Careers in snowsports Photography: Stevie McKenna

If you’ve taken part in any national student snowsports competitions in the UK or abroad, chances are Stevie has a photo of you. Since I can remember, he has been a constant presence at events, ensuring no trick goes undocumented. This has its advantages when the shots make your skiing look better than reality, and disadvantages when you are captured faceplanting into a rainbow rail in high definition. But we need him there to freeze the moment when we finally man up and try something new in the park, or push ourselves a harder than ever on the slalom. He documents the blood, sweat and après then compiles it into a video overnight which you will replay for years down the line. So what is it like being on the other side of the lens?

You’ve worked with many industry-leading snowsports magazines so your portfolio speaks for itself, but do you have any photography qualifications or are you a self-taught?

“I have no formal qualifications or background in photography. I picked up a digital camera when they started becoming affordable in the early 2000s, but back then I didn’t have a clue about the technical aspects of photography. In my head, I knew what a good photo looked like and in time I’d come to learn that I had been instinctively incorporating all the photography basics into my shots.”

© Stevie McKenna

© Stevie McKenna


How did you manage to get ahead in the industry and work for the likes of Whitelines?

“My first published shot appeared in Snowboard UK magazine back in 2006 and I didn’t even know it had been submitted to them!

Bearsden Ski Club had not long opened their new Snowflex slope and a bunch of us organised a freestyle competition called Legion Rocks. Naturally, I offered to document the day. After the event, unknown to me, another one of the other organisers emailed a write-up of the event to Snowboard UK, along with a selection of my shots. I knew nothing about it until I was flicking through the magazine and came across it!

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I then had a light bulb moment when Snowboard UK got in touch and asked me to invoice them for the photo. It dawned on me that I could take two passions, snowsports and photography, and get paid for it!

From that point onwards, if I was heading along to an event I’d give one of the magazines a shout and see if it was something they were interested in covering. Over the next few years, more and more of my shots started appearing in magazines like Fall Line, Document Snowboard, Whitelines and The Reason, until I became the go-to guy for events happening north of the border."

© Stevie McKenna

© Stevie McKenna

You also cover events abroad, what does a standard day shooting at a student snowsports festival involve?

"On any typical day, I’d be at the race piste for around 8.45am each morning to chat to the Technical Delegate in charge of the event and agree on safe shooting locations. For the slower races I could get away with moving around the slope in between competitors runs. But for the faster events like Super G, they would generally want me well out of harm’s way, since the skiers were hurtling down the bulletproof course at speeds of up to 60mph.

Race events would last from 9am until noon and then I’d head over to the park area for the freestyle events from 1pm to 4ish.

I would then have a couple of hours to work my way through a few hundred shots from each event, editing around 30-50 of them to go straight onto social media.

If I was quick, I’d have an hour to grab dinner and a beer, before heading along to whatever event/party was scheduled that evening and shoot it until 2 or 3am. Finally, I’d have to edit all the shots before bed, as the whole process would start again in 4 or 5 hours."

© Stevie McKenna

© Stevie McKenna

What makes it all worth it?

"It’s not uncommon to clock 20 hour days, but you know that everyone is in the same boat, from the organisers to the reps and the rest of the media team. In a weird way I actually thrive off it and it keeps me going for 5 days straight.

In Scotland, the wait for snow is worth it when you catch the mountains on a good day and the backdrops can compete with anywhere in Europe. I’ll never tire of admiring the view from Nevis Range, looking down towards Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil and thinking ‘this is my office for the day’."

© Stevie McKenna

© Stevie McKenna