in my body and everything all of sudden came into focus. I drove straight to Best Buy the next day, bought a DSLR, came home and thought, “Oh god.  You just spent $2000 on something you know nothing about.”  It was a bit of an out of body experience, but I took the camera out the next day and never looked back.

NL: And when did you think, hey this is something I can get paid to do?

JF:  I’m still waiting for that day to arrive ha ha.  Receiving money to do something I’d gladly do for free is a strange concept to wrap my mind around.  Back when I was first starting I thought for sure I would do photography as a career by shooting weddings and portraits and such.  One awkward portrait session was all it took for me to realize that if I continued down the road where the only reason I was doing it was for money, I would soon come to despise photography.  And to me, that thought was worse than death. I realized a long time ago that a passion is more valuable to me than money so until a ‘job’ aligns with my passion I dare not let money or any other thing taint what I feel for photography.

NL: Your photos have a very distinct style, I’d say glamorous yet very raw. What influences your process for bringing a concept to fruition?

JF:  Oh man, thank you.  There are a lot of things that inspire me to shoot, anything from films to clothes to people to dreams to how I’m feeling at any given moment.  Over the years I’ve discovered I enjoy shooting women the most. To me women are beautiful, powerful, mysterious creatures and I’ve really liked the aspect of showing a woman how I see her, in a way she doesn’t see herself.

NL: Do you prefer working in a controlled studio atmosphere or run&gun natural setting?

JF:  I’m a lover of shooting out in the world.  I try to tell stories with my photos and have always felt the studio to be a bit stale..

NL: So what would we find in your bag when on a shoot?

JF: Nikon D90, 50mm, and 35mm.  Sometimes a speedlight.

NL: With the advent of the DSLR and Micro Four Third camera systems came the “I’m a photographer” crowd that is seemingly everywhere. Do you think that to be a truly great photographer you have to be born with “an eye for it” or is it something that can be learned?

JF:  I’ve always felt that the way a person “sees” the world cannot be taught so in that sense, while I’m sure schooling could be beneficial on the technical side of things, to me that would kind of be the extent of a proper photographical education.

NL: In that same line of thought, where do you stand on I-Phoneography? (Instagram, Hipstamatic, Camerabag etc etc)

JF:  After being a hardcore Blackberry user for 2 years I finally upgraded to a smartphone and my most favorite feature has been the camera. Trying to lug around my DSLR is like having a child and I like being responsibility free, so to be able to take incredibly decent photos on a tiny device that’s with me all the time anyway is a bless-ing.

NL: In terms of evolving, where do you think the art of photography is heading? Do you think that as camera systems evolve so will our ideas of what the limits of photography are?

JF:  Where do I think the art of photography is headed?  Anywhere it wants.  It will never stop evolving.

NL: On that same subject do you believe that great photographers in history have a place right along side the great painters? I ask because I chat with a surprising number of people who still feel that photography is somehow less of an art form than painting.

JF:  “Art is the conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty.”  So to answer your question, yes.  To me, anything a human creates, is art.

NL: Ok now that we’ve gotten the deep, emotional questions out of the way here’s a few rapid fire ones to close it out.

JF:  Aaaaand shoot.

NL: Film or Digital.

JF:  I love both.

NL: Nikon or Canon?

JF:  Nikon’s been good to me so far, but Canon is next.  For filming purposes.

NL: Leica or Hasselblad?

JF:  I’ve never used either.

NL: Worse trend, lens flare or tilt shift?

JF:  When used tastefully, I like ‘em both.

NL: Shoot a Kardashian Christmas Card or Palin Family Christmas Card?

JF:  Kardashian.

NL: If you had to use only one setting the rest of your career, Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority?

JF: Aperture Priority

NL: Shooting on the hottest day of summer in SLC or the coldest day of winter in Park City?

JF:  For me being cold is the most miserable thing on earth, so I’d take the scorcher anyday.

NL: If you could shoot portraits of anyone…

JF:  Erin Wasson.

NL: Favorite photographers?

JF:  Juergen Teller, Camilla Akrans, Nirrimi, and Mert and Marcus.  So far… J

NL: All right, nicely done! You made it through the rapid-fire section; you’re almost there!

JF:  Shweet.

NL:  I always like to end with a bit of humor; something Barbara Walters taught me back in the day. So if you don’t mind, tell us a joke.

JF:  If you want to speak some crude Irish say Whale, Oil, Beef, Hooked all together.

NL: HAHA! Oh man that is so hilarious! Thanks again for taking the time to do this. Look forward to seeing more of your work very soon and to possible collaborative projects. Cheers!

JF:  This was awesome, thanks so much.

It was indeed pretty awesome don’t you think? Make sure to check out more of Jen’s work, just use the link below, you’ll be glad you did.



Headed Out

I’ll be flying out to Denver this afternoon for SIA trade show, then heading up to Aspen to check out the clusterfuck known as X-Games. For those of you unfamiliar with SIA it is the largest, longest running winter sport tradeshow. It was moved to Denver 3 years ago after a nice long run in Las Vegas(the good ol days). It’s not that Denver isn’t fun but when the snow sport industries gather together, it’s much more fun if there’s no snow in the immediate area(reminds people they’re there to work not party, no bueno.) So I’ll be roaming the Denver Convention Center all day tomorrow finding the best of next years snowboard gear, heckling uptight ski company exhibitors and hopefully scoring lots of free stuff I can give out to you, my loyal readers. Friday morning it’ll be time to head up to Aspen to join the circus. Like so many of my fellow winter-sports enthusiasts, I have a love hate relationship with X-Games. I love that it elevates the exposure of our sports. I love that it puts more money in my friends’ pockets for their tireless year round preparation to impress on a big stage. I love the parties. What I hate is the general attitude at X-Games and the insane people it somehow attracts. It’s like instead of water people in Aspen have been drinking a mix of Monster Energy and speed(I’m convinced crack not speed is the active ingredient in Monster). I will go no further in hating on X-Games, I think the photos I take this weekend will do the talking. Despite the extremely high kook factor, X-Games was incredibly fun last year and I’m looking forward to covering it as a self proclaimed gonzo-journalist this year. I’m envisioning something similar to my coverage of Outside Lands summer before last. In addition to the article coming next week I’ll be updating my Instagram and Twitter feeds regularly so if you’re not following those, better get on it. Hope you’ll all enjoy what I’ve got in store for you.



Hard Hitting Investigative Journalism: Spedelli’s Pizza

You’ve heard the story a thousand times, two Italians come to America, the land of opportunity. Their plan, to start a pizza joint in Salt Lake City, home to the largest Italian community in the country and all around wonderful place to live. Okay so maybe those things aren’t true but here’s the deal. Snowboarders turned hunger destroying masterminds Mac and Sam Spedale decided to make their dream of owning a pizza place a reality this past summer when they took over a piece of prime real estate up on Foothill Dr(2352 to be exact) in SLC. Recently I asked Nice Life family member(and man behind the Spedelli’s mustache) Tim Benasich to get the scoop on the burgeoning business. Why is their pizza so damn good? Will the be the first pizza place in America to make a proper salad and not just throw in a whole head of lettuce, jar of black olives and a tomato cut into quarters? Who will be the next athlete added to the elite roster of those with a pro model pizza?! These questions aren’t answered in the interview but I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it anyway. Tim pulled no punches when questioning Mac so don’t be surprised if you find yourself shocked by some of the answers.

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Hard Hitting Investigative Journalism: Coachella 2011

For years I’ve wanted to attend the Coachella Arts and Music Festival in Indio, California. Each year something managed to get in the way of that becoming a reality($, location, lack of motivation) but I was determined to make 2011 a different story. When the lineup was released back in January I knew that this was the year that I’d make my dream a reality. So when April 14th rolled around did I have a wristband? No. Did I have a place to stay? No. Did I plan on going? Yup.  The next three days would be filled with good fortune, good friends and amazing music. They’d also be filled with extreme heat, exhaustion, dehydration, bizarre episodes of self loathing and of course momentary lapses in judgement. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way.

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Hard Hitting Investigative Journalism #3

One of the things I love most in life is traveling and meeting friends of friends. Last fall while out in NYC visiting my buddy rick I crossed paths with one Matthew Brown. To say this kid is energetic is a vast understatement. Within the first few hours of meeting him I felt like he could walk into a retirement home with a 30 rack of Stone’s and have the place rocking all night long. Matt doesn’t just party hard he works hard too and it show’s in his photography. I was able to get a rare interview with Matt as he seems to always be on the go. Check it out after the jump and make sure you check out Matt’s site too.

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