The work of photographer Woods Wheatcroft is imbued with light, energy and play. In fact, those are the names of three portfolios on his website that present his work. Wheatcroft shoots travel, lifestyle and stock photography that is true to his West Coast upbringing: laid back, cheery and sunlit.
His work has attracted outdoor clients such as Keen, Outside and Patagonia, and his job often takes him to far-flung locations. Last year, a shot of BASE jumpers in the Italian Dolomites—shot for KAVU outdoor wear—garnered him Grand Prize in our annual competition The Great Outdoors (open for entries for 2016 at www.greatoutdoorscontest.com). We asked Wheatcroft to talk about the striking award-winning image and what goes into his outdoor photography.
PDN: How long have you been shooting professionally, and how would you describe your style?
Woods Wheatcroft: I earned my first photography paycheck in my early 20s and have now been full time for about 16 years. My style is very much connected to the life I choose to live: fun, spontaneous, authentic, humorous. I am most happy capturing the in-between moments.
PDN: Where are some unique locations that your travel work has brought you to?
WW: Unique and memorable travel locations for me include Japan, Nicaragua, Baffin Island in Canada, and the west coast of Scotland, to name a few. Baja California, Mexico, is still my favorite.
PDN: What’s the story behind your Grand Prize image from The Great Outdoors?
WW: That image was taken on a two-week trip through Europe with a group of sponsored wing-suit jumpers. KAVU is one of my long-time clients and I shot stills for them on a multimedia shoot. We traveled to Switzerland, Italy and France. This particular image was taken in the Sass Pordoi region of the Dolomites in Italy. Ironically, two days after this image was taken our car was broken into and all of my camera gear was stolen. That hurt. I shot the remainder of the trip on a Polaroid and a cardboard disposable camera I bought at a gas station!
PDN: Was there only one opportunity to get that shot, or did the BASE jumpers do multiple runs?
WW: There are few angles and options to shoot wing-suiters. I will say there was only one opportunity to shot this particular moment because of the weather closing in. The BASE jumpers did do multiple runs but this was the last jump of this day, as the clouds filled the exit point. We were in a downpour shortly after this. We did explore another angle that involved a three-hour hike to be in the middle of their flight as they flew past a cliff. That result was an award winner as well.
PDN: Are there any rules you live by when photographing outdoor work?
WW: Rule 1: Any rule I give myself, I must be willing to break it at anytime. The moment rarely repeats. Besides that, I always try discover and explore new angles—such as my experience with the BASE jumpers—and not just ones that take five or 10 minutes. I think about the bigger environment and do my best to pre-visualize how the subject will best communicate in that space. Other rules of thumb: Always keep shooting until you “feel” you have it, and love what you do! I love my life outside of my photographic pursuits, and it feeds me and inspires me. Wherever life takes me, I usually take my camera.