There’s a certain magic in the mountains. Hikers, athletes and explorers often speak of the awe-inspiring views and unforgettable moments they experience when reaching the summit or shredding down slopes.
For photographer Ross Woodhall, a pure passion for snowboarding in the 90s led to a grand adventure in the mountains of Europe and New Zealand, and ultimately an opportunity to photograph the action.
We connected with Ross to learn about his love for photography, how he got his start in commercial work, why he’s a dedicated Nikon user and more.
He told us that he’s worked for many companies over the years, large and small, including Jaguar, Land Rover, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports, and more. And that he learned from one of the best in the business to deliver top notch content. Not only is Ross driven by great peaks and mountain tops, but he’s “always pushing to exceed clients’ expectations” too. We sense a pattern here. Ross always reaches for new heights!
Continue on to read our interview and make sure to follow along on our Instagram this week (@photoshelter) as we share a handful of Ross’ scroll-stopping, jaw-dropping photos.
The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. Cover image by Ross Woodhall.
How have your personal passions and your experience in the mountains led to the type of work you do for your photo business?
RW: When I was a kid, school was like prison. I just wanted to be outside.
Discovering the mountains and eventually photography has allowed me to earn a living doing the things I enjoy the most, which is actually priceless.Ross Woodhall
How did I end up in the mountains? Well, it was a classic tale. I met someone in a pub who offered me a job helping to renovate a hotel in the French alps. Two days later, I was standing on a balcony looking at the most amazing cloud inversion with white peaks puncturing the scene and thinking to myself “I’ve found paradise.” The mountains changed everything for me.
My initial plan was to become a pro snowboarder, hence the back-to-back winters in the northern and southern hemispheres. But after a few dodgy sponsorship deals and a few nerve racking photoshoots, I decided that a career behind the lens was a better option and blagged a job as the photographer at the top of the chairlift in New Zealand.
The guy who gave me that job was the one and only Tony “Harro” Harrington, one of the best surf and ski photographers in the world. From him I learned how to navigate the world of commercial photography.
Shooting snowboarding and skiing became my obsession and to some extent it still is. As a sport it lends itself to photography so well — the snow flying, the drama of the mountains, the light, the action. It’s just so addictive to photograph.
Tell us about your gear. What cameras, lenses, tools and programs do you typically use on your travels or in the studio? What’s one piece of equipment you can’t live without and why?
RW: Well I’ve had it all over the years: 35mm, 645 medium format, 6×17 panoramic.
I was on Canon 35mm for years, then onto digital. Then came the Nikon D3, that was it! I jumped ship and have been solely on Nikon ever since.
At the moment I have my toe in both camps, DSLR and Mirrorless. I still have my trusty D5 for sports and a D850 for studio work but I also have a Z6ii and I’m waiting for the Z8 to appear on the horizon.
Lenses, I have the 2.8 zoom range 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm. For primes, I use the f1.4’s a lot, 35, 50 and 85mm and a Nikkor 200-500mm zoom, which comes out occasionally depending on the job.
My shopping list at present is a 58mm f1.4 and three Z lenses for the Z6ii, a 14-30mm f4, 24-120mm f4 and a 100-400mm f4.5-5.6. These 3 lenses I’m buying purely for the weight factor, coupled with the Z6ii should make the perfect alpine set up.
I use Apple combined with Capture One and Photoshop. One of my handiest bits of kit is a CamRanger connected to an iPad Pro.
I also use Elinchrom flashes in the studio and Profoto on location.
What are your top tips for aspiring photographers looking to get into lifestyle and commercial photography?
RW: Shoot a lot! Don’t get disheartened by rejection, see your vision and stick to it.
If you want to specialize in one specific genre, say climbing for instance, if that’s what you love doing, then become a fantastic climber. You become immersed in that world and work will follow.
How long have you been using PhotoShelter? How does it help with your creative workflow and/or your photo business?
RW: I believe [I started with PhotoShelter] in 2009, although it could be earlier. It’s the perfect platform for me, I run my website and all of my client deliverables through it without issue.
Why do you love photography?
RW: I would say it’s been more of an obsession than anything. I get a bit grumpy if I see a beautiful view but don’t have a camera handy.
Photography is so immediate. Being able to freeze that moment in time, to go back in time and view it again and again. It’s quite magical! I also love the ability to zoom, to isolate parts of the view and only capture what you require and nothing more.
If you want to see more of Ross’ work, follow along on Instagram (@photoshelter) this week as we share a selection of his photos for a dedicated Instagram takeover.