Breathtaking photos prove Scott Rinckenberger’s switch from high-flying skier to pro photographer is no mere stunt


posted Friday, November 30, 2012 at 1:12 PM EDT


Nature and outdoor lifestyle photographer Scott Rinckenberger has impressed us with his stunning imagery and his willingness to go the extra mile, quite literally, to capture the perfect shot. For his latest project, Scott has been skiing each of the twelve months of the year in his native Washington State and capturing the experience with his camera along the way. We recently interviewed him about his photography for the profile story below. We're also proud to officially welcome Scott on board as a pro camera reviewer and future collaborator for Imaging Resource.

Scott Rinckenberger is living proof you can turn your passion into a way of life. In Scott's case though, he's been able to transform two of his passions -- skiing and photography -- into viable careers.

It all started in the mountains of Washington state, where Scott earned a reputation as a stunt skier who could pull off spectacular tricks that looked great on camera.

Pretty soon, commercial photographers came knocking, looking to feature him in magazines and ad campaigns. And Scott's first appearance in a high-profile commercial photo shoot was quite a doozy.

For the image, which ran in a national ski magazine, Scott ski-jumped over a mammoth snow wall along the highway leading up to Mt. Baker in Washington, flying over the road -- and a cruising Nissan Pathfinder -- before landing on the other side.

"It looked like a toy car way down below me," Scott recalls. After the magazine shoot, other commercial skiing gigs beckoned, including showing off his stunts in ad campaings for Volvo, Avis and REI, among others.

Cut to the Chase
While Scott has been passionate about skiing since he was a little kid, his love of photography came later. He took a photography class when he was in high school but it wasn't until he started collaborating with pro photographers, who were capturing him as a skier, that his interest really started to grow.

"I don't know if I even owned a camera when I was skiing," he says. "But through working with photographers and picking up what they were doing, I began to really appreciate photography. I'm an inquisitive guy so I learned a lot."

Four ski tracks through perfect backcountry powder. © Scott Rinckenberger Photography

One photographer who took Scott under his wing was the Seattle-based Chase Jarvis, who has become one of the most high-profile pro shooters in the world. Scott was Jarvis' assistant for ten years, leaving that position about a year ago to become a pro photographer on his own. Scott's first move was to show his work in public.

"Right off the bat, I started hanging work in gallery spaces and that is a strong part of my endeavor," he notes. "My first photo show was a launch of my brand as well as a launch of my art."

Natural beauty
And while Scott's work, unsurprisingly, includes many images of skiing and other outdoor sports, he gravitates towards wider-angle, more nature-driven imagery when photographing athletes. That's not to say there isn't plenty of action in his photos -- because there is -- it's just that his images, many of which are shot in black-and-white, tend to have a more contemplative feel with the humans in the shots dwarfed by the immense and beautiful scenery surrounding them.

Skiers crossing the Coleman Glacier on Mount Baker. © Scott Rinckenberger Photography

"Some of my work has people in it but, generally, the people are there to provide a sense of scale, rather than a focus of the image," he says. "For a period of time, I wasn't even showing the action work at all. But that's a core element of how I'm traveling through the mountains with the people I'm out shooting with. We're all skiing and mountain climbing and to it ignore it [in the photos] seems an injustice."

While the action work is more marketable, it's Scott's classic, black-and-white landscape work that he feels will be his signature style.

"It's the reductive nature of it," he says of the monochrome images, a few of which you can see on this page. "A lot of the stuff that fascinates me when I go out shooting is just pure light and form."

Glacier peak wilderness Larch trees. © Scott Rinckenberger Photography

Along with continuing to show his work in galleries, Scott shoots for ski magazines, ski companies and other outdoor lifestyle companies. One large retailer, Washington-based REI, has just signed on to feature Scott's work every few weeks through its various outlets.

Gear box
Scott has been a long-time Nikon shooter, working with D2x, D3, and D3s digital SLRs and Nikkor lenses but he recently started also shooting with the lighter and smaller Olympus OM-D EM-5 compact system camera. With the Olympus EM-5, which uses a 16MP Micro Four Thirds size sensor, Scott just pops it in his Think Tank chest harness along with the 9-18mm and 40-150mm lenses, and heads out into the wilderness to shoot.

"It's impressive for what it is and for how compact it is," he says of the camera. "It's a very effective tool. The focus is fast. The frame rate is fast. The only thing I would love to see in the next iteration is a faster computer on the back end. It doesn't write files as quickly as a DSLR."

Skier climbing Chiwaukum ridge. © Scott Rinckenberger Photography

He adds that the EM-5's weather-sealing and tough metal body are great for shooting outdoors in the cold and make it "one of the few small cameras that still feels like a professional model." (Here's a short video of Scott testing out the Olympus OM-D EM-5.)

Upcoming projects
Scott also recently got his hands on Sony A99 DSLR and is in the process of trying it out now. He'll be sharing his thoughts on the full-frame, flagship camera from Sony on Imaging Resource next month.

He has two more gallery shows coming up in Seattle, noting that he prints most of his work on an Epson 3880, using Epson Cold Press Bright textured matte paper.

Surfer above the lip in Costa Rica. © Scott Rinckenberger Photography

"It renders out high contrast imagery really beautifully," Scott says. "For some reason, photography just feels more real and permanent to me when it hits you in a gallery."

His latest project features landscape and adventure photography from his mission to ski each of the twelve months of the year in his native Washington State. For our readers in the Pacific Northwest, this body of Scott's work will be featured in a gallery show in Seattle, opening on December 15th. If you don't live near Seattle, and would like to own this stunning collection of photos at a very reasonable price, they've been assembled into a 2013 calendar, available for $24.99 here. Even more affordably, a digital version in iPad, PDF, or WebViewer versions is just $7.99. (Purchasers of the print version also receive the digital version as a free bonus.)

To see more of Scott's photography, visit his website.

Mountain bike drop Leavenworth below. © Scott Rinckenberger Photography