On location with adventure photographer Mason Mashon
© Mason Mashon
Take a look behind the scenes as Mason teams up with kayaker Ed Muggridge in the water.
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to produce a Red Bull athlete photoshoot, you’ve come to the right place. Mason Mashon is a Whistler-based action sport and adventure photographer known for capturing athletes in all different elements in the outdoors. He brings his years of skill and experience in various environments with him everytime he sets out with his camera. As a result, he always goes the extra mile to capture perspectives that pull the viewer into the wild and remote locations he frequents.
Below, Mason breaks down the key components of his recent assignment with whitewater kayaker Ed Muggridge from start to finish.
The goal and vision
Mason and Ed had worked together once before, and joined up again in Squamish, BC. “The shoot was kind of an onboarding for Ed, who is a new athlete to the Red Bull roster. The team needed various different images of him from action to lifestyle and product -- that was the basis” says Mason. “I was familiar with the location already so I arrived with some preconceived ideas. When we got on scene, Ed showed me some things as well, with some of it being pretty technical to get into.” With Mason up for the challenge in pursuit of the best shot, he was ready to go. “My main concern was to show the magnitude of the drop. The angles were quite creative and different then what I normally shoot -- using a top down perspective instead of the barbeque-type conventional angles” he says. “When you put your camera to your face, you lose your sense of balance and can sometimes get vertigo. It was a little bit out of my comfort zone, but I liked that. I got to get into the water as well -- I stood in the pool, close up, right in the action, lower to the water to also get those unique perspectives. It was a nice mix of all these different skills I had acquired shooting other things. It was really fun to exercise that creativity.”
The shooting environment
With location choice being a key aspect of the shoot, Mason had planned to utilize certain spots Ed and himself knew well. “I had been there in years previous, so I did not scout the location ahead of time. The area is dam controlled and they open it every weekend for seven weeks out of the year, which means you’re limited to that timeframe. We chose this spot because Ed was familiar with it, he kayaks there regularly. It is a pretty famous run with easy access. You can drive right to the top, which makes it logistically easy to bring equipment on scene. We discussed various different locations, but a lot of the time stuff that people want to send are in complicated canyons that require kayaking into. We decided this spot would be the best way to get the best shots.”
Once the locations were chosen, the other piece of the puzzle involved working with Mother Nature. “We had mixed weather that gave us the light we were looking for with sun and clouds. You don’t necessarily want that harsh, direct sunlight in these types of locations. Once we were on scene, we were dissecting what would work and working around the light -- trying to not to wait too long to make decisions. It is just a matter of being nimble and knowing when to call it.”
The gear to go the extra mile
Mason didn’t solely rely on his camera equipment to get the job done, and instead added a few pieces of gear to his bag that helped him achieve these unique vantage points. “A water housing offers a unique perspective because you can put things down on the water level which you can’t do with a normal camera. I wasn’t going to use it the whole time, but if you want to get close to the action with kayaking, it makes sense to be using a housing. It is the only way to really do it.”
With Mason also descending into the canyon, he brought along safety gear to make sure things went smoothly. “I brought a crevasse rescue rope that did the trick. It is a static line, so it doesn’t have much stretch and it will let you ascend. It is all safety equipment that I don’t pull out all that regularly. For these types of shots where I can be putting myself at risk, in order to mitigate those hazards, I would rather be prepared. I knew these angles required this ahead of time. I also brought a climbing harness and a gri gri, which is a belay device with auto locking capabilities. It lets me go hands free once I am in the right position and having the auto lock is crucial for safety. It lets me ascend the rope, and I don’t need another person there. I can be self-sufficient but also have peace of mind that I am safe. I’m at a high angle further away so I don’t want to put extra responsibility on others.”
Teamwork and collaboration
With the end result being a joint effort between the athlete and photographer, trust and collaboration were integral to the success of the shoot. “It was really easy to collaborate with Ed. He knows all the photos taken before at this location,” Mason says. “He was super open to all ideas and had plenty of suggestions for angles.”
With many different factors in play, communication was key. “One of my main angles gave me a line of sight from his drop in. We used hand signals because the rapids were super loud, and then radios for closer range stuff. I gave the go ahead when I was good to go. He understands that side of it and trusts that I’m going to do my best out there.”
If you want to see more from Mason Mashon, give him a follow on Instagram and flip through the photos below: