All Photos by Tucker Patton. All Photos ©.
I’ve been fortunate to have surf lifeguarded at Namotu Island Resort for a decade or more (I’ll be honest I’ve lost count). Fiji is one of the most special places on the planet and I’ve enjoyed countless days of my life surfing some of the worlds best waves in this beautiful paradise. The last couple weeks there were a bit different as I didn’t even bring a surfboard and only packed my camera equipment to shoot photos.
What was once a annual 6 - 8 week stop over enroute to and from the New Zealand heli-ski season has now been cut down to a quick photography strike mission. Not to mention I’ve had to take a couple year hiatus as Triple Point has taken off and I’ve pursued other opportunities. It was really good to be back and I was super stoked for the new challenge of shooting photos in such a special place.
The first thing to hit you as you get off the plane in Nadi is the familiarity as well as the change. The airport is being re-done and looks amazing. The roads are bit more paved and the town has more traffic. But the Fijian locals still wave from the sugarcane fields as you drive by and the morning sunrise over Vita Levu as you walk off the plane is more beautiful than I remember.
Namotu is located on the Southern most tip of the Mamanuca chain and lies 5 nautical miles west of Viti Levu — Fiji’s largest and most populous island. It is truly a waterman’s paradise. The island is situated within striking distance of many of the best waves on the planet. Cloudbreak, Tavarua Right, Restaurants, Swimming Pools, Namotu Left and Wilkes Passage are all a short boat trip away and can accommodate anyone’s surfing abilities depending on wave size, tide and wind.
The waves have certainly remained the same since I was last back but it’s the amazing Fijian people and the new guests you meet along the way are etched in my memory. One cannot underestimate the beautiful Fijian culture with their amazing hospitality and true zest for life. The Aloha spirit is truly alive and well in the Fijian islands
Thanks to Scotty and Mandy O’Connor for their generous hospitality, the guests who were on the island for letting me share their holiday with them and all the amazing lifeguards who look tirelessly after each surfer knowing exactly where and when to be to get the best waves possible.
I can’t wait to get back. Vinaka Vakalevu!
Gear I Loved Using:
Aquatech Imaging Solutions Camera Housing
Typically I shoot from a jet ski especially at places like Mavericks and this trip was a challenge artistically and logistically in that regard. I picked up a new housing for my 5D Mark iii and had a blast using it in the surf especially when I need to scratch the creative itch. I’ve got a long way to go perfecting this skill but the Aquatech housing was easy to use and I found the controls and function to be exactly what I needed to explore this new artistic challenge.
DJI Mavic Pro Drone
I think the images in this blog speak for themselves and I must say it was great to add this little camera to my quiver. The size of the copter and th image quality are the two standout features for me from this awesome tool. I would mention to beginners that trying to land it on a rocking boat in the middle of the ocean is next to impossible and takes a lot of practice. I’d recommend trying it on dry land until you are 100% confident in hand launching. The fear of failure to control the drone while flying over endless ocean is a seriously scary proposition! I was admittedly conservative and luckily managed to not lose the drone to the South Pacific.
Canon 100–400 mm Lense
As mentioned above on a jet ski I can place myself where I want to be giving myself the ultimately flexibility on who and how I shoot. Shooting a massive lineup stretching multiple football fields like Cloudbreak you have people all over the shop as well as a boat driver who is trying to put you in the best position all while avoiding waves, other boats and surfers in the water. This is no easy task and I found quickly that a longer lense than I’m use to was required. As a substitute on my next trip like this I would probably bring the Canon Extender for a 400 mm lense to use with myF2.8 70–200 mm as this will give me a bit more focal length range and save on dramatically on weight.
Wrapping up my 13th heli-ski season guiding in Alaska gives me time to reflect and appreciate the amazing experiences we offer through Triple Point Expeditions. It is truly one of my favorite destinations and one that I plan my entire year around. I hope you enjoy this quick write-up, gear recommendations and photo compilation from my annual pilgrimage North.
Alaska is the ultimate ski destination on all fronts. The coastal mountains wait patiently on the doorstep to the Gulf of Alaska. Trickling down from the towering peaks the gulf extends out to the Pacific Ocean’s never ending weather engine sending storms racing across from Japan and Russia. The mountains’ proximity to the Pacific and the sheer magnitude of the ranges that stand against the onslaught of weather allow us, as skiers and riders, to explore our personal snow centric dreams. Alaska’s vastness, beauty and solitude are unrivaled.
The season started with a major wind event across the entire state followed by unseasonably cold temps and sunny skies. Finding good snow was tricky at this point but we were able to sniff out some great runs and the clear skies allowed us to hunt for snow in the helicopter.
It’s a strange feeling hoping for snow in Alaska as usually you want the weather to go away. But eventually the snow dances worked, the skies clouded over and it puked silver dollars for days. Inevitably though, after a couple days of snow, the emotions swing the other direction and you start hoping for sunny skies. Once they did, it was game on for the rest of the season.
Early April happened to be the transition time this year when it went from good to great. I was lucky enough to bounce around the state and the pictures reflect the varied terrain, destinations and conditions I found along the way.
Every winter I try to look back and dissect a few lessons from my travels. Here’s a couple that come to mind in no particular order:
Gear I Am Stoked On
I’ve learned over the years that if you are prepared and ready for Alaska, she always comes right. Ferocious weather can torment you, avalanche danger can keep you away from the slopes you want to ski, temps can spike or winds can degregate the snow into un-skiable hardpack. In order to make the most of every situation, you have to have the right gear. Here’s what I liked using for the 2017 season:
LowePro — Whistler BP 450 AW — It’s important to have gear where you need it and when you need it. I trust the Whistler pack to protect all my camera equipment in the harshest environments. I appreciate the back zipper opening to access my bodies and lenses quickly. There are also a number of external straps and lash points that allow for attaching tripods, skis or whatever else I may need.
Outdoor Research White Room Pants— I liked using these pants for a few simple reasons. The pockets are well placed and the zippers are super strong. They fit well for ease of movement even when worn under a harness. I found the 3 layer gore-tex to be breathable, durable and comfortable. The pants are well thought out with hefty belt loops, a custom pocket for your beacon and perfect snow gaiters to help keep your boots dry.
K2 Pinnacle 118 - These skis are stable at high speeds coming down Alaska’s steep faces. They have great float in the powder, they’re nimble when you need them to be and they got us through the wind event when there wasn’t much powder to be found. The Pinnacle is an excellent all around ski for AK.
Oakley Airbrake Prizm — “If you can see it you can ski it”. These goggles are well made and super comfortable. Most importantly the lenses are some of the best I have ever used. When it comes to skiing above treeline and navigating consequential terrain you have to be able to see. From blue skies and sunny slopes to north aspects and shaded couliers these lenses bring out the definition, textures and transitions that I need to see in order to do my job.
Outdoor Research Transcendent Jacket — A puffy may be one of my most important pieces of equipment. You know it’s a good one when it never comes off. I’d say this layer of warmth saw the most use this season. From cold morning coffee runs in the pre-dawn dark to long days in the field this jacket came with me everywhere.
Note: All Photos and words by Tucker Patton . All photos ©.
My business is travel. I love to hit the road exploring new places, meeting interesting people and adventuring in the mountains. From Japan to Salt Lake City, British Columbia to Ketchum, the 16/17 season has revolved around the never ending pursuit of powder, culture and new destinations. Actually that’s every year but who’s keeping track, right? But in hindsight maybe sometimes it’s best to stay put every now and then. The fact of the matter is I probably didn’t need to leave Ketchum this winter if skiing powder was my only goal.
For me it’s enjoyable to look back on a winter through the images I shoot and my reflection is an added benefit to being a photographer. I recently sat down to indulge myself with photo editing from the winter before I head to Alaska for the spring helicopter ski season. It made me laugh at how many blower powder shots I have stacking up in Lightroom. My goal was to compile some images and I smile in disbelief because I don’t have any shots with Sun Valley’s quintessential blue skies and ripping groomers. The humor is not lost on me as I reminisce about all the deep powder days and incredible shared moments I have had with new and old friends alike. The images and memories stand as a testament to a once in a decade (or more?) winter in Ketchum with cold smoke tree runs and bottomless resort laps enjoyed by locals and newcomers.
Sun Valley’s current snow total for the season is 299” as of March 9th and it will probably exceed that depth with the current storm system cycling through now. Given that the historical average of the Wood River Valley is around 150”, it would be an understatement to say it’s been an incredible powder run for our new Idaho home. Everyone keeps reminding me that it was good season to move here! I promise I’ll try not to forget that. Ha!
I’ve truly been grateful to explore the local mountains via chairlifts, helicopters and touring. By far I have spent the most amount of time learning Sun Valley’s iconic centerpiece Mt. Baldy. Baldy is an amazing mountain resort and offers some of the best lift-accessed skiing anywhere. I don’t know of many US lifts that rival the truly epic Warm Springs zone. This steep north facing section of the resort offers seemingly endless skiing accessed by a single quad lift rising 3,000 feet and you don’t even need to take your skis off.
As my attention turns its focus toward toward my upcoming months in Alaska and it’s shangri la of steep skiing, I will look back with pleasure at a winter to remember. I’m stoked to have captured just a couple of those fleeting moments.
Enjoy the photos.
— Tucker Patton
Gear We Recommend for Charging Deep Powder in Sun Valley:
The Rumors Are True: Japan Gets Tons Of Snow.
Note: All Photos by Tucker Patton
Tokyo - The City of Lights
Traveling the globe in the modern age always amazes me that you can board a plane in Sun Valley, Idaho, close your eyes for a bit, watch a movie or two and arrive on the other side of the world. We are truly fortunate.
Flying into Japan's capital: Tokyo, which is home to more than 13 million people, you're immediately floored by the vastness of one of the most dense and bustling cities in the world. Straddling the large Tokyo bay, tankers, tug boats and ships are surrounded by the sprawling metropolis. Upon arrival, you can get almost anywhere by train, subway or rail car as the vast network of public transportation allows you to explore the city.
Tokyo is incredibly diverse, vibrant and stimulating. The streets bustle at all hours of the day and around every corner is another shop, restaurant or alley to explore. It's the perfect cultural compliment to a ski trip to the other side of the earth. Not to mention, it's a very humbling feeling being in a foreign country, not speaking the language and having to navigate such a vast city. None-the-less there is a certain sense of accomplishment when you start to figure it out and get your bearings.
Hokkaido - The Snow Globe
Heading north to Sapporo you find the fourth largest city in Japan, host of the 1972 Olympics (the first ever in Asia) and the largest city on the northern island of Hokkaido. It is a quick flight north from Tokyo and the area hosts an endless array of ski resorts that you could spend years exploring. When you think of Japan you are certainly thinking of Hokkaido. Deep snow, volcanoes, endless face shots, snow covered trees and nonstop accumulation, epitomize the Hokkaido region. Although ducking ropes and skiing under the lift is strictly forbidden, with a little knowledge and exploration we were able to discover arguably the best powder skiing anywhere. The photos don't do the snow justice as the skiing is like nowhere else on the planet.
Hakuba - Home of the Nagano Olympics
The sun doesn't come out often in Japan, but when it does, the mountains that the light reveals are simply amazing. Hakuba's terrain does not disappoint. We were called in to help with the Freeride World Tour's first Japanese stop. After the event successfully ran, we had a couple days to explore the Hakuba Valley. Hakuba was the home to the 1998 Winter Olympics where snowboarding was first introduced as an Olympic sport and American Johnny Moseley took home gold. There are large ski resorts and a vast lift network and infrastructure system allowing for endless skiing around the city centers. We were lucky to have one sunny day that allowed for exploration above the resorts in the backcountry and it was amazing to see the terrain surrounding this beautiful valley.
The Food Is No Joke.
It's no surprise the food and drink in Japan are an amazing experience unto themselves. We instigated the "Ramen Challenge" on day one and continued the tradition of eating at least one meal consisting of ramen everyday of the trip. Even after the consumption of countless delicacies I honestly still have no idea what a lot of them were. I went in with an open mind and did not turn down a single suggestion. I can confidently say that the Japanese cuisine is some of the best in the world and not to be missed. I have never had better tasting or larger portions of sushi anywhere. Not to mention, the automated ordering of food and coffee at the most random of street locations is amazing.
It was a wonderful trip and a special thanks to Reggie Crist and Stellar Media for having us along. I can't wait till next year. Until then, the skiing continues back home in Sun Valley where we're loving the nonstop fresh pow every day.
2016 is in the bag. Here's to 2017!
It's been a shotgun start to the 2016/17 winter and the New Year is already stacking up to be one our biggest yet. There has certainly been no shortage of travel for the last couple months as we’ve been searching out the best in surf and snow.
After a long run of Mavericks swells that solidified November as one of the best kickoffs for a winter season in years the swell generation machine in the North Pacific backed off and our focus turned towards ski guiding, production work, travel and a general disregard for everything other than powder hounding.
Notable highlights include:
Big Wave Risk Assessment Group - Oahu’s North Shore
TPX owner Tucker Patton was honored to be included in the Big Wave Safety Summit put on by the BWRAG team. This safety summit is similar to the avalanche communities version held every other year called ISSW. We were fortunate enough to travel to the famous Turtle Bay Resort on the fabled north shore of Oahu. This amazing event brought together hundreds of big wave surfers from around the world looking to learn important safety skills, improve their risk assessment decision making and collaborate with other participants from Fiji, Hawaii, Ireland, Brazil and beyond.
It was an amazing learning experience and served as a great building block and much needed resource in furthering the safety protocols used in big wave surfing. We found it particularly useful as individually and as a company we cross into both worlds: big waves and avalanche mitigation. It is truly a privilege to be on the forefront of safety for our two biggest passions and it’s always important to keep training and getting better every day. Lastly we were able to attend the opening ceremony of the Eddie at Waimea Bay which was a truly special experience.
Baldface Lodge with HiBall Enegry Drink Company - Nelson, BC
Mid December brought together a unique opportunity for us to travel with the HiBall energy team to Nelson, British Columbia. We were excited to work with the best athletes in world as they came together to push themselves in Balface Lodge's amazing terrain all while representing an amazing brand. We spent the week skiing with all the athletes and shooting photos as the trip was blessed with perfect snow, good stability and sunny skies.
A majority of our time was spent working with adaptive super athlete Grant Korgan as he challenged himself for the first time on a sit-ski in deep powder. It was truly an impressive performance watching Grant push himself and re-learn to ski powder after suffering a spinal cord injury a few years ago. His stoke and zest for life will encourage us for years to come. We think the pictures speak for themselves about the conditions.
We’ve traveled the world in pursuit of surf and snow and we can confidently say that Balface is at the top of our list for great destinations and deserves a very humble thank you.
Of course the trip wouldn't have been possible without HiBall and a special thank you needs to be extended to this exemplary brand and it's founder Todd Berardi for including us in this special opportunity.
Hokidaho - Sun Valley, Idaho
Upon returning home from B.C. to California we packed up our belongings and moved shop to Ketchum, Idaho where we were immediately greeted by cold temps and a white Christmas. Sorting out a winter base for TPX is never easy to pin down and as we settled into Sun Valley to have the skies open up and blanket the mountains with deep, cold snow. Since our arrival we've been on many awesome adventures with Stellar Media and Sun Valley Heli Crew. We look forward to many more adventures in our new home.
Next stop Japan............
With a couple late additions to a Stellar Media trip we jumped on the opportunity to pursue powder in the winter snow globe of Northern Japan. We are currently enroute and adding stops in SFO, Tokyo and Sapporo via planes, trains and automobiles. We are looking forward to deep powder, hot pools and sushi. So far one canceled flight and a few glitches haven't deterred our stoke for this amazing opportunity. Thanks Reggie Crist and Stellar Adventures for inviting us along.
Stay tuned to our social channels as we continue the best from our first adventures into the new year! @triplepointexpeditions
A few waves were ridden but due to the south wind and the constant bump built in from the storm it was pretty intimidating day. None-the-less it was a quick strike session and worth getting we for. Here'a couple of the shots:
It was a short lived day as the wind and fog clamped down on the session just as the tide and was dropping and the swell was picking up. None-the-less a few bombs came through and conditions couldn't have been better while they lasted.
If you'd like any of the shots please let me know firstname.lastname@example.org - Tucker
Kicking off with a bang the 2016/17 winter is finally upon us and it certainly brought a few magic moments. The past week of swell showcased multiple XXL size swells to the west coast of California and Mavericks awoke from its summer slumber. We are excited to share the pictures from the last few days.
Here's a couple articles these shots have run in:
Manny Resano Sequence Photo: Tucker Patton
Matt Lopez Sequence Photo: Tucker Patton
Colin Dwyer Sequence. Photo: Tucker Patton