Industry Profile: Photographer Greg Miller
04 Aug, 2009
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Greg: I grew up in West Virginia as an east coast kid that’s always had a fascination with the west coast. When I was 6, my dad took me on a trip to Oregon and ever since I just knew I wanted to move out west some day. I moved to Seattle three years ago and started shooting photos.
Shay: What is your job title?
Greg: I’m a photographer but I also work as a software developer to pay the bills—everyone’s gotta eat.
Photo: Shane Treat
Shay: Did your parents question your job choice?
Greg: No, my parents have always been very supportive. I think it’s taken them some time here and there to realize that their views on certain things don’t always line up exactly with mine, but in the end they’ve always stood behind my decisions.
Shay: What was your first set up?
Greg: My first SLR was a hand-me-down Canon from my Dad. It was a fully manual film SLR he had when he was younger. I got so frustrated using it—all my photos were turning out horribly overexposed. I finally discovered that something was busted with the aperture control, and when I thought I was dialing it way down it was staying wide open, thus the overexposed shots. I soon traded up to my Mom’s hand-me-down Nikkormat, again a fully manual film camera from her college days. Sometimes I really miss film…
Shay: What is your current set up?
Greg: I mainly shoot with a Canon 1D mkII. I find myself shooting with a 15mm fisheye pretty frequently but I’ve got a full range of lenses in my bag. Fisheyes somehow make everything look cool—it’s like magic or something. I also haul around an old school Lumedyne light kit with a couple PocketWizards—I’m really into lighting. One of these days I’m going to upgrade my lighting setup, but for now I’m making due with what I’ve got. Oh, and I have a G10 that rarely leaves my side. It’s been great for getting candid shots here and there.
Shay: What was your first job?
Greg: My first job was working drive thru at an A&W. You meet all kinds of people working at an A&W drive thru in West Virginia.
Shay: What’s a great day of snowboarding to you?
Greg: Any day I get to be out in the mountains with my friends and a board on my feet is a great day of snowboarding! It’s an added bonus if there’s waist-deep pow though. And if there’s a parking lot hangout with PBRs after it starts to get into super double bonus point day.
Mario Hevia – Alpental, WA
Shay: Who are your influences?
Greg: I’d say my favorite, and probably most influential photographers out there right now are Cole Barash and Grant Gunderson. I think they’re both doing great stuff with light and I really respect Cole’s lifestyle work as well as his snow stuff. And seriously, that Gunderson long exposure shot of Bryce in Utah (front and center on his site right now) borders on pissing me off it’s so cool—Well done sir! Blotto has also been fairly influential in the respect that his blog really kind of gave me the idea to start one of my own. He’s updating it all the time with solid content. David Hobby has also been super influential in how I use light. Oh and I take iPhone photos all the time now because of Chase Jarvis. There are so many talented photographers out there and I’m sure I’ve been really influenced by way more than I realize right now.
Shay: How long have you been snowboarding?
Greg: I made the transition from skiing to snowboarding about 14 years ago. I had been skiing since I was 2 though, so as long as I can remember I’ve been on the snow. My dad grew up running a bed and breakfast at the bottom of a mountain in Vermont, so skiing and snowboarding has always been in the family. I even got my parents on snowboards for a while.
Ryan Miller – Summit at Snoqualmie, WA
Shay: How many days do you get to ride a year?
Greg: It all depends on the year. Since I moved out west it’s ranged between 40 and 80 days.
Shay: How did you get your start into photography?
Greg: I guess I got interested in photography in high school and started shooting some film. We had a photography class offered so I took that and got really excited about it. It tapered off for a bit and then I got super into it when I moved out to Seattle. Since then it’s been a huge part of my life.
Shay: In what ways do you use social media to expand your photography business?
Greg: Social media huh? Isn’t the Internet just one big fad? I put a lot of focus into my blog and I’m also on Facebook, and Twitter. For me, Facebook and Twitter are both really just ways to direct people back to my blog where the real content is, and tools that are useful in networking with other people. I actually love updating my blog and I’m getting more and more into writing. Recently though I’ve been feeling a bit too connected. I might go out in the woods and live with coyotes or something for a while to get away from all those bits and bytes. I saw one a few weeks ago at Whistler so maybe he can hook me up.
Shay: What snowboard events did you take photos at this year?
Greg: I’m still on the fence about whether or not I like shooting at events. I used to hate it but I’m starting to like it more and more. This year I was at Holy Oly, Grenade Games and Kinko de Mayo. I also shot a couple ski events associated with the IFSA but you guys don’t like skiers right so maybe that doesn’t count?
LBS Start Gate – Mt Baker, WA
Shay: Where has your work been showcased so far?
Greg: I’ve got some photos hanging in a snowboard shop near Crystal Mountain called Monkey Rides. I was pretty stoked to line that up and get some work on a wall for people to see. Other than that, my photos have been used in various places around the internets including AGoodReed, Frequency, Signal Snowboards, Big Lines, YoBeat, Snowboy Productions and RedBull. I was also a contributor to Seshn when it first started up but got a little bummed on it when they decided to no longer have a dedicated photography section and just merge that under the rest of snowboarding.
Shay: Have you submitted photos to magazines or been published?
Greg: The only magazine I’ve submitted to is Frequency. They ended up running one photo of Lucas DeBari in the Banked Slalom the year he won. It was more of a right place at the right time situation. I haven’t submitted anything in a while but I recently got motivated again to do so. It would be great to get a photo published because it’s a great photo, and not because I was in the right place with my camera. I also feel like I owe it to the guys that ride for me. They put up with a lot of shit and it would probably mean a lot to them if they got published.
Ryan and Tiger Lilly – Seattle, WA
Shay: Is understanding composition, lighting, exposure important to becoming a photographer?
Greg: Of course. Great riders doing cool stuff have to be there but nobody is going to want to look at it if it’s not well composed, lit, etc. I’d rather see an iPhone snap of someone riding that’s well composed than a shitty photo taken with the best camera out there.
Shay: What equipment do you use?
Greg: Well, in addition to the camera gear I already mentioned, I do all my editing on a Mac and do all my own printing with a fancy pants Epson printer. Oh, and I need snowboards to get everywhere I go, which are mainly all made by the wonderful people over at Signal Snowboards.
Shay: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about photography?
Greg: The most important thing I’ve learned is probably to just always be shooting. It’s practice and it keeps you creative. I’m always taking snaps with my iPhone.
Shay: What steps do you follow to capture the perfect image?
Greg: I guess it’s all about finding something cool to shoot and then figuring out an interesting angle and how to light it, if lights are necessary in the situation. I’m not sure I’ve ever captured a “perfect” image—I’ll let you know when I do.
Shay: Who is your favorite snowboarder to photograph and why?
Greg: Favorite snowboarder to shoot with right now is probably Kumara Kelley. She just recently got picked up by Burton and wants nothing more than to make a living from snowboarding. She’s a super good rider and is always positive about everything, which makes it really easy to shoot with her.
Kumara Kelley – Alpental, WA
Shay: What computer programs do you use?
Greg: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Since I started using Lightroom, I find myself going to Photoshop less and less.
Shay: What’s your average day like?
Greg: If it’s Monday-Friday, I’m usually getting up early to work on photos or head to the mountain for some quick laps before work. That or I’m heading to work early so I can leave early and head to the mountain for some night laps and shooting. On the weekends I’m always at the mountain. I’m kind of a weekend warrior in that sense but I’m trying hard to change that.
Shay: Any close encounters from taking action shots on the mountain?
Greg: Not really. I almost got taken out by a skier I was shooting from below a cliff he was dropping. I was posted up against a tree, thinking that would be my one safe spot. I later found out he has a habit of hitting trees.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from being a photographer?
Greg: Sitting in the parking lot drinking a beer and looking through photos with everyone after a day of shooting is probably the first thing that comes to mind.
Shay: How is working for as a photographer(any cool work events, work environment, job perks)?
Greg: My favorite part of being a photographer is just meeting lots of new and interesting people. I think every single friend I’ve made since moving out west can somehow be traced back to photography. I also met my wife in part because of photography.
Andrew Hart – Chile
Shay: What education/experience did you have before going into photography?
Greg: I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Virginia Tech.
Shay: What’s the best perk you’ve gotten?
Greg: Free lift tickets I guess.
Shay: Any disadvantages?
Shay: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
Greg: All winter.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Greg: Experience all the way.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to get into photography?
Greg: Buy a G10 and shoot everything you see that you think is cool. Go home and look at it and figure out what you don’t like about it and then learn from it. If you have any photographer friends, find out what they don’t like about it. That or just give up because everyone with a camera phone is a photographer these days.
Shay: Final thoughts?
Greg: I just want to say thank you to everyone I’ve shot photos of or has been involved with my shooting for the past few years. I couldn’t shoot a single photo without great riders.