Photography adventures with Jay Stewart
An interview with Winter Park, Colorado Photographer, Jay Stewart.
Jay, where did you grow up?
I grew up in El Paso, Texas, went to school in Kansas City and then Winter Park.
How long have you lived in the valley?
Since August of 99
What made you move to the Fraser Valley?
I just wanted to go some place I could snowboard all the time. I had never been to Winter Park, rolled into town with enough gas to make it to Utah (which was my goal). I was here for like 15 minutes and I was like, “yeah, this is it!”. I’m going to live in a place like this–a small town, (which I have never lived in) it was my thing!
What do you like about living here now?
I love the fact I can snowboard minutes away. I can walk out my house and Byers Peak is right there! I also love how close proximity everything is and not having to sit in traffic! I appreciate the little things like going to the grocery and knowing everybody.
Living here, I can go out and take some runs and then go to work or do some errands. I think for so long I had to do it all the time but now with kids, I’m fine with getting a couple hours in. Indi and Alivia (my kids) are older now and they can do the entire mountain with me. Ollie (youngest) is good for a couple runs at Discovery Park then it’s time for some hot chocolate.
I’m amazed at my kids, Indi is doing 360s & 180s and hitting the rails in Dark Territory, he is only 8! It’s awesome to raise kids up here and be able to do those things like hanging out at the skate park with them. I wish I would have grown up in a place like this!
How did you get started in Photography?
It started in Kansas City, my friend who BMX biked brought people over to his house like pro biker Dennis McCoy. My friend had a 12’ vert ramp and box jump in his backyard. One summer before the first X Games we were hanging out and I picked up the camera and started taking pictures of all the BMXers, skaters and rollerbladers. I was like, “man, I like taking photos and I like being a part of this scene”. Hanging out I got to meet a lot of Pros that would come to KC and practice before the X Games. It was cool to hang out with them for the entire month and then turn on the TV and there they were!
People in the scene are personable, one year Dennis asked me if I wanted to come to the X Games. Of course, I wanted to go and watch Pennywise & Face to Face along with taking pictures! I didn’t have tickets but he told me, “Just carry my bike in”.
Snowboarding, Skateboarding, and BMX were something always to do and looking at magazines with great photos provided inspiration for me.
Moving here I could do it all the time so I started shooting my friends on the mountain. While my brother was up here, we would hang out with the terrain park crew and they started passing my name around. All of sudden I got invited to shoot really cool stuff at Winter Park Resort. That was it for me right there! I thought to myself, “I don’t know on what level but this is what I’m going to do”. It’s humbling though because no matter how long I’ve been doing photography, there’s always more to learn and I appreciate that–continue learning, talking to other people and getting inspired.
Everything up here is inspiring! I just have to look out our window and Byers Peak is on one side and the Great Divide on the other side. At sunrise (before getting kids out of bed), I take 30 seconds and take it all in before starting my day.
How do you think Social Media has impacted Action Sports Photography?
Social Media has changed how you look at extreme sports because growing up you use to look at magazines cut them out and tape on your wall. Nowadays, you open Instagram and start scrolling through tons of photos but not really soaking it in. Photos of Tony Hawk, Mike Valley or Lance Mountain were ingrained in my memory. Maybe sometimes you take a screen shot but there is so much on your feed photos are not as timeless. I don’t know if its hurt but just different.
What is your primary focus in photography?
I think it’s changing because for the longest time I just wanted my photography to be about snowboarding but then I realized I enjoy all aspects of it! In the summer time, I take my tripod and go out for a hike, shooting long exposures of clouds moving, Devil’s Thumb, Byers Peak, little waterfalls or flowers. We like to hike with our kids and have a picnic at the bottom of Pano lift in the summer. I have just as much fun doing that, so it’s funny to say snowboarding but then nature too. I have also enjoyed shooting weddings lately as well.
I find myself evolving as a photographer and as a person, we get older, we get wiser and certain things matter more. I also enjoy the quality of silence.
What longtime photographers do you admire?
Of course Ansel Adams and then people like Chris Burchard, he is amazing! Then there is Atiba Jefferson and J.Grant Brittain in Skateboarding. Mark Losey covering BMX!
I’m starting to get into drone videography and my commercial license. I have an opportunity to do some raw capture video work with Give Power–Powering Communities, Improving Lives.
They do projects in Nepal, Kenya, and other African countries. So that’s what I’m going to do this summer is work hard on getting up-to-par with the drone video stuff. Opportunities like this help me evolve as a photographer and I’m super excited to pursue it!
Do you have a certain style?
I think anyone who does anything has a certain style but it’s super hard to describe it. I do know friends who see a photo of mine knows right away it’s mine.
What are some of your favorite events you’ve covered?
I’ve truly enjoyed spring shoots with Burton snowboard team at Winter Park Resort. Pros like Danny Davis and Kelly Clark, I not only got to hang out with them but on my home mountain–Winter Park Resort as well!
It’s just RAD that I can still Instagram a photo message to Danny Davis and he will still remember those shots!
Colorado Freeride Festival is also fun every summer!
One year in Kansas City, Ryan Nyquist came through and we were in the backyard shooting/riding. The Editor for BMX magazine was there and he was like, “you want to shoot a photo?” and I was like, “yeah, I will help you!”.
Nyquist was known for 360 bar spins and he would put his arm out suicide style so I wanted him to go over the spine doing that trick. Mark (Editor) was open to the idea and ask how I wanted to do it. It was getting kind of dark so I wanted some flash. I climb on the spine holding the flashes and after a couple times we get the shot and when it came out it was a three-page spread!
Then when we are at Colorado Freeride Festival I saw Nyquist and asked if he remembered and he said, “Wow, that was a long time ago! That shoot was the first time that BMX Magazine featured me in an interview.
I think that is why I’ve always been attracted to shooting these sports–everyone is approachable unlike elite athletes in a big stadium that would be like, “whatever kid”. It makes me want to be around people like that more and I love to see them on my home mountain–Winter Park Resort.
What upcoming Events are you looking forward to?
Of course the Colorado Freeride Festival again!
But also my friend Tyler is trying to have a couple pro skate contests this summer at Hideaway Skate Park. Hopefully, if this happens it could be a big event for the Town of Winter Park!
What do people think of our Hideaway Skateboard Park?
I think people love it, I kinda wish it could be expanded because sometimes it gets crowded in the Summer time. We’ve been talking about where could you have one that’s covered? Maybe even in the hockey rink at Cooper Creek Square. This past Winter in February it was warm enough and if there were a covered spot people would be using it.
Where I grew up and there was nothing and we were always running from the cops. I think it’s good for every town to have a skate park.
Skateboarding and biking to me are full of life lessons because you always fall, but your overcoming adversity and tell yourself to get back up. When you land the trick, you get the best feeling ever and then it’s on to the next trick and the next trick. Falling down and getting up is part of progression! It also opens the doors to creativity, people on the streets just see stairs, sidewalks, and streets but skaters and bikers see infinite possibilities!
What is your goal with Photography?
Of course be able to support my family and travel. As long as I can keep doing something I love it does not feel like I’m going to work every day. Nothing better than that!
What is something unique about you?
Hmm, what is something? Probably I hate eating food with my hands. That is something my wife would say, lol. I can do sandwiches but I would not go to a restaurant and order a sandwich, I won’t eat a doughnut with my hands or a burrito! I don’t know why but ever since I was l little kid, I would even come in from the sandbox and wash my hands and then go back and play in it. Weird tick of mine.
Does it bother you when other people eat with their hands?
No, I don’t know why the only thing that bothers me is watching people put in contacts, it creeps me out!
Do you wear contacts?
What do you do when snowboarding?
Just wear glasses over goggles.
Does that bother you?
I got a pair of Smith goggles with the fan inside so as long as you keep the battery charge their sweet! But yeah, overall wearing glasses with goggles sucks!
You can get inserts that pop into the goggles but even those fog up pretty bad. When I got these Smith goggles you can just click the fan on or off. On a day like today not bad but on a powder day when your dipping in and out of the gate as you stop you can’t see anything so I just click it and wait 15 to 20 secs and boom fog is gone, it’s pretty sweet!
What are you riding?
Lately a lot of Never Summer boards–durability, performance and made in America. I’ve been riding a prototype lately that has a funky shape and it’s been a lot of fun.
Are you available for work?
For sure! My phone number: 970-531-7212, I have a website and hoping to get it polished off in the next month but clients can email [email protected] till my site goes live.
Get outside and have fun! See the world differently!
Eric has lived in the Fraser Valley for over 13 years. He is passionate about the people of Winter Park & Grand County, VisitWinterPark.com and his other business O2 Creative. He enjoys blog writing, camping, skateboarding, snowboarding, painting, spending time with his family and navigating life after loss.