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Portfolio Check – Tal Roberts


So let’s start with some basics – where are you from & where you do you reside now?
I grew up in Gig Harbor, WA and lived between there and Seattle until I moved to Ketchum, ID nine years ago. Ketchum is a unique small town that surrounds the Sun Valley ski resort and has 2 super fun, Dreamland built skate parks (Ketchum and Hailey) and great access for snowboarding, mountain biking and some rivers.

Jens Peterson, Nosegrind
Jens Peterson, Nosegrind.

Awkward moment alert – How old are you?
By the time you read this I will most likely have turned 33.

Aaron Reid, Push, tal roberts, tal roberts photography, tal roberts inerview, interview with tal roberts
Aaron Reig, Push!

When did you first start getting into photography and how did it happen?
I took some photo classes in middle school and really liked them, but didn’t stick with it. Then when I was about 20 I really felt like documenting the things around me, mostly for the memories. I remember driving around and I started looking at things a little differently, like composing shots without a camera. Thinking back a little farther, I remember watching skate videos and hitting the pause button on the VCR when tricks looked just right, so I guess that was one of my earlier attempts at creating still images.

Jens Peterson, Bridge, Ollie
Jens Peterson, Ollie.

Did you take a photography class – if so where at and would you recommend it?
Not really, other than that middle school class I took a basic photography class at a community college to get access to the darkroom. There wasn’t a lot of darkroom use in the class but I went over and used it a lot, I would read up on it technique and just do trial and error. I learned a lot from reading books and the internet, almost all the technical info you could want is readily available, you just need to really want to learn it to keep yourself focused with all the distractions that will get in the way of educating yourself. But really, there is no substitute for the real world experience of being out shooting and figuring out how to make things work in the field.

Burke Gamblin, One Foot, ketchum, Tal Roberts photo, tal roberts photography, tal roberts interview
Burke Gamblin, Ollie-north.

Who/What were some of your early influences?
As far as skate photographers, the ones whose work really stood out to me were Scott Pommier, Brian Gaberman, and Jon Humphries.

Joh nMorgan, nosegrind, nosepike, tal roberts interview, interview with tal roberts, tal robets photography, photography with tal roberts, tal roberts

You seem to have a strong passion for the visual development of photos. Back when you were an inspired younger photographer did you see it as a job or as a possible career?
You know, I don’t think I ever thought about it early on, but as I got more and more into learning and looking at the work of photographers I admired I realized that a lot of these people were actually making a living doing this. It was a long time before I really put effort into making a living shooting photos.

Mike Sweringen, Inverts, ketchum idaho, Idaho, ketchum photographer, Tal Roberts, Inteview tal roberts, tal robets skateboard, tal roberts photography
Mike Sweringen, Invert.

So did you start with shooting Skateboarding or other things first?
When I started to learn to shoot I didn’t jump right into shooting skating that much. It was more standard stuff like sunsets and landscapes. When I did get interested in shooting skateboarding I really dove right into learning as much as I could about how the rad shots in the mags were made, like what kind of gear those guys were using and how to use the flashes to stop action. The techniques I figured out then really carry over to a lot of the non-skate work I do these days.

Brian Drussel, Ollie, Shadow, Tal roberts, interview with tal roberts
Brian Drussel, Ollie.

You shoot a lot of snowboarding and skiing – how did that get into motion? Does it help living somewhere like Ketchum? How did you get the opportunity?
I didn’t move out here to shoot snowboarding, or to shoot at all really. I just had a cool offer for a place to stay and a job so I came out for a winter just to do something different. I would shoot snowboarding a little with some friends but wasn’t really trying to do anything with it. Then my good friend Chatham Baker, lined me up with an amazing opportunity to shoot some projects for Smith Optics where he is the art director. I really didn’t have a lot of experience with that kind of stuff, and I felt like he took a chance to help me out so I worked super hard to learn and get good at shooting skiing and snowboarding. A lot like when I was really hungry to learn about skateboard photography. I think a lot of the opportunities I’ve gotten can be traced back to that. Living in Ketchum has huge benefits as far as shooting the type of stuff I’ve been doing. For me, since a lot of what I shoot is done outdoors living here is great since there is really good access to cool locations.

Lucas Erlebach, Tal Roberts photography, tal roberts photo, tal roberts interview, tal roberts skateboard, skate photo
Lucas Erlebach, Fs Bluntslide.

How’s that like compared to shooting skateboarding? Obviously using a lot different lenses but you seem to have a really good perspective on both sides – how do you get into the groove?
The fundamentals are pretty similar, like you want to show the trick or line in the best way. But the scale can be way different from a skate spot, you still need to have some reference to where a person is coming from and where they are going, but when they are hitting a jump that sends them 100’ the way an image is composed tends to be really different.

Shea Cooper, Tal Roberts photography, interview with Tal Roberts photography, interview skate photography
Shea Cooper, Five-0.

Moving a little forward – What’s your advice on how to get those crispy sharp photos you always have? I know you have some secrets..
I really just do what I learned from the skate photographers who figured all this stuff out. Think about getting your flashes in places where they can overpower the ambient light that your subject is in as well as knowing that they are firing at a short duration so that the action is frozen still. It really helps to use a couple flashes to wrap the light around the skater, since the flash stops the action it will only be crisp where that light hits them. Also with some of the newer gear you can get the digital cameras to sync with flashes way faster so that helps too.

Tyson Bower Bank, Method, skate Shadow, tal roberts photography, ketchum idaho
Tyrson Bowerbank, Method.

Do you ever shoot with film? What’s your experience like with that like?
I was actually really late to start shooting digital. I only had film cameras until like five years ago. I really like shooting film, it’s a different experience and makes you think a bit more. Most of the stuff I do these days needs to be shot digitally but I still shoot my Hasselblad quite a bit for personal work.

Brian Drussel, Hailey, fs air, tal roberts interview, tal roberts photo
Brian Drussell, Fs air.

I’ve noticed a lot of your photos have reflections or mirror imaging somewhere in there either it’s a shadow or water or something else – how do you get that perspective?
Most of those shots I did by holding either a glass prism or a small mirror near the lens. Some of the stuff I was shooting started to feel repetitive so I started playing around with a few different ideas and that was one that I got some cool results with.

Alex Greening, Shadow Ollie, tal roberts photography, tal roberts photography interview
Alex Greening, Fs Ollie.

Would you say having hands-on experience with what you’re shooting helps? If so how. (I.E. Skateboarding, Hiking, etc)
It is so important to really understand what you are shooting, especially with skateboarding. You need to know how tricks are done and when they look the best. I would say this approach should be carried over to any activity that has any style involved.

So are you now working for any companies or are you on the freelance tip? Let’s us know about your struggle.
I am definitely on the freelance tip, although I am super lucky to have a few companies that I do regular work for. I still shoot for Smith Optics and do a lot of work for Sun Valley Resort shooting skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, really anything fun that you can do outdoors in this area. The struggle is always there though, not knowing what I’m going to do next and not really having anything else to fall back on.

Tyson Bowerbank, Kickflip
Tyson Bowerbank, Kickflip.

Shout-out & Thank-You’s!
I have a huge thank you to an old friend named Jeff who I used to skate with at the Foss skate park in Tacoma, which is the shittiest old metal ramp park but it’s so fun. When I was trying to get into photography Jeff worked at a camera store and helped me find a camera, which was a Nikon n65 and a lens. After I got the camera he would hook me up with rolls of film and processed all of it free. When I’d go in to get the prints he would look through them with me and tell me which ones were working out and which ones weren’t, and why they were or weren’t good. This was so rad! I never could have afforded to shoot all that film and plus I was getting a little lesson each time. I wish I could thank him in person but he moved and we lost contact a long time ago.

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