For photographer, in the woods or in the pipe is where the action is
DOVER- When somebody says they’re “living the dream,” they may or may not actually mean it. For action sports photographer Mike Dawson, the phrase is 100% true, and then some. Dawson has spent the winter shooting photography for Mount Snow and enjoying every minute of it.
“I love it,” said Dawson in a recent interview. “I couldn’t be any more happy than shooting here.”
Dawson’s work has been featured this season on Mount Snow’s social media accounts, on the mountsnow.com website, and in the pages of The Deerfield Valley News. Social media followers of the mountain know he excels at shooting skiers and snowboarders at the extremes, whether hitting big air and riding the rails in the terrain parks at Carinthia or skiing powder in the woods of the North Face and Sunbrook areas. Dawson has an eye for setting up a shot that seems to come naturally, although he says he puts his all into his work.
“It’s one of those things, my daily work,” said Dawson. He pointed outside, which was overcast and snowing, a common occurrence this winter. “I battle this exact scene, it makes it intensely difficult but I also find ways to be more creative. If it was blue skies and sunny every day, this would be easy. But I’ve got to make it look more appealing than these gray-sky southern Vermont days.”
Dawson, 25, grew up in Colchester, CT, and learned to ski at Mount Snow. When he was a teenager, he switched to snowboarding and hasn’t looked back. A couple of years ago, he headed to the Lake Tahoe area, hoping to take his love of snowboarding and photography and turn it into a career. It took a little while and a couple of breaks, but eventually things worked out.
“I found my way west. I traveled to California to pursue my camera career,” said Dawson. “I was living in Truckee and working at Boreal Mountain ski area. I didn’t have much, didn’t really know anybody there. I just kind of showed up in my car with my camera equipment.”
Dawson caught a break when he signed on to shoot for the famed Woodward Tahoe training camp, which has a facility at Boreal. His first job was to shoot action sports for some Woodward summer camps.
“They had a need for summer time,” said Dawson. “I ended up working with a lot of the pros who train there. My job was shooting for content: snowboarding, skateboarding, mountain biking. I got to know a bunch of the pros.”
Dawson caught another break when the local newspaper, the Truckee Sun, asked him to shoot for them. “I loved working with the local paper,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of local people and people from all over the world.”
Last spring, Dawson had another break that brought him back to his roots at Mount Snow. While working for Woodward, he was sent to Mammoth Mountain to shoot at the Super Park event held in April 2017. While there he met Jamie Storrs, Mount Snow’s communications manager. The two hit it off, and that connection eventually landed Dawson a job shooting at Mount Snow for the winter.
“Jamie’s the best boss ever,” said Dawson. “It’s been an amazing experience shooting at Mount Snow. I’ve met some good, hard-working people here.”
Dawson also said he likes shooting in the terrain parks at Carinthia, because the features allow free skiers and riders to be creative on every run.
“It’s new every day,” Dawson said. “It’s not just the same trail, the same sky every day. What they’re doing at Carinthia is awesome.”
For his part, Storrs couldn’t be happier with having Dawson around for the winter.
“In today’s world, content is king when it comes to marketing a ski area, and having someone like Mike on staff has been great this past season,” said Storrs. “No matter what the conditions, I know he’s out there every day, cranking out some amazing images from all over the mountain. It’s been great to see him develop and grow this season, and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here.”
Where Dawson goes next is back to Truckee and Woodward camps for the summer. But first, he and roommate Casey Willax, a top rider for the Carinthia team, take some time to unwind from the ski season. They will head to southern California and Baja for some fun, surfing, and relaxing. Of course, Dawson will still have his camera in hand.
“Having working equipment that is reliable is so important,” Dawson said. He shoots with a digital Nikon D4 with all Nikon lenses. “That’s all my life savings right there.”
Dawson is also excited about what the future might bring to his budding action sports photography career. Even though he’s not exactly sure how that will take shape, he’ll be ready when opportunities arise.
“I have to constantly reinvent myself every day, keep working hard, and I’ll see where it takes me.”