Are you one of these people who watch the weather for mountain storms, waiting for the pow-pow? We are! And we’re head over heels for Félix Rioux‘s aerial skiing pics! He’s the cream of the crop of action sports photography, and you can see why. His skill at capturing skiing in motion is impeccable, from the angles, to the lighting to the sheer intensity of the air-borne skier. He has traveled the world with some of the most preeminent skiers in search of the best snow, the steepest mountains and most epic terrain. And he found it! Have a look at his eye-opening images. They make you want to strap on your skis and hit the mountain!
LF: When did you start skiing? Because from the look of some of the locations where you photograph skiers, you must be very skilled…
FR: Maybe I’m skilled for the average Joe but not so much compared with the skiers I have to follow around the mountai, LOL. I started in Mont Tremblant, Quebec at 5 years old. Then I switched to snowboarding at 19 for 4-5 years because I really got bored of the ski culture and equipment. I had an epiphany in 1998 when I saw JF Cusson win the winter X Games with a switch (backwards) 720. The newschool movement was born and I’ve been on skis ever since.
LF: What is it about photographing one of your favorite past times?
FR: It’s quite a trip. You get to ride the best mountains in the world with the best athletes. I’m front row seat of the cutting edge of freeskiing and getting some exercise.
LF: Do you follow the seasons around the world?
FR: I used to do summer shoots like the glacier in Whistler or French Alps or the Southern Hemisphere like Argentina and New Zealand. However, I can’t do those trips anymore because I’m too busy with the IF3 Festival. I started the International Freeskiing Film Festival in 2007 with JF Durocher and Doug Bishop. It’s been growing really fast lately and it keeping me busy 6 months out of the year. I’m traveling shorter periods of time now, compared to being 3-5 months non-stop on the road.
LF: What is the most dangerous skiing situation you have ever been in?
FR: I’ll try to make this short… I think it was like in 2005, I was out of shape and it was my first trip of the season. We were hiking up a steep cornice in the Alps. On one side there was this very icy declining slope for at least 400 feet down, and the other side was a 15-20 drop into another very steep slope that the guys were going to drop into once at the top. The path was barely three feet wide and it was windy. I had too much camera equipment on my back while also hiking with skis on my shoulder, not strapped to my backpack. I was hiking with top pros that were much faster than me. I was trying to keep up but with the altitude and me being out of shape, I started getting dizzy and almost blacked out or lost balance two or three times. That was probably the time I was most afraid of getting seriously injured. On either side I wouldn’t have been able to stop my fall for hundreds of feet.
LF: You use Prophoto lighting in some of your sports images. Talk a little bit about how this changes the image aesthetic.
FR: I joke a lot and say I have my own portable sun. It’s a bitch to travel with, but I’m 100% about getting something good if the weather sucks. It opens another world of light and atmosphere that would be hard to get without such powerful lighting. I’m now also using more Nikon Speedlights. I have 7 of them that I can use with an infra-red remote commander. It allows me to shoot at a high shutter speed. I was limited to shoot at 1/250th sec with regular equipment, which is okay in low light situations, but you can get motion blur when there’s too much sun. Now I can shoot at 1/4000th. There is always some technical limitations but when conditions are right, it’s amazing.
LF: We like your images of skiers for ESPN’s piece “Eye Trip”, shot in Quebec. What is it like shooting in an urban landscape vs on the mountain?
FR: I like both but for very different reasons. I love to be in the great outdoors on a blue bird day and get some shots. I don’t need to bring much equipment and get to ride some powder. Urban is my photo playground. I can bring all my lighting and control the look and feel 100%. It’s also easier to be creative since the environment is always changing.
LF: What are your favorite things about ski culture?
FR: Skiers are very passionate and friendly people and for some reason there’s less dickheads than other industries or businesses. There’s not much money, so everyone involved do what they do because they love it.
LF: Now transitioning into Motorcross, do you get the same thrill photographing this as skiing?
FR: I love to shoot anything that’s high pace, high energy and in your face. I think Motorcross is very interesting visually but I’m not so inclined to start riding one. I have more fun riding a snowmobile, maybe because it’s closer to home.
LF: Similar to skiing, there is an element of speed that you have to deal with as a photographer. Can you talk about what it takes to shoot these types of images?
FR: It takes timing, reliable equipment and pre-visualisation of the action that’s about to happen. You also have to know the athlete. They each have their own style, personality and tricks. When you know an athlete and how he rides, you can sometimes anticipate what he’s about to do, when the crux of his movement or grab will be.
LF: You also photograph travel photography while travelling. It’s a change in mentality to come from the intensity of an action sports to shooting everyday life. Can you elaborate on this?
FR: Haha, yes they’re very opposite. It’s my Yin and Yang approach to photography. As much as I like action, I need a calm opposite. Travel and landscape photography is an opportunity to shoot for myself at my own paste, where and when I want. I can get into my own bubble and trip out. It’s all about balance and taking time to breath…
LF: How do you LIVE FAST?
FR: I chase after my dreams. It’s amazing when you can think of something cool then make it happen. I have lots of projects, I can’t stay idle too long or I’ll go nuts. Life is too short and there’s too many things to so and to see.
LF: Art Talk: What inspires you? Favorite art or work?
FR: To be honest, I don’t know much about art. I just know what I like when I see it. I’m just not into the who’s who and the what’s what and why… I barely consider myself an artist. I respect art and artists very much. I just don’t keep up with what’s going on.
LF: Sex Talk: What gets you off? Literally or figuratively?
FR: Being outside or anywhere you’re not supposed to…
LF: Travel Talk: Favorite destination or travel stories you want to share?
FR: I like the beach, sea and sun. Anywhere warm is a favorite destination. Being from Quebec and spending many days in the cold for work. I like to go to Thailand, Mexico, Spain… whatever. I don’t have a place in particular because I like to discover new destinations.
For more great photos, check out Felix’s website here