You’ve seen his photos promoting the SkiBig3 resorts for the past three seasons, the fruition of days on the mountains from sunrise to sunset working with some of our very own SkiBig3 Ambassadors and local athletes. Together, they showcase the nuanced terrain and feel of Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay.
With nearly 8,000 acres as a backdrop and three distinct resort personalities to embody through the lens, this is no small task. But with a special connection to Banff National Park and a decade of professional ski photography experience under his belt, Reuben Krabbe is up for the challenge season after season.
Although the 28-year-old photographer has called the West coast his home base for the past eight years, with four years in Squamish and four in Whistler, his history of ski tracks in the Canadian Rockies run far and deep.
Small Bumps to Big Steeps
Growing up in Calgary with Banff National Park as his not-too-distant backyard, Krabbe cut his first edges on ski resorts of the not-too-distant past – like Wintergreen, in Bragg Creek, and Fortress Mountain, East of Canmore. But some of his formative skiing years and fondest memories in the mountains happened right here at the SkiBig3 resorts in Banff National Park.
“Wintergreen was this extra small little bump, kind of Canada Olympic Park-sized. And then we graduated to Fortress. As we got older we worked our way West through bigger and bigger mountains – I put in a lot of days at SkiBig3 through my teenage years,” said Krabbe.
Krabbe recalls the first time he experienced a true powder day at Banff Sunshine Village. At seventeen years old, he and his friends convinced their parents to let them buy season passes and drive themselves out to the resorts that winter, the same year there was a forecasted powder day of 40 centimetres.
“We saw the forecast a long way out and spent an entire four days harassing our parents to let us skip school, and eventually they did,” said Krabbe. “That was the best powder day of my entire youth, we got to ski Hell’s Kitchen untouched. The first time you ski really deep powder it kind of blows your mind.”
Evolution of Style and Perspective
Moments like these helped shape Krabbe’s perspective and understanding of the local terrain and develop an interest in his current craft. At around the same time he was starting to ski the Big 3, he picked up a camera and brought it the local terrain parks to shoot his first frames in ski photography.
“You come back to the same mountains over the years, but always see them in a new way,” said Krabbe. “Although they’re ultimately the same, they feel so different because you’re finding new possibilities in the terrain with a different set of eyes.”
“The little cliffs that I jumped off as a 13-year-old kid, now I think ‘oh yea, you hopped over a rock’. It was a challenge when I was thirteen and now it’s something entirely different, and it’s cool that there’s this constantly changing element.”
It didn’t take long for Krabbe to decide that photography could be his life’s work. By the age of 16 he had considered it as a career path, and after graduating attended a photography school in Victoria. He has been dedicated to the camera ever since.
Naturally, over the years his photography style has evolved alongside his perspective on his Rockies landscape subjects.
“When you’re younger, you try to fit in with what’s going on in the photography world, and emulate the photography that you love and are trying to achieve,” says Krabbe.
“Now, it’s more about trying to find small little ways to diverge when it makes sense, when there’s something interesting to play with. Your ambition and what you’re driving to achieve in photography will always change.”
Keeping it Close to Home
With an impressive resume of award-winning photography and project collaborations with the best in the industry, Krabbe has been making waves in Western Canada’s adventure photography scene for quite some time. And that’s where he wants to keep it, putting emphasis on pursuing his craft without travelling internationally.
“It’s a wonderful career because there are so many beautiful aspects about what you get to do with your job, you get to call your adventures work and see such beautiful places,” says Krabbe. “But I’ve also been trying to figure out how that fits together with not being a super carbon-consumptive human.”
Krabbe says that while an easy way to get work and get attention on your work is to always be on a plane, this is a path he wants to move away from.
“I want to figure out ways to decouple that kind of thing and not popularize carbon-hopping.”
Some of his favourite projects are in fact close to home, such as ‘Rocky Mountain Moto Tour‘, a movie produced with the North Face and Sherpas Cinema, wherein two friends ski and ride their way through Alberta’s Rockies with nothing more for transportation than motorbikes, mountain bikes, skis and a split board.
But the shoot he is perhaps most well-known for took place in Norway’s Arctic Circle in 2015. With a team of skiers, he made the journey to capture one of the most challenging ski shots that can be attained – skiing during a full solar eclipse. The journey was made into a short film and took home the award for Best Snow Sports Film at that year’s Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.
Four years later, Krabbe is still in pursuit of the seemingly impossible shot. His year is currently dedicated to another project he has in the works, a photography/film story along a similar theme to Eclipse, but this time closer to home.
And while the wonders of nature and intricacies of weather are what sets his work apart, it’s also what he finds to be the most challenging element.
“Having a complete mastery of understanding weather systems would simplify everything so much,” says Krabbe. “A lot of the stress and the anxiety comes from trying to align components with clouds, figuring out what storms are going to happen, what’s moving in different places.
But at the same time, you would remove a little bit of the serendipitous element of photography. Sometimes you put the camera away because you don’t think anything is going to happen, and then this tiny little pocket opens up in the clouds and it makes a very very beautiful scene, it’s a chaotic but wonderful element of photography.”
It’s hard to say, and, I partially don’t want to know. If I totally understood my creative process I think I would begin to feel like I’m copying myself. But, I try to pre-plan some ideas and re-invent things before I get to a shoot. That will help me have several ideas to start the day and aim for. Then, in pursuit of those images I will often ‘bump’ into other ones along the way. Finally, I try to keep paying attention to weather, it’s constantly changing and making the familiar landscape into a new scene. If you can capture that weather, you can capture new images. And, by actually paying attention to the present moment while shooting, that helps me remember how cool my job really is.
I tell people to immitate lots of different photographers directly. Steal ideas, replicate things, you learn so much while trying to make carbon copies of things. Then, after you learn the skills of photography, start remixing ideas from outside of your niche. Bring in ideas from art, music, science, friendship… that’s where it’s going to get interesting and you’ll start to make things people want to see.
Want to discover the SkiBig3 Rockies through your own perspective?
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